Remarkable comeback earns Hagestad U.S. Mid-Am
ELVERSON, Pa. (September 15, 2016) - Four down with five holes to play, Stewart Hagestad authored a comeback in the 36-hole final of the 36th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship that will be remembered for years to come. Birdies fell at Nos. 14, 15, 17 and 18 (of the second 18 holes) to send the match against 2014 Mid-Am titlist Scott Harvey to extra holes, while Hagestad's fifth birdie in six holes put the exclamation point on the come-from-behind victory at Stonewall Links.
The win by Hagestad is the largest comeback since the 36-hole final was introduced in 2001, while the New York, N.Y., resident became the second-youngest winner of the U.S. Mid-Am title, trailing only Nathan Smith--a four-time winner who first claimed the title in 2003. Meanwhile, more history was made as two courses were used in a 36-hole championship match for the first time in USGA championship history.
Hagestad, the 2016 Met Amateur champion, faced a deficit for much of the day, but remained determined to have no regrets with the opportunity at hand. "I didn't want to go to sleep tonight knowing I left anything out there," remarked the 25-year old who was making his U.S. Mid-Am debut. "Just one hole at a time, one shot at a time. And I was hitting it pretty darn well I felt like for the last couple days, and if I could just see a couple putts go in the hole, I felt like I could get the ball rolling."
While Harvey pushed his advantage to five by winning Nos. 1 and 3 as the match picked up on the Old Course in the afternoon, Hagestad began to chip away beginning with a birdie-three on the eighth hole. A strong sand save on the 28th hole of the match kept the deficit at four, before Hagestad hit the par-5 following hole in two shots--his second coming from 278 yards out--and pulled within three.
Harvey holed a testing par putt on the following hole to return his advantage to four, while the duo halved the 31st hole with pars--Hagestad just missing a makeable birdie attempt after a solid iron shot that may have helped things click for the New York resident.
Four down with five holes to play, Hagestad's back was truly against the wall but he refused to face losing as an option and the birdies began to fly. One from 10 feet on No. 14 after a quality wedge shot on the downhill approach. Another just inside 10 feet on the par-3 15th which had given him fits all week long. Both resulted in wins and quickly dropped the deficit to two--the closest he had been in the match since the ninth hole.
A halve on the 16th gave Harvey a 2-up lead with two to play. Though Hagestad led off with an outstanding tee shot on the 237-yard par-3 17th, Harvey hit an equally impressive shot and had a putt to win the title. His bid slid low, and Hagestad's must-make putt from just inside 10 feet was poured in the center of the hole to send the match to the 36th hole. Hagestad's stellar striking continued as he found the fairway and hit a 6-iron from 199 yards to inside 10 feet for yet another birdie try. However, Hagestad did not end up having to putt this one as Harvey's approach missed the green and he was unable to get up-and-down. Harvey conceded and the match pushed on to the par-3 ninth.
Hagestad remained aggressive and put another excellent strike on the ball, his shot ending up around 14 feet away. After Harvey missed a longer birdie look, Hagestad had one last birdie roll left as the putt just fell in the front to clinch the title.
"It's an absolute dream come true," said Hagestad. "This is something I've dreamed about ever since I can remember, and it's an honor and a privilege to represent Mid-amateurs around the country and to have won the championship."
In addition to the Robert T. Jones Memorial Trophy, Hagestad's victory also comes with a host of benefits, as he is now exempt in to the next 10 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championships and the next two U.S. Amateur Championships. He is also exempt into sectional qualifying for the 2017 U.S. Open Championship and has a likely invitation to the 2017 Masters Tournament.