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For Stewart Hagestad April 2017 can't come soon enough
26 Dec 2016
by Sam Dostaler of amateurgolf.com

see also: Stewart Hagestad Rankings, Stewart Hagestad Profile

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Stewart Hagestad celebrates his U.S. Mid-Amateur winning putt <br>(USGA Photo)
Stewart Hagestad celebrates his U.S. Mid-Amateur winning putt
(USGA Photo)
(December 26, 2016) -- Down four with five holes to play are words no golfer wants to hear, unless maybe your Stewart Hagestad. Unlike most golfers when Hagestad hears those words a memory of a lifetime comes to mind.

For Hagestad, hearing the words down four with five to play means that somebody is about to remind him of his unprecedented comeback victory in the championship match of the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur at Stonewall Links against top- ranked mid-amateur and good friend Scott Harvey. The victory made the 25-year-old Hagestad the second youngest U.S. Mid-Amateur champion in the history of the event and it also ensured his spot in the 2017 Masters field.

"If you go back to some of the earlier holes, I actually felt better then you would have expected for someone that was down," Hagestad explained. "Throughout the course of the day I kept telling myself that if I could just chip away throughout the course of the day maybe the momentum would start to swing."

And swing it did, as Hagestad won four of the final five holes and then won the match with a birdie on the first extra hole, the 37th hole of the match. Before striking his 14-foot birdie putt on the 169-yard par-3 ninth hole Hagestad lost his focus momentarily, as thoughts of Augusta National crept into his subconscious but he quickly returned to the task at hand.

"My first thought after my adrenaline came down was is this real? Did this really happen? This is crazy," a still slightly shocked sounding Hagestad said, "Then the phone call after with my parents (John and Merry) was probably the most special that I have ever had with them for sure."

Hagestad, originally from Newport Beach, CA, now lives in New York City where he works in finance at Oak Tree Residential. The move came following his senior year at USC and for the lifelong Southern California resident it was his chance to experience something new.

"I wanted an opportunity to go live in another big city but when I moved to New York I kind of had a second awakening and realized how much I love competitive golf," said Hagestad who has found a creative way to keep his game sharp while living in the city that doesn't sleep.

Nearly two years ago Hagestad joined Golf & Body, located on 6th Avenue in the heart of Manhattan and since joining his game has thrived. Members of Golf & Body receive a full golf evaluation and then are put on a training program that fits their needs from a golf, fitness and wellness standpoint.

"(Stewart) will often come in at the end of a long day after most other members have gone home, setup his exercises throughout the gym and crank up his music before grinding through another tough workout," trainer Kirk Adams said of is client. "His work ethic in the gym has allowed him to have the season he just had and is a model for amateur golfers everywhere."

The state-of-the-art facility also afforded Hagestad an opportunity to hone his wedge game and putting stroke. Hagestad spends hours at the facility with his head phones in working to perfect the putting stroke that carried him to his U.S. Mid-Amateur triumph and will be much needed on the lightening quick greens of Augusta National come April.

Speaking of April, Hagestad still finds it hard to describe his upcoming trip to Magnolia Lane.

"Saying that my dream was to play in the Masters would be an example of something that you say and you dream of it happening but now that it has happened it is unfathomable that it came true. I remember there were a couple nights where I was talking to some people that I am still very close with from high school and I told them my goal was to play in the Masters but I'm still pinching myself thinking about it and that first tee ball on Thursday (in the first round). It is something that you dream about as a kid and I just want to put forth all the effort and all the energy and effort I have into playing well."

As a 2013 graduate of USC, Hagestad is friends with some of the younger players on the PGA Tour and shortly after his U.S. Mid-Amateur triumph he said he would love to play a practice round with Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. "I won’t be intimidated to call them up and say hey guys when can we go," said Hagestad who would also like to play a practice round with the likes of Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott.

However, for Hagestad the objective isn't to just go down to Augusta for a couple of practice rounds and a pair of competitive rounds, "I want to legitimately contend at Augusta. You are given a pretty unique opportunity and I want to go down there and play great."

The victory at the U.S. Mid-Amateur wasn't the first taste of success that Hagestad has had in his amateur career. While at USC he competed in the NCAA Championships as a senior and the Pac-12 Championships three-times.

For Hagestad, going to USC was more then getting a chance to play for the schools golf team. He also got a chance to follow in his father's footsteps and attend USC and now he watches as his younger brother Richard competes as a walk-on for the resurgent Trojan football program.

With that said the college golfing experience was a little different for Hagestad, a member of the USC business school, "I loved golf, I loved competitive golf but it became pretty clear after my sophomore year that I was going to do something else with my career professionally. What I found out in college was just how good these kids are."

Throughout Hagestad's career there have been seven attempts and seven tickets punched into the U.S. Amateur field via the qualifying process. Moreover, since moving to the east coast Hagestad has made a huge splash in Metropolitan Golf Association (MET) events, winning the section's 2016 amateur championship and earning this years player of the year honors.

"The timing with winning the MET and on national scene is kind of ironic," Hagestad said. "Coming from Southern California where there are so many good players and having that high expectation of myself and not to say there aren’t good players on the east coast because there are, but when you grow up playing against kids like Patrick Cantlay, Beau Hossler and I guess as a transplant and being naïve about the golfing scene my expectation was to just go in and expect to be great."

Hagestad will have to continue to be great if he wants to accomplish his goal of competing in the 2017 Walker Cup to be played on his home course, the Los Angeles Country Club next September. Just before Christmas Hagestad and 15 others, including fellow mid-amateur Scott Harvey participated in a weekend practice session at LACC with designs on impressing captain Spider Miller.

"It would be pretty special and not just for me but for friends and family who have supported me my entire life. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I want to earn my way onto that team the right way and I want my play to dictate getting on there," Hagestad, one of four American selected by the USGA to compete in January's South American Amateur said. "It would be a dream come true to have an opportunity to be on the team and represent the United States but at the same time I understand the big picture and for better or worse I want that cup to be back in the United States and if they feel I can help them do that it would be dream."

At this point it would appear that golfing dreams are very much within arms reach for Stewart Hagestad and in fact we may have only witnessed the tip of his golfing potential.

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