Stewart Hagestad (USGA photo)
For Stewart Hagestad, the road to the U.S. Mid-Amateur quarterfinals has been relatively short – at least, as short as possible. Hagestad only required 43 holes in three rounds of match play and is 7 under par, with the usual match-play concessions.
On a breezy day – winds gusted to as high as 30 mph in some portions of Colorado Golf Club in Parker, Colo. – Hagestad defeated John Ehrgott, 44, of Peoria, Ill., in the Round of 16 and Blake Parks, 34, of Odessa, Texas, in the Round of 32, both by 5-and-4 margins.
That’s a major advantage when you’ve had the run-up that this 28-year-old has had.
Ask Hagestad to don his country’s colors, and he’ll jump at the chance – even if it is physically exhausting. He admitted to willingly putting his body through hell to represent the United States at the Pan-American Games in Lima, Peru in early August, even though it meant a quick 24-hour turnaround to get back to Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort for the U.S. Amateur.
From there, he had work to do with the newly selected U.S. Walker Cup team. Then it was off to England for the matches, in which Hagestad won two points and played the role of seasoned veteran for a team full of college players.
Hagestad, winner of this event in 2016, has played too many of these things to expect the road to get any easier over the next two days at Colorado Golf Club.
“I know the whole way through, from here on out, you’re getting everyone’s best,” said Hagestad. “They’re throwing everything they have at you. There’s a lot of golf left, and you’ve got to kind of take it one match at a time and a hole at a time and all the adages that go with it. But everyone that’s here is really good. So, you can’t really take anything for granted.”
Andres Schonbaum of Argentina and Lukas Michel of Australia know the feeling of being a patriot on the course. They are the two international players left in the quarterfinals. An international player has never won this title.
Schonbaum, 28, who runs his own insurance agency, avenged a 19-hole quarterfinal defeat to eventual 2018 champion Kevin O’Connell, 30, of Jacksonville, Fla., in the Round of 32 by, ironically, going 19 holes. He then defeated Johnny DelPrete, 30, of Juno Beach, Fla., 2 and 1, winning holes 16 and 17 to close it out.
“I knew it was going to be hard because Kevin is such a great player, not only for winning last year,” said Schonbaum, who is playing in his third Mid-Amateur. “So, I knew it was a challenge for me because he beat me last year, even though it was pretty close. But yeah, I just fought for it, and yeah, I was really proud of that one.”
Michel, 25, who took advantage of a new World Amateur Golf Ranking category that exempts the first 30 age-eligible players (he is currently No. 287), edged local Nick Nosewicz, 36, of Aurora, Colo., 2 and 1, in the morning and Michigan State assistant men’s golf coach Dan Ellis, of Lansing, Mich., 4 and 3 in the afternoon.
Now he faces Jake Koppenberg, 32, of Bellingham, Wash., who outlasted playoff survivor Daniel DeBra, of Lutz, Fla., in 19 holes. Koppenberg is a volunteer assistant men’s golf coach at Western Washington, where he played two years of college golf, too.
“Oh, this is a dream,” said Koppenberg. “I’ve played pretty hard this year and lost. We had a match-play tournament up in Washington State, lost in the semifinals, so that kind of stung a little bit. So, kind of hoping to redeem myself. It’s a grind, and at this point no one is going to give you a match.”
Nick Geyer, 32, makes an unlikely quarterfinalist considering that he battled from the No. 63 spot on the bracket. Geyer, a lefty who regained his amateur status in 2013, has gained a lot of momentum after claiming the second-to-last spot in the draw via an 18-for-6 playoff on Monday morning. Now he faces Hagestad in the quarterfinals.
“It feels awesome,” said Geyer, a University of New Mexico graduate, of his run. “This is why I got my amateur status back in 2013. I think the USGA does an unbelievable job, and the feeling that you get being out here playing and competing, that’s why I love golf, whether it’s something small or something huge. Yes, it feels awesome.”
Joseph Deraney, the 2018 and ’19 Canadian Mid-Amateur champion; former Duke player Yaroslav Merkulov and USGA newbie Jason Schultz round out the final eight players left.