As an amateur golfer, John Fought's record in Northwest events is quite sparse, as he never won a PNGA Men's Amateur title. However, the Portlander's accomplishments in golf are worthy because he's one of only six men from the Northwest to win a U.S. Amateur, joining Bud Ward, Jack Westland, Bill Sander, Jeff Quinney and Ryan Moore.
Fought (pronounced "Fote") broke into prominence in 1975 when he won the Pacific Coast Amateur Championship. After enrolling at Brigham Young University that fall, he won two collegiate events, the 1976 Cougar Classic and the Arizona State Sun Devil Championship, and was part of the powerhouse BYU team that was runner-up in the NCAA Championship held at the demanding New Mexico Golf Course in Albuquerque. Fought then shared low amateur honors with BYU teammate Mike Reid in the U.S. Open, won the 1976 Oregon Coast Invitational and 1976 Northwest Open, and was named to the World Amateur Team.
At Midland, Texas, Fought defeated his friend and future U.S. Open champion, Scott Simpson, 3 & 2, to win the 1977 Trans-Mississippi title. Simpson had earlier won back-to-back NCAA championships. The two played the first 18 all-even. Then Simpson faltered with two bogeys, and John never looked back, nailing down the title on the 30th hole with a fantastic one‑iron shot that settled five feet from the cup. He stroked the ball into the hole for an eagle. Fought ended up four-under-par in the 34-hole match.
Fought's next tune‑up tournament before the U.S. Amateur was the Broadmoor Invitational. At the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado, he defeated defending champ, Bill Loeffler, 3 & 2, in the scheduled 36-hole match. Though Loeffler enjoyed home-course advantage and had an intimate knowledge of Broadmoor's slick greens, Fought's long game carried the day.
Then came the 1977 U.S. Amateur at Aronimink Golf Club near Philadelphia. The course was set up exceedingly long, at 6,954 yards, and its par was a meager 35-35, 70. Adding difficulty to Aronimink that year were its soft fairways with longer grass, which caused flyer lies.
Fought recalled how he took two years to prepare for the U.S. Amateur. "I set high goals in the summer in 1977. I was specific about where I wanted to play. The Amateur was the big one I wanted to win. I played in the Broadmoor and Trans-Mississippi just to prepare myself. [Head professional] Tim Berg at home at Tualatin [Country Club] helped me tremendously technically, and he deserved a lot of the credit for my success. He taught me a true shoulder turn. I think I used the arms too much in my backswing. His tutoring had me swing the club more around my body. Toward the end of the season I was hitting the driver extremely well."
At the Amateur, John had a first-round bye, but it was no cakewalk getting to the final. Consider the caliber of players he defeated: Walker Cuppers Michael Kelly on the British side and American Jay Sigel; Vinny Giles, who had won the 1972 U.S. Amateur and the 1975 British Amateur; and Doug Clarke, the 1976 Trans-Mississippi champion.
It was really no contest for any of these entrants as Fought climbed the highest mountain and wasn't about to be pushed off. In the final he won 9 & 8 over Doug H. Fischesser of Connersville, Ind., bettering the winning margin set by Sander the previous year. Fischesser was not as bad as the final score indicated; Fought was simply awesome.
Attitude Leads to Amazing Streak
Over two months and through three tough championships, Fought won 20 consecutive matches and two more in Walker Cup foursomes. He confessed to developing an attitude that helped him overcome what he perceived was a poor approach to match play. Fought contrived "hatreds" against opponents to fire himself up. "I don't think anyone understood exactly what I meant. Every person I played against was a great guy, but I had become placid in match play and had to devise a method for keeping myself motivated for each opponent. In match play you must be emotional, to feel you can beat the brains out of [your opponent] or the golf he plays. I had to emotionally keep myself going.
"It worked for me. During one match in the Amateur, I was 3-down early, and I just thought, 'No problem, I'll catch him at the turn.' Prior to that summer, I would have been scared at that point and probably lost the match."
Another interesting aspect to Fought's victory was that he was among only a handful of pre-tournament favorites to actually win the event. The pages in the record book must be turned to another era to find players expected to win who actually did so: Charley Coe in 1958, Jack Nicklaus in 1961, Deane Beman in 1963, and Bill Campbell in 1964.
Even in his victory speech, Fought's intensity came through. "I would like to remain an amateur, but I want to play golf eight hours a day to become as good as I can," alluding to his wish to turn pro, which he realized in 1978. "I want only to win. I can't understand why any player would go out without the desire to win."
Golf Course Architecture
In the 1990s, after several nagging injuries forced him from the PGA Tour, John Fought quickly became one of America's most acclaimed up-and-coming golf course architects. While working with fellow designer, Robert Cupp of Atlanta, Fought was instrumental in creating the award-winning Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club west of Portland, which was the site of Tiger Woods' unprecedented third consecutive U.S. Amateur triumph in 1996. He and Cupp also designed Sunriver Resort's Crosswater Club in Bend, Oregon, which was recognized by Golf Digest in 1995 as America's "Best New Resort Course."
As president of John Fought Design, he became the exclusive architect for OB Sports, a golf development and management firm headed by Seattle native, Orrin Vincent. After these two joined forces, Fought used his knowledge as a fine amateur and architect to design such great layouts as the Fought Course at Reserve Vineyards & Golf Club on the outskirts of Portland, and Centennial Golf Club in Medford, Ore.
It's safe to say that whatever John Fought has done in the world of golf, whether it's winning championships or designing outstanding golf courses, one thing is certain: he has succeeded.