Eubanks: Never give in

Steven Fox U.S. Amateur
Getty Images
Steven Fox celebrates with his caddy and coach, Ben Rickett, after an improbable comeback in the U.S. Amateur.
By
Steve Eubanks
PGA.com

Series: Eubanks

Published: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 | 9:25 a.m.

It is one of Churchill’s most famous quotes, delivered in 1941 at Harrow, a boys’ school in northwest London:

"Never give in," Winston implored from the podium. "Never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty: never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense; never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy."

That directive remains true today whether in wartime or peace, through life or its great sporting metaphor, the game of golf.

You see evidence everywhere -- in tales of survival and heroism against all odds; in business where volumes are filled with one tenacious success story after another; and, of course, if you look hard enough, you see it in the pristine fairways of some of the world’s greatest courses.

Ernie Els never gave in, even when others had written him out of the winner’s circle forever. His putter had abandoned him and his nerves were too raw. He’d had his time and his place, his name and likeness forever memorialized in the World Golf Hall of Fame. But the insecurities of age had crept into his game, or so most experts said.

Els, for all his past glories, was now filler in a field of future champions.

That perception didn’t stop him. If anything, it fired him up. He dug deep within himself, never yielding to the negativity, never succumbing to doubt, and never giving up on a shot, even when he was four shots down playing his final hole in the Open Championship.

Keegan Bradley never gave in, either. Though his odds of winning the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational seemed bleak at best, he never played a casual shot or showed any inkling of resignation. Even when people openly wondered if his PGA Championship victory was a fluke; even when they used words like "nice player" to describe him, Bradley never relented. The inevitable wasn’t inevitable as long as there were shots left to play.

Sergio Garcia never gave up, even though he knew most serious conversations about his career focused on what he hadn't accomplished rather than what he had. Two years removed from being Colin Montgomerie’s assistant captain in the Ryder Cup, Sergio had long outgrown the "best player never to win a major" title and had moved into also-ran territory. His thrilling shots and wealth of potential were from a bygone era, a different century, so far removed from the current consciousness that players like Rory McIlroy weren’t yet in middle school when they took place.

But Sergio refused to give up the fight. He wanted to make another Ryder Cup team and prove to everyone -- including himself -- that the competitive fires still burned inside.

Now, his place on the wall of champions in Greensboro means more than an eighth PGA Tour win and more FedExCup points: it is a symbol of never giving up, even when it is expected, even when you can.

And, finally, there is the saga of Steven Fox, a player almost no one outside his hometown of Hendersonville, Tenn., knew. Even golf fans in Chattanooga, where Fox is a senior team captain at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, had never heard of him.

Then came Cherry Hills and last week's U.S. Amateur.

Fox was one of 312 players from 43 states and 20 countries to tee off in Denver. Other than his family and his college coaches, hardly anyone noticed. Then he advanced to match play, surviving a sudden-death playoff where 17 players vied for the final 14 spots.

Then he won one match, and another, and a third, beating the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world, Chris Williams, and another, beating highly-touted 21-year-old Brandon Hagy from Westlake Village, Calif., to make it to the finals against Michael Weaver.

It looked like that was where the story would end. Though the 36-hole final seesawed back and forth, Weaver rolled in a birdie putt at the 16th in the afternoon to go 2-up with two to play. Dormie. All he had to do was halve one of the final two holes and it was over.

But Fox never gave in. He birdied the famous par-5 17th to extend the match, and then watched as Weaver missed a five-footer for par at the last.

On the 37th hole of the day, Fox drained an 18-footer to win, capping one of the most thrilling U.S. Amateur finales since the Tiger Woods era.

"You know, my goal was just to make it to match play the first time, being in my first U.S. Amateur," Fox said afterward. "And I just kept going and kept fighting. I'll never be one to give up. Things can click at any moment. You can find your swing or find your stroke throughout a round, and I just wanted to keep going."

The lesson is simple and sometimes clichéd. But it is also real. In golf, as in life, in big things and small, you must never, never, never, never give in.