Since becoming the Denver Broncos coach in 2011, John Fox said he never knows what kind of reaction hell get at the Wells Fargo Championship pro-am.
Wednesday afternoon he was unsure if hed get the same warm reception from patrons he had received in the past two years since his contract was not renewed as the Carolina Panthers coach.
This year was no different for Fox. Smiles met him around the putting green before his 1:45 p.m. tee time with last years runner-up D.A. Points and fellow amateur James Keever. He shook the hands of Quail Hollow Club employees, signed his name for every autograph seeker that asked beside the putting green and even caught up with a handful of media members before taking the course.
Everybody here in Charlottes been fantastic to me, you know, Fox said. When I was here and since Ive come back, theyve been nothing but great to me.
There was a glow about Fox on Wednesday. It could have been his bright orange Broncos polo shirt, or maybe the fact that his team demolished the Panthers 36-14 in November, thus tying up any loose ends that may have remained in city.
If a Charlotteans last memory of Fox was his sideline demeanor in Bank of America Stadium circa 2010, they were looking at a different man.
Fox, a member of the club, still has his home on the 14th fairway. His son lives there now, and the coach said he gets back three or four times a year.
He was less willing to talk football Xs and Os and more open to talk golf hes a 12-handicap and said even though the story of the week has been the quality of the greens, he could be putting on bark and be the same, he said.
At No. 10, Fox scalded his approach shot from the rough well over the green. His chip started left and stayed left.
I give up, he said, smiling.
We still love you, one patron yelled. You had a great season and were so happy for you, another said.
One even offered the coach a bite of his ice cream. Fox declined.
Of course, the former coach wasnt the only amateur with a small following in the gallery Wednesday. Governor Pat McCrory teed off with Zach Johnson at 12:15. Stedman Graham, known better to many as the long-time partner of Oprah Winfrey, played with Rory McIlroy in the morning, and he seemed genuinely surprised when people asked for his autograph.
Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney had a loyal group of roughly 50 people following his group with Trevor Immelman. One course-goer had Swinney sign his white Clemson shirt early in the round but still followed the coachs every shot on the back nine.
Arguably the largest roar of the day came at No. 18 when 14-year-old Reyhan Griffin made his final putt. Paired with Rickie Fowler, the winner of San Francisco First Tees national video challenge played beside last years Wells Fargo winner and in front of the worlds 11th-ranked player, Phil Mickelson.
John Sendens trio won the morning round by shooting 57, and the group led by J.J. Henry matched them at 57 to win the afternoon.
But if Griffins round got the most applause, Fox got the most laughs.
On the par-4 first hole, Fox waved to the crowd after being announced, teed his ball and smacked his drive down the fairway.
Just after the club hit the ball, a man seated in the gallery behind the tee box shouted one of Foxs well-known clichés It is what it is!
Fox paused, turned to the man, raised his arm and gave him a thumbs-up.
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