PEBBLE BEACH—Stewart Hagestad wasn't considered a pro prospect. Playing for a Pac-12 program in itself is an accomplishment, sure, especially as one as vaunted as USC, but even his college profile states the slender 6'5" Hagestad as a "part-time" starter during his senior campaign.
And yet, six years after graduation, Hagestad has become one of amateur golf's most recognizable faces.
Hagestad won the 2016 U.S. Mid-Am, which bestowed an invite to the 2017 Masters. At Augusta, he became the first Mid-Am to make the cut, finishing with Low-Am honors. Hagestad followed that performance by qualifying for the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills (at the time, the USGA did not award the Mid-Ams an exemption) and helped the U.S. team to victory at the Walker Cup in the fall, clinching the final point at Los Angeles C.C., one of his home courses.
“To have the final point to clinch the Walker Cup, on my home course, in front of all my friends and family, is pretty special,” Hagestad said at the time. “I think I'm going to have to take some time and sleep on this and let it marinate."
Off that run, Hagestad was pressured into giving the professional circuits a try. However, he avoided the temptation, eschewing the possible glitz and glamour for the life of business, a decision that heightened his profile. In the past few years, Hagestad has worked at a real-estate management company in New York and spent time as a financial analyst with an investment firm in Los Angeles.
Yet Hagestad never fully put the clubs away, and managed to qualify for the U.S. Open in 2018. He's done so again at Pebble Beach, making it through the Big Canyon Country Club & Newport Beach Country Club (Big Canyon is another club in Hagestad's portfolio).
If three straight appearances at the national championship as an amateur sounds impressive, it is: Hagestad is the first am to do so in 34 years.
The last to do so was Jay Sigel, who played in three straight from 1983-1985. In that span, Sigel made the cut twice and finished as low amateur at Winged Foot in 1984. In that regard, Hagestad has some work to do, missing the cut in his previous two Opens.
Given Hagestad's prolonged success, the professional question has returned, but Hagestad remains steadfast in his position.
“I have a lot of friends who play for a living,” Hagestad told the San Diego Tribune after the Newport Sectional. “It’s difficult to watch — that joy of playing kind of leaves. It’s not just that. You get to 34, 35, 36 … you’ve lost that love. Your skill set is not as developed as some of your peers."
Hagestad also knows the odds he would face should he dip his toes in the professional waters. “It’s a really cool thing to think about and to fantasize about. But in reality … I’m a very good player; I will say that," Hagestad told the Tribune. "I also know how good those guys are.”
Not that Hagestad doesn't have goals. He's set to play another full amateur slate this summer in hopes of making the American Walker Cup team once again. “All I’m trying to prove,” Hagestad said, “is that I’m one of the best amateurs in the country.”
Pretty good for a part-time starter.