Stewart Hagestad (USGA)
Look up the players who have won the same USGA championship three or more times and it is a veritable who’s who of luminaries. Names such as Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Bob Jones, Mickey Wright, Annika Sorenstam, Hollis Stacy, Juli Inkster, JoAnne Carner and Carol Semple Thompson are among the game’s most legendary players. Even lesser-known amateurs such as Ellen Port, Lewis Oehmig, Meghan Stasi, Sarah Lebrun Ingram, Carolyn Cudone, Carl Kauffmann, Alexa Stirling and Glenna Collett Vare have all duplicated that remarkable feat.
Add Stewart Hagestad to that list.
Since turning 25 seven years ago, the 32-year-old Newport Beach, Calif., native arguably has been the world’s best mid-amateur golfer. That year, he immediately announced his presence to this golfing demographic by capturing the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur in dramatic style – he rallied from 4 down with 5 to play to beat 2014 winner Scott Harvey in 37 holes – at Stonewall, in Elverson, Pa., a few weeks after claiming the Metropolitan Golf Association Amateur.
Since then, he’s played on four consecutive winning USA Walker Cup Teams, including earlier this month on the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland when he posted a 2-1 record (2-0 in singles) in the come-from-behind victory, advanced to a pair of U.S. Amateur quarterfinals (2020 and 2022) and now he has hoisted the Robert T. Jones Jr. Memorial Trophy for a third time.
His 3-and-2 victory over Evan Beck, 33, of Virginia Beach, Va., at Sleepy Hollow Country Club on Friday in the 36-hole final match of the 42nd U.S. Mid-Amateur moved him into select company in this competition for the post-college competitive golfer. The championship match was split over two days because of multiple weather delays that altered the original schedule.
Hagestad’s three titles now tie him with the legendary Jay Sigel and leaves him one behind all-time record holder Nathan Smith. Sigel also owns a pair of U.S. Amateur titles (1982-83), and Smith won the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball in 2015 with partner and reigning U.S. Senior Amateur champion Todd White.
The victory earns Hagestad a tee time in the 2024 U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club’s Course No. 2, which is coincidentally where he competed in his first USGA championship at the 2008 U.S. Amateur. He also will earn a likely invitation to the Masters Tournament. In 2017, Hagestad became the first invited U.S. Mid-Amateur champion to make the cut (he was low amateur as well).
With his victory on Friday Hagestad raised his remarkable match-play record in the Mid-Amateur to 28-4, a total that now ties him with 2002 champion George Zahringer and leaves the lanky University of Southern California graduate just 10 behind all-time leader Jerry Courville Jr. And like Smith, Hagestad collected his third championship by the age of 32.
“Just so much joy,” said Hagestad, a student of history who knows where the title places him in the pantheon of Mid-Amateur champs. I mean, there's so many thoughts that come into your head, good, bad, otherwise, not just throughout the day but kind of throughout the week. Evan is such a good player. I know that he's one of the best in the world. He's got a ton of horsepower, and I saw some of his matches, and I kind of had a feeling it might come down to the two of us.
“Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought this was possible. I'm going to need a minute to kind of decompress, but there's a lot of emotions going right now.”
Much like his 2021 win at Sankaty Head on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts, Hagestad had to sleep on a 5-up advantage. And in that final, Costanza cut that margin all the way to one hole before Hagestad captured his only hole of the second 18 on No. 35 to secure a 2-and-1 victory.
Heavy fog throughout the week forced a Friday morning finish. Multiple weather delays this past week also put a cramp in the schedule, and after winning semifinal matches on Thursday morning, Beck, the 2008 U.S. Junior Amateur runner-up, and Hagestad only played the first half of the 36-hole final in the afternoon.
“Yeah, so it's funny, I was thinking about this earlier,” said Hagestad. “I was somehow worried but also never worried. I don't really know how to describe that, other than the fact that I knew if I just kept doing what I was doing, I'd be tough to beat. But at the same time, yeah, it's tough to not let that creep into your head. But it's over now, and here we are.”
Friday morning brought the coolest temperatures of the week as the mercury struggled to hit 60, and a brisk breeze brought additional challenges in terms of club selection.
