September 2021 ~
John Fought (Jackson, 1972) made believers out of a lot of people – including one of his former golf coaches at Jackson High.
Fought, who grew seven inches to 6 feet from his junior year of high school to freshman year at BYU, finished second by one shot as a junior in the 1971 state championship. In the second and final round at Glendoveer, Jesuit’s Rocky Chapman holed a 20-foot par par on the 15th hole and a 5-foot birdie putt on the 18th to claim the title by one stroke.
The runner-up showing by the Raiders’ only state qualifier apparently disappointed his Jackson coach more than it did Fought.
“I didn’t win, so he was not happy,” Fought recalls. “He said I would not make it in professional golf.”
Harsh words. Also not very prophetic ones.
But “sometimes things are motivation,” Fought says.
Although Fought was fifth at state as a senior (Lincoln senior Peter Jacobsen won the 1972 event), the Jackson grad was bound for much bigger and much better things.
Fought became an All-American at BYU, leading the Cougars to four Western Athletic Conference championships and 29 tourney titles, with a second-place finish to Oklahoma State in the 1976 NCAA tournament.
He represented the United States as an amateur in international play.
In 1977, he was unbeatable, and captured the U.S. Amateur title.
Then Fought not only made it to the PGA Tour, but he also was the 1979 Rookie of the Year, winning back-to-back events.
He continued to play the tour through 1985, when injuries, mostly to his neck and back, forced him to retire.
Fought wasn’t done with golf, though. He got into course architecture and to this day continues in that line of work. He has renovated or designed numerous top courses in the U.S. and Canada.
The 67-year-old president of John Fought Design lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with his wife, Mary. They have three children and nine grandchildren.
The PIL Hall of Fame added Fought as a member in 2008.
Fought credits his grandmother for getting him into golf.
“My dad was a good athlete, all-state in baseball and basketball for Franklin, but I’d caddy for my grandmother at Rose City and Eastmoreland, and she had me start playing when I was 4 or 5,” Fought says.
He remembers watching Arnold Palmer on television charging to the 1960 U.S. Open championship and going to Portland Open PGA Tour events in the 1960s at Portland Golf Club, along with the 1970 U.S. Amateur at Waverley Country Club.
Fought, whose family joined Tualatin Country Club, attended the relatively new Jackson High all four years.
“What I remember most is they had 21 periods and I didn’t have classes all the time, so I’d go hit balls at Gabriel Park or elsewhere for an hour or two, until I had another class,” he says.
Even though “I was about half their size” Fought beat all the football players trying out for the Jackson golf team.
“They weren’t too happy about that,” he says.
Jackson “didn’t have great golf teams, but they were fun to play on,” Fought adds.
He got to travel to California and elsewhere with Oregon Golf Association junior teams in those days, and that whetted his appetite for more.
“I remember thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to play in big tournaments?’” he says.
He wasn’t planning to go to BYU until the coach there arranged for him to spend some time at the Northern California home of Johnny Miller, a Cougar standout in the late ‘60s who already had won on the PGA Tour and was about to become a huge star and major champion.
“He said some things that were a big influence on me,” Fought says.
Fought has fond memories of his BYU days.
“Our first six guys all went on tour and remained friends forever,” he says. “We had a very close team. My senior year, we won every tournament and individual title except the NCAA, where we didn’t play well.”
Fought’s father was a CPA, and he was adamant his son get a degree, which he did in accounting.
“I’m so glad I got the degree,” he says.
As an amateur, Fought was chosen to play for the U.S. in the Eisenhower Trophy Cup, joining teammates who included Fred Ridley, now chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, site of The Masters. Fought also was named to the U.S. Walker Cup team.
“It’s such an amazing experience being able to represent your country,” Fought says. “It’s the greatest honor a person can have.”
The summer of 1977, Fought won all of his matches, 22 straight, including a final against future U.S. Open champion Scott Simpson in the Trans-Miss. His streak included battles in the U.S. Am against some of the era’s best veterans, such as Vinny Giles and Jay Sigel. It was at Sigel’s home course, and he had a big following. “Six deep,” Fought says. “I’d never played in front of a gallery like that. After we teed off on the first hole, some lady calls out, ‘Beat the (expletive) out of him, Jay!’”
The young man who had come up just short in two Oregon state high school tournaments at Glendoveer went on to a resounding 9 and 8 victory over Doug Fischesser in the 36-hole U.S. Amateur final at Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania.
“I played out of my mind,” Fought says. “The score was not reflective of how nerve-racking that day was, but I was out-driving Doug by 40 to 50 yards, and I won the last four holes of the morning round to go 6-up.”
That year, “I played really well and was just so super determined,” Fought says, adding that “I felt like I had sort of blown it” in the ‘76 U.S. Am, when he lost the final three holes of his quarterfinal to fall 2-down.
Fought’s first PGA Tour title came in the 1979 Buick-Goodwrench Open. He also won the following week in the Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic.
Fought had 12 career top-10s on the PGA Tour and played in 12 majors, including three Masters. He was fifth in the 1983 PGA Championship.
A bizarre injury in Memphis led to his early exit from the tour.
“I was hitting a bunch of balls on the range just before the start of the tournament, and when I walked into the clubhouse and the lower temperature there, my neck just froze. I couldn’t look down at my feet,” he says.
A doctor told him he merely had tight muscles, but he actually had a serious disc problem. The Trail Blazers’ Dr. Robert Cook eventually recommended a specialist, who fused the C-5 and C-6 vertebrae in his neck.
Fought wanted to stay in golf.
“I loved design,” he says.
Jack Nicklaus introduced him to Bob Cupp, who had been Nicklaus’ senior designer, and Fought wound up working with Cupp on the construction of Pumpkin Ridge in North Plains.
“I learned the fundamentals of designed from Bob,” Fought says.
They also worked at Crosswater in Sunriver, Langdon Farms in Aurora, The Reserve Vineyards and Golf Club in Aloha and others before Fought went off on his own in the mid-1990s.
Fought’s original designs include Centennial Golf Club in Medford, Washington National Golf Club in Seattle, Big Sky Golf and Country Club in British Columbia and many others, primarily in the West or Minnesota.
He’d love to see Oregon play host to a U.S. Open for the first time and build a course somewhere on the Oregon Coast.
His philosophy is to “use the land that’s there. I don’t like to move a lot of dirt.”
Fought visits the state every summer and sometimes more often. Brother Jeff Fought, six years younger, is director of golf at Black Butte Ranch.
But John doesn’t play much golf anymore because of the fallout from his injuries, which included surgery on his left thumb.
“You learn to live with it,” he says. “I’m still a member of the PGA Tour and I get to go to TPC (Scottsdale) and hit balls. It’s 15 minutes away.
“Golf is the greatest game ever.”