Stewart Hagestad (USGA Photo)
Just when it looked like the 42nd U.S. Mid-Amateur had rolled a bunch of 7s and was on a heater in terms of no weather suspensions, Mother Nature stepped in and delivered snake-eyes.
At least the morning Round-of-16 matches at water-logged Sleepy Hollow Country Club managed to get completed before an unexpected afternoon storm popped up, dumping nearly a half-inch of rain to a course that received nearly the same amount from an early morning system that threatened to alter an already heavily adjusted schedule.
With standing water on the saturated course, Sleepy Hollow’s maintenance staff – perhaps the real heroes of this competition – was summoned yet again to get the course back into the desired playing conditions. Coupled with the 15-minute delay at the outset of the day, the remaining competitors endured a 94-minute break from the pop-up storm. Some ate a second lunch.
Others checked emails and texts. All had become accustomed to the many stops and starts that delayed play nearly eight hours since Saturday, bringing a third consecutive year of at least a Friday finish (the final was extended to Saturday in 2022).
For two-time champion Stewart Hagestad
, 32 of Newport Beach, Calif., it didn’t matter if the sun was shining, or the wind was howling with horizontal rain. Coming off a successful fourth Walker Cup appearance, where he posted a 2-1 mark (two singles wins) at St. Andrews in helping the USA retain the trophy for a fourth consecutive Match, the University of Southern California graduate continued to hit the jackpot on the C.B. Macdonald layout recently renovated by Gil Hanse and George Bahto.
Hagestad advanced to the semifinals for a fifth time in seven Mid-Amateur appearances with victories on Wednesday over Nate McCoy
, of Ankeny, Iowa (3 and 1 in the Round of 16) and South Dakota State men’s golf coach Parker Edens
, of Brookings, S.D. (2 and 1 in quarterfinals), raising his overall match-play record to 26-4.
He is joined in the final four by 2008 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up Evan Beck
, 33, of Virginia Beach, Va.; Ole Miss accounting professor/Ph.D. candidate Brett Patterson
, 31, of Oxford, Miss., and Sam Jackson
, 30, of West Columbia, S.C.
Hagestad couldn’t have been more dialed in than he was in the Round of 16 when he recorded nine birdies (against one bogey) against the son of his 2023 USA Walker Cup captain. McCoy, the director of handicapping and course rating for the Iowa Golf Association and whose father, Mike, won this event 10 years ago, was the equivalent of 4 under par.
He couldn’t quite duplicate the birdie fest in the afternoon but still managed five in grinding out a tough win over Edens, who got into the draw via a 16-for-14 playoff on Monday.
“It's tough to back up really good rounds when you've got it going,” said Hagestad, “I played well in the afternoon. I've got to tell you, [Edens] played really well. Wow, what a great ball striker he is. Thankfully, it was just enough to get the job done.”
Hagestad carried a 2-up advantage into the 14th hole, only to see Edens register his fourth birdie of the match, but first to win a hole. Then he consolidated that birdie with another on the par-5 15th to square things up. Like the champion he is, Hagestad, a financial analyst for Chicago-based BDT & MDS Capital Partners, hit a smooth pitching wedge on the 147-yard 16th hole to 25 feet and rolled in the putt for a 1-up lead. A two-putt par was good enough to win the match on No. 17 when Edens three-putted for a bogey.
“The closer you get to the championship match, the louder the voices in your head begin to get,” said Hagestad, who is looking to become the third player in Mid-Am history to win three or more titles. “I still would say that the last two matches are collectively tougher [to win] than this entire tournament.”
Hagestad will meet Jackson, a window and doors salesman who played collegiately at Presbyterian College in North Carolina, in the second of the two semifinal matches on Thursday morning. Jackson made an exquisite up-and-down par on the 18th hole to hold off fellow South Carolina native and current Atlanta resident Stephen Behr Jr., 1 up.
Jackson short-sided himself with his approach and had to delicately navigate a steep hill with his 60-degree wedge, flopping to 7 feet. When Behr missed his 30-foot birdie attempt, Jackson quickly stepped in and converted his putt.
Earlier in the match, the 2023 Carolinas Mid-Amateur champion made a 10-foot birdie on No. 14 to take a 1-up lead, and the two competitors tied the remaining four holes.
Jackson, the 2022 South Carolina Golf Association Player of the Year, advanced to the final eight with a 3-and-1 win on Wednesday morning over Joe Du Chateau, of Fond du Lac, Wis.
Beck put on a sizzling display of golf in his 2-and-1 win over No. 4 seed Sam Jones, of New Zealand. The former Wake Forest University standout matched the lefty Jones with seven birdies to reach his first U.S. Mid-Amateur semifinal and second since his run in the U.S. Junior Amateur at Shoal Creek 15 years ago.
In his Round-of-16 victory over 2019 runner-up Joseph Deraney, of Tupelo, Miss., Beck broke open a tight match by winning five consecutive holes from No. 9, a stretch that included four birdies, and then matched Deraney’s birdie on the par-4 14th to close out a 5-and-4 victory.
“Oh, it's awesome,” said Beck when asked about being a semifinalist. “I love this golf course. I have always heard great things and seen a bunch of pictures. But it's fantastic. I think it suits my game, and I'm just happy I get to play it at least one more time.”
Earlier this summer, Patterson and Beck qualified for the U.S. Amateur at the same venue in Urbana, Md., and now they will square up on Thursday morning for a spot in the title match. Managing high-level golf and a 5-week-old daughter (Evelyn) has been challenging for Patterson, whose wife, Abby, has stayed back at the hotel while he continues through the draw.
In the quarterfinals, he only won two holes, but it was enough to eliminate playoff survivor and fellow 2023 U.S. Amateur qualifier Bobby Massa, of Dallas, Texas, 2 and 1. He rolled in a 4-footer for birdie following a nice 9-iron approach to the par-4 fifth hole and the two tied the next 11 holes before Massa three-putted No. 17 to end the festivities.
Earlier on Wednesday, Patterson, who is competing in his first U.S. Mid-Amateur and 12th USGA championship that includes the 2011 U.S. Open, fought off a tough challenge from 2021 semifinalist Nick Maccario, of Haverhill, Mass., 1 up. That match was tied going to the uphill, 421-yard 18th hole when Maccario made a double-bogey 6 and eventually conceded Patterson’s birdie.
The two semifinal matches on Thursday will begin at 7 a.m. and 7:15 a.m. EDT, followed by the first 18 of the 36-hole championship match, which is scheduled for noon. The second round of the final will take place on Friday morning. Admission is free and spectators are encouraged to attend.