36th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, conducted by the United States Golf Association
(ELVERSON, Pa.) – In the largest comeback since a 36-hole final was introduced in 2001, Stewart Hagestad, 25, of Newport Beach, Calif., rallied from a 4-down deficit with five holes to play to defeat Scott Harvey, 38, of Greensboro, N.C., in 37 holes to win the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, held at Stonewall.
“It's an absolute dream come true,” said Hagestad. “This is something I've dreamed about ever since I can remember, and it's an honor and a privilege to represent mid-amateurs around the country and to have won the championship.”
On the 37th hole, the 169-yard, par-3 ninth hole on Stonewall’s Old Course, Hagestad and Harvey hit strong iron shots to give themselves birdie chances. Harvey’s, from 15 feet, missed to the right. The stage was Hagestad’s, and he made a downhill 14-footer that crawled into the hole for an improbable victory.
Harvey, who won his U.S. Mid-Amateur title in 2014, clearly was disappointed, but took the loss in stride.
“I’m fine. I mean, I’ve been here before and had some tough losses,” he said. “It’s one thing to completely give it away, and it’s another to get beat like that. He just made some incredible birdies coming in.”
For the first time in USGA championship, two courses were used in a 36-championship match. The final started with 18 holes on the par-70, 6,711-yard North Course, while the second 18 was played on the par-70, 6,870-yard Old Course. Hagestad trailed Harvey for 31 consecutive holes – from the fifth hole on the North all the way through the 17th hole on the Old – and Harvey held as large as a 5-up lead through 25 holes.
Hagestad started to chip away at the deficit on the par-4 26th hole (No. 8 on the Old). With the tee moved up, the hole played 314 yards, and Hagestad hit his driver to the fairway just in front of the green and then rolled in a 20-foot, left-to-right birdie putt.
After halving the next two holes, Hagestad used his length to his advantage again on the 587-yard, par-5 29th hole (No. 11 on the Old). After a good drive down the fairway, Hagestad hit a hybrid club to 21 feet. His eagle attempt slid by on the right, but the conceded birdie and Harvey’s subsequent missed birdie putt allowed Hagestad to close to within 3 down.
The match swung right back in Harvey’s favor on the next hole. Hagestad used an iron off the tee on the 342-yard par 4 and pulled it into a fairway bunker. He made bogey from there and lost the hole to Harvey, who moved back to 4 up, this time with six holes to play. It was the last hole Harvey would win in the match.
Though Hagestad missed a 6-foot birdie putt that would halved the 31st hole, he later called the 432-yard, par-4 13th a turning point even though he was in even worse shape, 4 down with five holes to play.
“I really committed to a good yardage and to a solid target and I pulled the trigger,” he said. “I, unfortunately, didn't make the putt. But when the putt on 14 went in, that was big.”
Indeed it was. Hagestad birdied the 379-yard, par-4 32nd hole, knocking in a 13-foot left-to-right breaking putt to win the hole and close to 3 down with four to play.
Hagestad has called the par-3 15th – with a well-guarded green that pitches from left to right and set amidst trees that create swirling winds – the hardest on Old Course. He had yet to birdie it all week, but he picked a perfect time to do it. Hitting first, Hagestad struck a towering 7-iron that settled 6 feet above the hole.
After Harvey two-putted for par, Hagestad rolled in the birdie putt and let out his first real emotion of the day, a fist pump that signaled his feeling that he was still very much alive. After the players halved No. 16 with bogeys, he would still need to win the last two holes.
The par-3 17th, the match’s 35th hole, was playing 237 yards, with a hole location set in the back-right portion of the green. After both players hit high-quality 5-irons, Harvey, putting first, could have closed out the match with a birdie, but his 15-foot attempt missed on the left for a conceded par. Hagestad, who had an 11-footer, settled himself and rolled it into the heart of the hole, punctuating the putt with a celebration to match.
The players both hit the middle of the fairway on the 458-yard, par-4 18th hole, and Hagestad was first to play. He faded a soft 6-iron that landed in the middle of the green and released gently back to within 7 ½ feet of the back hole location. Harvey pushed his approach shot into a right greenside bunker and then, when he missed a 20-foot putt from the left fringe, conceded Hagestad’s birdie. The match was all square and headed to extra holes for the first time in a U.S. Mid-Amateur final since 1987.
The first 18 holes of the final were controlled by Harvey, a member of the 2015 USA Walker Cup Team. He won the 406-yard, par-4 first hole on the North, and then recorded the first birdie of the match on the North’s 587-yard, par-5 eighth when he sank a 6-foot putt for a 2-up advantage. He extended his lead to 3 up with a conceded birdie on the par-4 10th when he struck a 60-degree wedge to within 18 inches.
After halving holes 15 and 16 with short par putts, Harvey moved to 4 up on the par-3 17th. Hagestad, who played his college golf at the University of Southern California, hit his tee shot into the grass finger above the left-front greenside bunker that resulted in a bogey and Harvey two-putted from 40 feet for a par.
Hagestad cut into the lead on the final hole, the par-5 18th, with a conceded birdie after just missing a 28-foot eagle. Harvey failed to convert his 6-foot birdie attempt, and the lead was 3 up through 18 holes. During the midday break, Hagestad professed confidence that would turn out to be borne out by the afternoon’s drama.
“I played far from my best, but at the same time, I am still in it,” he said. “All I’ve got to do is scare him a little bit. Match play is very momentum-driven and if I can keep chipping away and win a couple of holes. Hopefully I can make a couple of good [putts] and get myself back into this thing.”
He did just that, and what unfolded was a final match that will be remembered as one of the most dramatic in U.S. Mid-Amateur history.
With the victory, Hagestad earns an exemption into the next 10 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championships and possession of the Robert T. Jones Memorial Trophy for one year. His victory also comes with a likely invitation to the 2017 Masters Tournament and exemptions into the next two U.S. Amateur Championships, in 2017 at Riviera Country Club, in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and in 2018 at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links. Both finalists are exempt into sectional qualifying for the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills.
The U.S. Mid-Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.