CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo.—As Steven Fox prepared to talk to the media Friday afternoon to tell reporters what it felt like to advance to the semifinals of the 112th U.S. Amateur, the 21-year-old from Hendersonville, Tenn., kindly asked if they could hold on for a second. He then proceeded to put his hand in his pocket, take out his cell phone and hand it to his father/caddie, Alan.
"It's on vibrate, but this thing keeps going off," Fox said.
That's what happens when you upset the No. 1 ranked amateur golfer in the world—people want to wish you well. With a 4-and-2 victory over Washington All-American Chris Williams, Fox had pulled off the upset and secured himself a Saturday tee time at Cherry Hills CC.
Congratulatory calls were also in order for Alabama's Justin Thomas and a pair of Cal-Berkeley teammates, Michael Weaver and Brandon Hagy, each of whom held leads at the turn in their quarterfinal matches and never looked back.
Fox's spot in the Final Four may well have been the most unexpected given the nerve-wracking few days the senior at Chattanooga, No. 127 on the World Amateur Golf Ranking starting the week, had already experienced during his visit to the Rocky Mountains.
If Fox's early foes had provided struggles, facing Williams, a U.S. Walker Cup team member in 2011 who had won the Western Amateur earlier in the month, would seemingly be his toughest challenge of all. Yet Fox embraced the moment. "I was nervous the first couple matches, and for some reason this match I kind of felt at home," Fox said. "I was finally playing with galleries and enjoyed myself out there and really just had fun."
It helped that Fox got off to a quick start, winning the third and fourth holes. (It was the first time Williams had trailed in a match all week.) A birdie on the par-3 sixth and a par on the ninth extended the lead to a surprising 4-up margin at the turn. "Beyond expectations," Fox described the circumstances.
The roughly 100 folks in the gallery more than likely "expected" Williams to make a comeback charge, considering the many they witnessed the previous day. But Williams couldn't make a move, making pars that only halved holes on Nos. 10-14. A birdie to win the 15th was too little too late, as Fox closed out the match on the 16th with a birdie.
"He just played great the whole time," Williams said. "And I couldn't get anything going. It's tough to beat a guy when he's making a lot of pars and you're already down. I just really didn't have that much out there."
Suffice it to say, the week at Cherry Hills has been the highlight of the summer for Fox, who also competed at the U.S. Amateur Public Links last month, advancing to the third round. He also bolstered his match-play experience by getting to the semifinals of the Tennessee Match Play.
With his interview over, Fox went into clubhouse's dining area for some lunch, but not before retrieving his phone. So who would he call back first?
"Mom," he said. "It's funny, she hadn't talked to me all week, just talking to my dad each night. But last night we talked. I asked her, 'why didn't you want to talk with me [before]?' and she said 'You were doing fine. I didn't want to jinx you.' "
Fox will face Hagy, a redshirt senior at Cal, who knocked off another Washington golfer, Cheng-Tsung Pan, 4 and 3. On the other side of the bracket, Thomas, the 2012 NCAA player of the year from Alabama, defeated Australia's Oliver Goss, 1 up to set up a semifinal match with Weaver, who defeated Ricardo Gouveia, 4 and 3. It marks the first time since 2004 that all four semifinalists are from the U.S.
The way the brackets shapes up, there's also the potential for Hagy and Weaver to face each other in the final. USGA officials believe that would be the first match-up of college teammates in one of their championships. Cal men's coach Steve Desimone flew into town last night, arriving late in the evening, to watch his charges.
"It's exciting to see the guys step up," said Desimone, who actually had four of his players reach match play. "The guys really like each other and help push each other. I know everybody is excited to see this happen."