With such a big lead, it would have been tempting for Hagestad, the No. 16 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking®/WAGR®, to ease off the gas pedal and get conservative. But he came right out of the gate with a 12-foot winning birdie putt on No. 19, made a 12-foot par save to tie No. 20 and then hit an 8-iron to 4 feet to take the par-3 21st for a 7-up lead.
Beck, the 2021 Virginia State Open champion and a two-time winner of the Virgina State Mid-Amateur, wasn’t quite ready to wave the white flag. One doesn’t get to No. 85 in the WAGR without producing results in big events and the former Wake Forest University standout, who regained his amateur status in 2019, started carving into Hagestad’s advantage. Two Hagestad miscues on Nos. 22 and 25, a two-putt birdie from 48 feet on the par-5 24th hole and a 15-foot birdie on the par-3 28th hole whittled the margin to 3 down.
A missed 4-foot par putt cost Beck the 29th hole, only to see him hit a brilliant approach to 8 feet on the par-5 30th to return the status to 3 down.
It appeared Beck, an analyst for the Vantage Consulting Group, had the upper hand on the 300-yard, par-4 31st when Hagestad’s wedge approach spun off the green and into a deep greenside bunker. But like a champion, his recovery shot landed 4 feet from the flagstick. He converted the putt to tie the hole. One hole later, Beck three-putted from the front of the green, missing the 7-foot comebacker. Hagestad converted his 5-foot par putt to regain a 4-up lead. Even a conceded eagle 3 on the par-5 33rd hole wasn’t enough as Beck missed a 10-foot birdie chance on the iconic par-3 16th hole to extend the match.
“Yeah, he played perfect yesterday, didn't miss a shot,” said Beck, who also was a semifinalist with partner Dan Walters in the 2022 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball. “One of the best amateurs of all time. He's proven that many times. Had a tough task today and just didn't have enough.”
When the match finally ended and the congratulatory handshakes completed, Hagestad, a financial analyst for Chicago-based BDT & MSD Capital Partners, displayed all of the emotions of the moment. There was a bear hug with his Sleepy Hollow caddie Willie Deus and a photo with the trophy with his 24-year-old brother, George.
“You kind of look around and there's so many guys that are just capable of making a ton of birdies in a hurry, and back in 18 I played [future Ohio State All-American] Max Moldovan in the first round of the [U.S.] Am and he was a [high school] junior at the time and he's turned out to be an absolute stud, but I kind of underestimated him and maybe overestimated my own ability. I always harken back to that as like a true wake-up call of like, hey, you're getting everyone's best, you've got to bring it. Luckily, we did that this week.”
What the champion receives
- A gold medal
- Possession of the Robert T. Jones Jr. Memorial Trophy for one year
- Exemptions into the next 10 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championships
- Exemption into the 2024 U.S. Open Championship at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club’s -
Course No. 2 in Village of Pinehurst, N.C.
- Exemption into the 2024 U.S. Amateur Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club, in Chaska, Minn., and 2025 U.S. Amateur Championship at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, Calif.
- Likely invitation into the 2024 Masters Tournament
- Name on the 2023 USGA champions’ plaque that will reside in the Hall of Champions inside the USGA Museum in Liberty Corner, N.J.
Runner-up Evan Beck received a silver medal, exemptions into the next three U.S. Mid-Amateur Championships, an exemption into the 2024 U.S. Amateur Championship, and an exemption from local qualifying for the 2024 U.S. Open.
Next year’s U.S. Mid-Amateur will be contested at Kinloch Golf Club, in Manakin-Sabot, Va., and stroke-play co-host Independence Golf Club, in Midlothian, Va., Sept. 21-26.
David Young, who spent 21 years as the head professional at Sleepy Hollow Country Club before retiring in 2022 to spend more time watching his son, Cameron, compete on the PGA Tour, served as the walking scorer for the second 18 of the final. Cameron Young, a Wake Forest graduate like finalist Evan Beck, was the 2022 PGA Tour rookie of the year.
While his parents could not attend, Stewart Hagestad’s younger brother, George, came up several days this past week to provide support. The 24-year-old Stanford University graduate is now living in Manhattan looking for a job in the financial sector.
Both finalists used Sleepy Hollow caddies: Willie Deus for Hagestad, and Michael Geary for Beck.
Paul Brown, a retired member of the USGA Executive Committee, served as the referee for the second 18 of the championship match.