ELVERSON, PA (September 15, 2016) -- Stewart Hagestad went to USC and their fight song is "Fight On" and that is exactly what Hagestad did during the championship match of the U.S. Mid-Amateur at Stonewall Links. Trailing by four holes with six to go the Newport Beach, CA resident mounted a remarkable rally to tie the match on the 36th hole and then win it 1 up on the 37th hole. It was the biggest comeback since the 36-hole final was first utilized in 2001.
“It's an absolute dream come true,” Hagestad said. “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.”
With the win Hagestad will receive an invitation to the 2017 Masters and he hopes a spot on the Walker Cup team for the biennial event set to be played next year at his home course, Los Angles Country Club.
On the first extra hole, the par-3 9th of the Old Course Hagestad, the 12-seed, did what he had done most of the afternoon and stripped an iron shot to 14-feet, setting up a birdie try. Harvey answered with a a solid shot of his own but when his 15-foot birdie putt missed Hagestad had a putt for the win.
After taking a moment to compose himself Hagestad stepped up and drilled the putt setting up an emphatic fist pump and yell, followed by a sigh of relief.
"I was hitting it really solid all day, Hagestad said of his rally. "And I knew if I got one to drop I would start seeing the lines and get something going."
Hagestad, who birdied 10 of the final 21 holes, rode a hot putter during the final nine to his first U.S. Mid-Amateur title in his first appearance. The rally began with back-to-back birdies on the 32nd and 33rd holes to draw within 2 down. Following a halve on the 34th hole Hagestad creeped within 1 down thanks to another birdie, a slopping right-to-lefter.
Still trailing with one hole remaining Hagestand and Harvey both split the fairway of the par-4 closing hole with their tee shots. Hagestand played first and once more knocked it close to squarely put the pressure on the 2014 champion.
“I’m fine. I mean, I’ve been here before and had some tough losses,” a gracious Harvey said. “It’s one thing to completely give it away, and it’s another to get beat like that. He just made some incredible birdies coming in.”
From the moment Harvey hit his approach shot he knew it was right and it landed in the green side bunker. His bunker shot ended up going through the green and after he missed his 20-foot par try he conceded the hole and sent the match to extra holes.
Harvey, from Greensboro, NC, won the opening hole of the 36-hole final and didn't trail until Hagestad won the 37th hole. After Hagestad evened the match on the 3rd, Harvey regained the lead on No. 5 and then pushed his lead to 3 up with hole winning birdies on Nos. 8 and 10. Shortly after Harvey hit his tee shot on the 10th his wife Kim, and six-year-old son Cameron arrived to cheer Harvey on. Maybe getting a jolt of energy from their arrival Harvey knocked his approach shot on the par-4 to 18-inches.
When Harvey won the title two years ago his family surprised him by flying in for the championship, "This time I expected them to come. I was kind of looking for them after about four or five holes," said Harvey. "There wasn’t an exact time they were supposed to be here. Then when they got there, it was a welcome sight."
The advantage for Harvey got as large as 4 up following a win on No. 17 but Hagestad was able to grab some momentum heading into the second 18 with a birdie to win the 18th hole.
"I played far from my best, but at the same time, I am still in it," Hagestad said after the morning round. "All I’ve got to do is scare him a little bit. Match play is very momentum-driven and if I can keep chipping away and win a couple of holes. Hopefully I can make a couple of good [putts] and get myself back into this thing."
With the difference 3 up in favor of Harvey the players headed over to the Old Course for the afternoon 18 and like in the morning the co-medalist got off to a quick start. Harvey got the lead back to 4 up with a birdie on the 19th hole before increasing his advantage to 5 up two holes later.
Following a stretch of halves Hagestad, the youngest ever U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, began to rally. A birdie on the 26th hole brought Hagestad within 4 down and another birdie on the 29th made the deficit just 3 down.
Harvey stymied the run briefly with a win on the 30th hole only to see Hagestad, down four with six to go, battle back once more.
The U.S. Mid-Amateur final was the second time Hagestad and Harvey locked horns with the stakes high this year. In June Harvey defeated Hagestad in a George C. Thomas Invitational playoff at Los Angeles Country Club.
In addition to earning a spot in the Masters, Hagestad will receive an exemption into the next ten U.S. Mid-Amateurs and the next two U.S. Amateurs. Both players are also through to sectional qualifying for the 2017 U.S. Open.
-The USGA contributed to this story