Hagestad Prepares for The Masters
A lifelong dream is about to become reality for reigning Met Amateur champion and 2016 MGA Player of the Year Stewart Hagestad, who will compete in this year's Masters Tournament, April 6-9. Hagestad, who earned the coveted invite by way of his thrilling win at the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, chose to escape the New York winter and has been prepping in his home state of California the last several months. We recently caught up with Hagestad to see how his preparation was going and what he's looking forward to during his week at Augusta National Golf Club.
What have been some of the most important details that you’ve taken from practice rounds at Augusta National?
The greens are the real deal, but they can also be helpful. There are so many spots where you can use the slopes and natural undulations of the greens to your advantage to help get the ball close. Other than the greens, just driving lines off the tees, and trying to acclimate to one of (if not the most) iconic venues in the game of golf. I'm sure come tournament week, a second acclimation to playing in front of crowds will also take place, but we'll address that day by day.
What are you most looking forward to during your week at the Masters?
Besides the actual event, I have to say playing in the Par 3 tournament with my father on the bag. He knows he is going to have to putt out at least once, but he doesn't know when that will take place. That experience for the two of us will be something we will never forget.
What has been some of the best advice you’ve received from past Masters competitors?
You've earned the opportunity to be here. Everyone is going to be nervous, but at the end of the day, everyone is just there to do what they love... Play the game of golf, to the best of their ability, in front of the people who have supported them their entire life. Nobody is judging you, only rooting for you. Every day, make sure to look around and enjoy that moment.
Have you lined up any practice rounds with fellow competitors during tournament week?
I am still working putting it together, but the plan is to play with Jordan [Spieth] and Justin [Thomas] one day—most likely Monday. As for Tuesday, there is nothing set in stone right now, but the vibe I've gotten is that it starts to come together throughout the week. I have a few guys I have in my mind, but with everyone's schedule being different, it's difficult to pin guys down. Even though he isn't playing, I do plan to play with Ben Crenshaw the Sunday before.
What has your recent preparation looked like?
For the most part, it hasn't changed from any other event. There has been slightly more emphasis on short game practice, but as far as general preparation, I consider myself dedicated to putting in the work necessary to have the opportunity to play great.
What’s your choice of club for skipping a ball across the pond on the 16th? Have you tried in previous visits?
4 Iron and I have tried in previous visits. There is a lake at my home club in California with a similar set up... Hopefully all the practice when I was younger pays off!
It’s undoubtedly tough to pick, but what are a couple of your favorite holes at Augusta National?
I wouldn't say that I have any favorites, but I definitely have a few that fly under the radar that have grabbed my attention. Holes such as 3, 6, 7, 13, and 17 have so much more character and intricacies than television indicates. The green complexes on three and six are so unique, and there is just so much more natural slope on the greens than what the viewer at home can see. Seven is a very unique hole in that the targets both off the tee and the approach shot is the grandstands and the leader board in the distance. Those additions to the course specifically for the tournament are critical to figure out target lines. As for thirteen, I naturally hit a fade, and I haven't made any effort to change my game for one tee shot. For me, I plan to hit 3-wood off the tee and if that means I have to lay up, so be it. I plan to only hit driver if there is a back left pin, or otherwise dictated by the situation. Lastly, seventeen is just a really fair, challenging hole. The drive is one of the tightest on the course, and the second shot (if you're in the fairway) is between trees on both sides so you can't judge the wind as well as other holes. Despite the majority of the hole's magic taking place on the green thanking to Jack's iconic '86 birdie putt, I feel there is equal character in the shots leading up to the green.