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Top story of 2012: Steven Fox wins U.S. Amateur in thrilling fashion
03 Jan 2013
by Golfweek

see also: Steven Fox Rankings

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Steven Fox
Steven Fox
By Ron Balicki, Golfweek

There were plenty of good stories that came out of amateur golf this past season, exciting, happy endings as well as disappointing, heart- breaking endings.

From Steven Fox winning the U.S. Amateur, to Nathan Smith capturing a record fourth U.S. Mid- Amateur to a 14-year-old from China qualifying for next year’s Masters -- and a whole lot more along the way.

I’ve been covering amateur golf at just about every level for some 30 years and it seems each year provides its own share of interesting stories, whether in victory or defeat.

Compiling a list of the best of them for 2012 was difficult, but here is a list of my top 10:

No. 1: Steven Fox, 21, of Hendersonville, Tenn., and a senior at Chattanooga, erased a 2-down deficit with two holes to play and then sank a downhill, twisting 15-foot birdie putt on the 37th hole to beat Michael Weaver and win the 112th U.S. Amateur Championship at famed Cherry Hills Country Club just outside Denver.

Golfweek's Top 10 Stories of 2012
  • No. 10: Guan wins Asian Am | Read
  • No. 9: Peter Williamson's Summer | Read
  • No. 8 Rhys Pugh's Comeback | Read
  • No. 7: Chris Williams' Western Am run | Read
  • No. 6: Daan Huizing wins Lytham Trophy | Read
  • No. 5: USA dominates World Am Team | Read
  • No. 4: T.J. Vogel wins U.S. Public Links | Read
  • No. 3: Alan Dunbar wins British Amateur | Read
  • No. 2: Nathan Smith wins 4th U.S. Mid-Am | Read
  • No. 1: Steven Fox wins thrilling U.S. Am | Read
For Weaver, a redshirt junior at California, it was a most heart-wrenching defeat. He had a chance to win it all on the 36th hole with a 5-foot birdie putt. Then he -- and the large crowd gathered around the 18th green -- watched in total disbelief as the ball seemingly fell into the hole, only to spin out of the cup.

Coming into the event, Fox wasn’t on anyone’s list to hoist the Havenmeyer Trophy as champion when all was said and done -- himself included.

On the national scene, however, his most notable performance came earlier this summer when he advanced to the Sweet 16 at the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.

So, with a 103rd position in last season’s Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings and a 127th spot in the World Amateur Golf Ranking coming into the week, there was no need to consider Fox a threat to become the 2012 U.S. Amateur champion.

But time and again during the week he overcame the odds against him, as he displayed down the stretch in that final match.

Fox had to make a 10-foot par putt on the fourth extra hole to earn the No. 63 (of 64) seed from a 17-player-for-14-spots playoff to get into match play.

He hardly raised any eyebrows in winning this first three matches, not defeating anyone higher in the WAGR than No. 2,367 Doug Hanzel, 55, in the second round.

Then the 6-foot-3, 155-pound Fox made everyone stand back and take notice as he pulled off -- and most impressively for that matter -- the biggest upset in this year’s championship. He stunned world No. 1 Chris Williams, who earlier in the month was the record-setting, 72-hole stroke play medalist and champion at the Western Amateur, 4 and 2.

A day later, Fox made his way into the finals when he defeated Weaver’s California junior teammate Brandon Hagy, 2-up.

And in that final match he was a perfect picture of never-give-up determination. Until he made that final putt, he had not held the lead since the fourth hole of the morning session. He’d get down but was never out, that being most evident in the last three holes.

Fox said that while he didn’t have overly high expectations coming into the week, he felt his game was moving up the competition barometer.

“My goal coming in was to make match play in my first U.S. Amateur,” Fox said after claiming the prestigious title. “Then I just kept going and going. It’s awesome. I knew I could compete at a high level, I just wasn’t sure where that level was going to be.

“This whole week is like a dream to me,” Fox said. “This is unreal. I mean, it doesn’t even feel real.”

It was real and so is the fact that Fox, and Weaver as well, earned spots in the starting fields at the 2013 Masters and U.S. Open. Fox also gets a starting position in the Open Championship.

This was, by far, the story of stories in amateur golf in 2012.
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