HOWARD WARD: Cold Putter Can't Cool Fox's Game
Just ask Ryan Fox, a man who can actually play this game that drives most of us so crazy we don't know whether to play more often or give it up completely.
Fox isn't like most of us wannabes. For one thing, he's about six inches taller. For another thing, he makes a lot more birdies than he does bogeys. And for another thing, he now owns two Moore County Men's Amateur Championships.
Fox obviously knows what it takes to win this Moore County thing. You go out and shoot 137 for 36 holes and they present you with a trophy. Or at least they let you have your picture made with that huge thing they show off at the scoreboard every year.
"No matter where you are or what you're playing for, it's always fun," Fox said. "I've never tried playing professionally, but I enjoy amateur golf. It's fun as long as you keep it in perspective."
It took Fox three tries to get it right, but he found the secret at Legacy Golf Links in 2004 when he out-dueled defending champion Sherrill Britt and a bulldog-tough Bob Klug with rounds of 65-72.
This time Britt wasn't in the field and Klug was clawing his way to the First Flight title in the Senior Division. But Fox still put up a 137 and it was good enough by four strokes.
Still, as well as Fox was playing, there was a part of his game that wasn't cooperating. It's always something, and this time it was putting. I mean this guy put up a 7-under-par 137 and he had five three-putt greens. Seriously.
"That's my game," the friendly banker said. "I usually strike the ball well, but my putting is suspect."
After an opening 67 on Foxfire Resort's Red Course, Fox had a decision to make. Yeah, he had made five birdies and an eagle, but his putter had double-crossed him for a pair of three-putts.
And you know what? That putter was living on borrowed time. That unpredictable club knows there is a stockpile of reserve putters in the garage. And misbehaving to the tune of three-putting does not warrant space in the bag.
But hey, he had still shot 67. Do you make an equipment change after shooting five under par? Not unless you're a half-crazed golf writer.
So Fox stuck with the suspect. And once again it misbehaved. This time there were three of those dreaded unmentionables. And still he shot 70 with five birdies.
"I almost changed putters after Saturday's round," Fox said, "and after those three-putts today and missing a four-foot birdie putt, I wish I had. I'll tell you one thing; it's questionable for the next round."
A couple of things that weren't questionable were the way the championship was run and the condition of the Foxfire courses it was played on.
Bob Burwell and Dick Wilson were the driving forces behind the success of the event. The format this year used 8:30 shotgun starts each day and not only did this help beat the heat, but it had a crowd gathered around the scoreboard at the end to see the winners pick up their prizes. It was kind of neat, actually hearing applause when the champion hefted the huge trophy.
"If you get a chance, thank Bob Burwell," said Howard Cannon, senior vice president of Avestra, the company that now owns and operates Foxfire Resort. "Without Bob, this would never have happened."
Burwell is the owner of Robert's Golf, an equipment and club-fitting shop on U.S. 1 in Southern Pines. He has a passion for golf, especially when it's concerning young players. And he was physically and emotionally involved with the Men's Amateur because of its tie-in with The First Tee of the Sandhills program.
The Foxfire courses drew their share of praise, which is what Cannon and Bill Baker, director of golf, were hoping for. Both Gene Hamm-designed courses are in almost perfect shape and it showed, both in the scores posted and the comments from the golfers as they finished their appointed rounds.
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