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U.S. Mid-Am champ returns (briefly) to SoCal

December 19, 2016

By Julia Pine

For years, Stewart Hagestad was among the young talented crop of competitors on the SCGA Tournament scene. A native of Newport Beach, and member at Big Canyon CC, Hagestad went to USC to play his collegiate golf, seeing action in eight events as a freshman including two Top-30 finishes. He would graduate in 2013. As many of the area's top collegians do, Hagestad looked for further competition in local amateur events, and succeeded. He finished T4 at the SCGA Amateur in 2012 at his home course, T3 a year later in the same event and earned another Top 20 finish in 2014. But after graduation his non-golf endeavors took him to the East Coast, and and he dropped out of the SCGA tournament scene. During this time, where he would play out of Golf & Body NYC, his game would reach new heights, capped by a career year in 2016 that included a win at the U.S. Mid-Amateur, a victory at the MGA Amateur Championship and MGA Player of the Year honors. Hagestad became the first SoCal golfer to win the U.S. Mid-Am since Kevin Marsh in 2005.

"It was a dream come true," said Hagestad recently during the Honors Matches, where he was a competitor on Team SCGA. "The support from people who have reached out to me since the win has been incredible. I like to think the victory hasn't effected me as a person, but I'm sure it has. I just haven't figured out how so yet."

The win itself was one for the history books. Finding himself 4 down with five holes to play, Hagestad was on the brink of elimination down the stretch. But as the old adage says, it ain't over till it's over.

"I had felt good all week with my putter, and figured if I could get a few to roll in maybe I could scare Scott [Harvey, my opponent] a little bit," said Hagestad. "Luckily for me I got hot at the right moment. I knew if I could get it to 2 down I'd have a shot, because momentum is pretty substantial in match play."

Hagestad would snatch victory away from Harvey, collecting birdies on four of the last five holes to tie things up. He would then roll in a 15-footer for birdie on the first extra hole to secure the win, which was the largest comeback since the 36-hole final was introduced to the event back in 2001.

And if being a national champion wasn't enough, the victory also provides Hagestad with a spot at Augusta this April.

"It's an incredible opportunity for me," said Hagestad, who is still just 25 years old. "And I'm going to practice and prepare for it in that way. I believe that if I go out there and play my game well I have the chance to surprise some people."

Along with his Honors Matches obligations, Hagestad also came to SoCal this month as a guest of the USGA, where he was among the 16 players who accepted invitations to participate in a practice session for the 2017 Walker Cup Match, which will be played Sept. 9-10, 2017 at The Los Angeles CC. Hagestad and Harvey were the lone mid-amateur (25 and older) invitees, with the other 14 being collegians.

"Most of all, earning that invitation was validation for me that my game is going in the right direction," said Hagestad.

Hagestad, who will likely receive a number of prominent amateur invites in 2017, plans to return to New York to play one more summer of golf back East. But the SoCal kid smells a return West.

"Southern California is always home to me," said Hagestad. "I certainly want to take advantage of what I've earned and play in as many tournament as I can this next summer, but then I will likely return to Southern California."

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