by BY TJ MAXWELL
There have been a lot of highlights in the four-year career of Copperas Cove golf phenom Elle Fox, but the 12-year-old student of Copperas Cove Junior High will put icing on the cake next weekend when she competes alongside nine other girls from across the United States for the title of Drive, Chip and Putt National Champion.
Fox battled back from a third-place finish at the local qualifier at the Wildflower Country Club in Belton and a runner-up finish at the sub-regional qualifier held at the Courses at Watters Creek before scoring 10 more points than her competitors at the Golf Clubs at Houston to claim the top spot in the national qualifier and a trip to Augusta, Ga to compete amongst the best in the nation in the girls’ 12-13 age group.
“It’s like a dream come true,” Fox said of the accomplishment. “I wasn’t expecting to win because there were a lot of good girls in that age group. Whenever I won I was so happy because I just accomplished something that was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It boosts my confidence level up because I know I can do a lot better. If I made it to Augusta, that means I can do awesome in tournaments.”
Fox recalled watching the National Drive, Chip and Putt competition last year after missing the cut. She won at the local and sub-regional level but finished third at regionals. That motivated her to buckle down and take her game to the next level and she did just that.
“I know I worked my butt of for this,” she said. “I was inspired last year watching all these people playing and I was like, ‘I want to do that someday.’
That someday came pretty quick. A year later it is going be her on television inspiring a whole new generation of young golfers and it’s all due to her work ethic.
“Last year, I didn’t practice everyday and work this hard,” she said. “This year, I’m starting to get the feel of the game and I’m starting to think that I can beat all these girls. So, I’ve been practicing every day and working hard.”
Fox dropped her tournament average six strokes from an 85 to a 79. She had 13 first-place finishes, 25 podium finishes in the top three and 30 top five finishes in 40 tournaments in the 2016 calendar year.
“I’ve improved a lot,” she said. “My average for tourneys has gone down a lot. I have been practicing every day and reaching my goals that I’ve put on paper.”
She has also rocketed up the rankings. She now sits at No. 37 in the world and fourth in Texas for the class of 2021. She is also ranked 143rd overall in Texas and 1,352 overall in the world. She moved up five spots in the world (2021) from 42 from last week to 37 and from fifth to fourth in Texas. She also moved up over 100 spots in the overall world rankings from 1,453.
Fox is no stranger to stiff competition. She has competed in the highest level of her age group – the IMG Worlds where she competed against the top girls from around the globe. She has also stepped up to compete in the girls’ 15-18 age group of several tournaments this year and showed her mettle by notching some top finishes, including last week’s second-place at the West Texas Junior Champions Tour event at the Hideout Golf Club in Brownwood where she bested six other girls at least three years her elder and was just one stroke from tying and two from winning the entire tournament.
“I know they’re really good but I’m really good, too,” she said. “I know that I can go to their confidence level like I am right now.”
Fox gains inspiration from following some of her favorite players – Jason Day and Lewis.
“Jason Day is just awesome,” she said. “If he hits a bad shot, he’s all over it. That’s what I have a little trouble with – the mental game. When I look at him I think I can do that.
“Stacy Lewis is a really nice girl. I look up to her because she has an amazing swing, she gives back to children and donates to cancer research. I really like that about her.”
Fox also draws inspiration from a source a lot closer – best friend and fellow Cove golfer, senior Tyler Morrison. The two often practice together, compete in tournaments together and feed off of one another.
“I look up to her because she is an amazing player and she is fun to play with,” she said. “I learn some stuff from her and she learns some stuff from me.”
Fox is excited about competing with the top players in the world on a national stage but just as excited about all the other perks that come with such an accomplishment.
“(I’m excited) to meet all the players,” she said. “I want to see other players from other states. I want to see their reactions and meet them. I might get to meet Jordan Speith and I might get to have dinner with Jason Day.”
Win or lose, Fox plans on recording the event to be televised live on the Golf Channel on Sunday, April 3 and watch it back after all is said and done. She spoke on what that moment would be like if she brought home the national title.
“I can’t believe I won this,” she said on what would be going through her mind as she watched. “I worked so hard for this.”
“I’m going to eat macaroni and cheese and ice cream and jump up and down on the trampoline.”
Fox has aspirations to play on the Ladies’ Professional Golf Association tour and eventually become a college golf coach, but like any good athlete, she’s focused on the now and what she must do to accomplish her short-term goal of dominating the junior high and high school golf scene over the five years or so.
“I want to win all my tournaments,” she said. And, I want to be the best player to ever come out of Copperas Cove.”
She’s well on her way to that.
The junior high student played in her first official University Interscholastic League junior high tournament this week representing Copperas Cove Junior High at the Midway Invitational at Cottonwood Creek in Waco where finished in first place overall with a 38 and led her team to a first-place finish. Teammate Maddie Miller shot a 58 for third place overall and Maddy Scribner finished fourth, also with a 58. Jordan Dillon and Abi Baker also competed for Cove JH in their first-ever tournament.
Fox has again qualified for the IMG World Championships to be held July 11-14 in Rancho Bernardo, Ca. She also has 15 more tournaments already slated between now and August 5, not counting the DCP next week and the worlds in July. She will get to defend her home course the week after the DCP championships when the Hills of Cove Golf Course hosts a UIL junior high tournament on April 7.
Fox wants to attend Arkansas University when her high school career is over.
“I really want to go to Arkansas because they have a good facility there and there coaches are really nice,” she said. “They really work with their players on how to get better.”
For more information on Fox or to follow her career visit www.elleefox.com.