Cherry Hills Village, Colo. – Brandon Hagy’s first foray in a USGA championship continues to be an excellent adventure, born of excellent execution.
Using his distance advantage off the tee and timely putting, Hagy, 21, of Westlake Village, Calif., dispatched rival Pacific-12 Conference player Cheng-Tsung Pan, 4 and 3, Friday in the quarterfinals of the 112th U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills Country Club.
“It feels incredible,” said Hagy, a fourth-year junior at University of California-Berkeley. “I actually started tearing up a little bit in my interview out there with Dottie Pepper [of Golf Channel], so I guess that kind of shows you what it means. I’ve been playing well, and it means the world. It validates all of the hard work that I put in and all the practice.”
Hagy, one of two Cal golfers in the semis, joining redshirt sophomore Michael Weaver, will take on Steven Fox of Hendersonville, Tenn., in the second semifinal match at 8:15 a.m. MDT Saturday. Fox, who began match play as the No. 63 seed, continued his upset march through the championship by knocking off world No. 1 amateur Chris Williams, of Moscow, Idaho, 4 and 2.
The Hagy-Pan match featured contrasting levels of experience. While Hagy is a USGA championship rookie, Pan, 20, was competing in his fifth U.S. Amateur in the last six years.
A second-team PING All-American at the University of Washington as a freshman this past year, Pan defeated Hagy in a collegiate match-play event earlier in the year, the Del Walker Match Play, in Long Beach, Calif., and he started Friday’s match looking intent on winning again. Pan birdied the first three holes, but Hagy countered with two of his own to keep his deficit at 1 down.
The match turned at the par-5 fifth, where Hagy scored the first of his two eagles after suffering double bogey at the fourth to go 2 down.
A driver and 8-iron to 20 feet was conceded after Pan drove poorly and then found tree trouble. When Pan bogeyed from the bunker at the par-3 sixth, Hagy’s two-putt par from 40 feet earned him a second straight win to square the match.
Hagy went ahead for the first time – and for good – with a birdie from 18 feet at No. 7. It was his third consecutive win and a big momentum booster..
“I was just hanging in there,” said Hagy, a first-team Pac-12 All-Academic selection. “That was a huge swing going from 2 down to 1 up there. I played really consistent the whole rest of the way.”
Hagy’s power came to bear on the proceedings as well. He drove just short of the green at the downhill 446-yard 10th and won it with a par, by holing a curling 5-footer. At the par-5 11th, he outdrove Pan by 80 yards and easily reached the green in two. When he sank his curling right-to-left eagle try from 30 feet, he was 3 up and in command.
“He’s an incredible player. He does all the right things. He doesn’t make many mistakes,” Hagy said of his opponent. “So I knew that my length would be an advantage – but I had to use that length and capitalize on that.”
Hagy closed out Pan on the par-3 15th hole by knocking in a 10-foot birdie putt after Pan lipped out from just outside that distance.
“I think I played well, but Brandon just played better,” said Pan, who in 2007, at age 15, became the youngest player to reach the U.S. Amateur quarterfinals since Bob Jones. “I don’t know what I could have done differently. He just played very good, very steady golf today. I’m happy with the tournament, but wish I could have done better and gone farther.”
If Hagy gets farther, he could end up facing his Cal teammate Weaver. There is no record of college teammates competing in the U.S. Amateur final, although in the 1990 U.S. Amateur, Phil Mickelson beat his ex-high school teammate Manny Zerman in the final.
“That would be very special,” Hagy said when asked about the possibility. “I don’t know if that’s ever been done before, two teammates. But I think we’re definitely pulling for each other, and we’d like to see that matchup.”
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.