A Legend Grows: SCGA Member Stewart Hagestad Adds More Amateur Titles to Resume
How’s this for a three-week period of golf? First, play on the winning U.S. team in the 2023 Walker Cup at the Old Course in St Andrews. Then, 10 days later, win the 2023 U.S. Mid-Amateur at Sleepy Hollow CC, just north of New York City. Finally, just 10 days after that, win again, this time at the George A. Crump Memorial Tournament (or Crump Cup, for short), a prestigious amateur invitational event played at Pine Valley GC in New Jersey, perennially ranked the best course in the country.
Unreal, right? Not for Stewart Hagestad.
The 32-year-old Southern California native did all of that, adding to an already legendary playing record in amateur golf.
“It was a good September,” he admitted recently. “Those were obviously three [wins] that you really like to have. It was pretty cool and a good three-week stretch. But golf is still hard. I played for the first time in a couple of weeks recently and got beat by a septuagenarian at my home course (Big Canyon CC in Newport Beach).”
Let the Boys Cook
Stewart’s victory at the 2023 U.S. Mid-Amateur elevated him into an elite circle, joining Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan and Annika Sörenstam, among others, to have won the same USGA championship three or more times (he won previously in 2016 and 2021, and stands one win short of tying Nathan Smith, a record four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion).
This year’s win came with some serious perks, too. In April, he’ll likely return to The Masters (where he was low amateur in 2017) for the third time. He’s also exempt for the next decade of U.S. Mid-Amateurs and the next two U.S. Amateurs, including in 2025 when it returns to the Olympic Club in San Francisco. And an exemption in the 2024 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 — which will be his fifth U.S. Open appearance — brings him back to the course where he played in his first-ever USGA championship, the 2008 U.S. Amateur.
“The first one you’re trying to get to the top of the mountain and you don’t know what you don’t know,” Hagestad said of the U.S. Mid-Amateur. “You’re nervous for all the right reasons, and you just have no idea how it could potentially change your life. The second one you’re trying to reach that high again and you know what the carrot is at the end. For the third one, it’s not any easier, but think even Nathan (Smith) might say it’s still a USGA event and there’s a lot of neat things that you can learn from it.” And what would a fourth U.S. Mid-Amateur win mean to Hagestad? “Let’s just focus and enjoy the third one,” he said. “These things are really tough and take an emotional toll. What Nathan has done is unbelievable. In my opinion, what he’s done has cemented him as one of the greatest, if not the greatest mid-amateur. And it will only be tougher with so many good players now getting their amateur status back.”
Hagestad, who earned undergrad and MBA degrees from USC, does have four Walker Cup wins under his belt however, and the most recent one in Scotland might have meant the most. “It was the first one where I kind of teared up and got emotional, just because of how important the Old Course is in the history of the game,” he said.
As that team’s elder statesman this year, Hagestad, currently No. 12 in the Official World Amateur Golf Rankings, relied on past experiences to define his role.
“I thought I was going to be this older brother kind of guide for the team at LACC (where he played in his first Walker Cup in 2017),” he recalled. “What I learned quickly is that their golf IQs were really higher than mine, so it was just shut my mouth and get out of the way. As time has gone on, I’ve gotten a little bit better at the role, to stay away and resist the urge of maybe feeling like you have to say something when you don’t. This year it was definitely a younger team, but I think the best way to be effective is to just do little things: a hug when they need it, or a pat on the ass when they need that. Those guys are so good. Let the boys cook.”
Sweet Home California
He did just fine with his own cooking at this year’s Crump Cup. “That’s a really unique event at a very special venue,” he said. “I personally think Pine Valley is the best course in the world. Every single hole is pretty iconic in its own way. The fact that I’m even invited to that small, intimate event is an honor.”
Hagestad’s fruitful but busy September postponed a move for work — he’s a merchant banking associate for BDT & MSD Partners — from New York City to Palm Beach, Florida, until this past November.
But while he returns often to Big Canyon CC, where he grew up, Hagestad still has some other courses to explore in the SCGA region. “I haven’t played the renovation at Lakeside, and there’s also The Quarry (at La Quinta) in the desert,” he said. “I’m weird. I don’t play a ton of social golf. It has to be architecturally interesting or have a compelling reason to go check a course out. For example, there’s a place out in Thermal called Ladera GC that Gil (Hanse) just did, so I have plans to play that.”
And while he’s lived in New York City, Chicago, and now Florida, Southern California will always be home for Hagestad.
“I love how active everything is outside, the beach, and watching the sunset over the Pacific Ocean,” he said. “A really close friend of mine sums it up pretty well. He says New York is the kind of place where you’re trying to make the night go as long as it can. In California, you’re trying to make the day last as long as it can.”