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Golf: Fox prepares to play in his 45th State Amateur

CHARLESTON, W.Va -- Steve Fox would never be a sitcom dad who tries to squeeze in rounds of golf between his wife's bickering sessions.

Truth be told, Fox's wife Cathy - the sister of five-time Amateur champion Harold Payne - lets him play anytime he wants.

"In 35 years of marriage she told me once not to play golf," said Fox, who will tee off in the State Amateur for the 45th time when the event unfolds Monday at the Greenbrier's Old White TPC. "She told me the one time she asked me not to play and said she'd never do that again. The way I acted she didn't want me around. She's great about (me playing golf)."

Fox, who turns 60 in September, failed only once to qualify for the State Amateur. In 2002, former champions were given lifetime exemptions into the tournament.

The Huntington resident and reigning president of the West Virginia Golf Association has two titles. In 1988, the Huntington resident beat Jim Fankhauser by two strokes, and in 1994, he topped Morgantown's Jack Forbes by two strokes. His first title was 22 years after he played in his first Amateur.

"Those probably are my two highlights of my golfing career," Fox said. "I've been fortunate enough to play in some U.S. Amateurs and two U.S. Mid-Amateurs and last year in the U.S. Senior Amateur."

His first State Amateur came in 1966.

"Believe it or not I was 13 years old," Fox said. "They didn't have qualifying at the time. They had flights. My dad took me up there when I was 13. They had an award, high gross. It was the highest score in qualifying when I was 13 and I shot a 94. I won high gross."

Fox will return to the Greenbrier as long as he's capable to compete in one of the state's most prestigious golf tournaments, although he admits that the idea of winning hasn't crossed his mind much.

"It's highly unlikely and unrealistic," Fox said. "I'm playing very well, which gives me encouragement. I played in the State Open this year and guys who are college kids are driving it 50 or 60 yards farther than what I hit it. You multiple that by four rounds when you look at the par 4s and the par 5s and you're spotting them 600 yards a round. It's hard to compete against that.

"The only thing that Harold and myself and John Duty (Sr.) can rely on is experience, but most of the kids in college have been playing tournament golf."

In six days, he'll tee off in the State Amateur. In two weeks, Fox will celebrate his 36th wedding anniversary, and in less than two months, he'll celebrate his 60th birthday.

Fox hasn't slowed down, reaching the first round of match play at the 2012 U.S. Senior Amateur before losing in 20 holes.

There isn't any money involved with playing amateur golf and prestige and bragging rights can't be spent, but Fox said there's something special about the West Virginia Amateur.

"As an amateur, this is our Masters or U.S. Open or major tournament," he said. "The only thing bigger for an amateur is the U.S. Amateur.

"Secondly, and I know for me and I think I'm speaking for the golfers, it's the opportunity to play on the Old White and the Greenbrier every year.

"I don't know of any other state with two prestigious golf courses with two Ryder Cups, Solheim Cup and the Greenbrier Classic have been played. Nobody has a home course advantage there. We're playing in my opinion, the two best golf courses in the state."

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at richstevens@dailymail.com or 304-348-4837.

 


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