Stewart Hagestad had no idea how much his life would change last year when he won the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship. Now, as he begins defense of the title, he’s eager to see what lies ahead.
This much is certain: Hagestad, who played at USC, will not become a professional. His future lies in the business world, likely in the field of finance. He’s anxious to embark on the next phase of life, where there’s a delicate balancing act between golf, work and family.
“To tell you the truth, I’m actually looking forward to putting the clubs away for a while after this,” he said.
Before he returns to the world of high finance and deals, there’s a little matter of defending his title. Hagestad will be a marked man this week when the U.S. Mid-Amateur is hosted at the Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course in Woodstock. He will try to become the first repeat champion since four-time winner Nathan Smith went back-to-back in 2009-10.
“It’s important not to put too much pressure on myself,” Hagestad said. “In match play anybody can get hot and be a buzz saw. I’ll just try to play my best golf, just be patient, keep the ball in the fairway and play to my strengths.”
Hagestad’s life changed dramatically last year when he erased a four-hole deficit with five holes remaining and beat 2014 Mid-Am champion Scott Harvey with a birdie on the 37th hole. He became the second-youngest man to win the U.S. Mid-Am.
Knowing the victory came with an invitation to the Masters, Hagestad took a sabbatical from his job and focused on golf. That decision paid off when he was low amateur at the Masters and became the first Mid-Am champion to make the cut. His performance at Augusta National helped secure his spot on the U.S. Walker Cup team, where he won the deciding match at Los Angeles Country Club, his home course.
“The Masters was such an unbelievable week. Hopefully I can earn my way back in there in the future,” he said. “The Walker Cup was also one of the most memorable experiences I’ll ever have.”
The field of 264 players at the U.S. Mid-Am will play 36 holes of stroke play Saturday and Sunday, one round at Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course, the other at Atlanta National Golf Club. The low 64 advance to match play, which begins Monday. The quarterfinal and semifinal matches are Oct. 11 and the 36-hole championship match will be Oct. 12.
The Mid-Amateur Championship is open to players 25 and older. It was created to provide competition for elite-level golfers who don’t choose to become a professional when they leave college.
There are 14 Georgians in the field, among them Savannah’s Doug Hanzel, the 2013 U.S. Senior Amateur champion. Others include: John Engler of Augusta, a reinstated amateur who was a semifinalist at the 2011 U.S. Mid-Am; Matthew Swan of Atlanta, who has twice reached the final 16 at the U.S. Amateur; Matt Robins of Cumming, a real estate appraiser and two-time Division II All-American; and Mark Harrell of Lookout Mountain, who played at Alabama and qualified for the 2007 U.S. Open.
The last Georgian to win the title was Dave Womack of Stockbridge in 2006. Danny Yates of Atlanta won in 1992 and Macon’s Jim Stuart won in 1990 and 1991.
This is the third time the U.S. Mid-Am has been conducted in Georgia, the last in 2004 at Sea Island. The Atlanta Athletic Club hosted the competition in 1984.