A divine 6-iron from 179 yards into the familiar home hole at Augusta National Golf Club was the defining shot of Stewart Hagestad’s first two days in the 81st Masters.
Because of it, he is assured two more days.
The reigning U.S. Mid-Amateur champion stuffed that shot to within a foot of the hole for an easy birdie to close out a 1-over-par 73 Friday afternoon and secure his place among the 51 professionals and two amateurs to make the cut in the year’s first major championship.
Masters 2017: Stewart Hagestad | 18th Hole, Round 2 pic.twitter.com/WfpjcJca5m— Masters Highlights (@MastersMoments) April 7, 2017
Hagestad, who turns 26 on Monday, will be joined on the weekend by reigning U.S. Amateur champion Curtis Luck, of Australia. This is Luck’s final event as an amateur, as he has announced plans to turn professional after the completion of Sunday’s final round.
Hagestad, a native of Newport Beach, Calif., completed 36 holes in 3-over 147 and stands tied for 19th.
“Obviously, it’s been a dream of mine to be able to do this, and now I get a chance to see what else I can still do,” said the University of Southern California product behind the iconic Augusta National clubhouse, where friends and family numbering at least 50 were boisterously toasting his success.
Hagestad is the first U.S. Mid-Amateur champion to make the cut in the Masters since the club began inviting the champion in 1989.
Two Mid-Amateur champions made the cut prior to that, both via invites for being playing members of the USA Walker Cup Team: Jim Holtgrieve, who won the inaugural playing of the championship in 1981, finished tied for 41st in 1982, while Jay Sigel, the 1987 champion, finished tied for 39th in 1988 and won the silver cup awarded to the low amateur.
Luck, who made the cut on the number (6-over 150), makes it two consecutive years that the U.S. Amateur champion will play the weekend at Augusta. It’s the first time that has happened since 1995, when 1994 U.S. Amateur champion Tiger Woods tied for 21st a year after 1993 U.S. Amateur champion John Harris tied for 50th.
Despite bogeys on two of his final three holes, Luck carded an even-par 72.
Masters 2017: Curtis Luck | 15th Hole, Round 2 pic.twitter.com/MDGOsKRzWU— Masters Highlights (@MastersMoments) April 7, 2017
Luck finished his second round early Friday and, of course, couldn’t know where the cut would fall. And he vowed to not watch television or follow the event until later in the evening.
“Yesterday [when he opened with 78] was not the day I was hoping for, so I was a little unhappy, I could say. But today was good,” said Luck, 20, who beat Brad Dalke in last year’s final match at Oakland Hills Country Club to win the 116th U.S. Amateur. “All I was looking into today was to get that confidence back on how I'm hitting it and, yeah, hopefully shoot a score that was good enough to make the cut. Be lovely to be here for an extra two days and play tournament golf, rather than watching it.”
While clearly happy with what he has achieved so far, Hagestad wasn’t about to feel too much satisfaction. The financial analyst, who plans to attend graduate school this fall, had other calculations to make.
Asked if making the cut was itself a dream come true, Hagestad replied, “[I’ll] talk about that on Sunday.”
He went on to explain his aspirations in more detail.
“I would be lying to you if I told you that,” he said. “I always said, if you go and … no, I can't say that, too, that will sound arrogant. No, the goal to start the week was earn your way to have the opportunity to come back again.”
That would require a finish among the top 12.
It’s a big task, but Hagestad has pulled off the improbable before. He earned his trip to Augusta with birdies on five of his final six holes to rally past 2014 champion Scott Harvey in 37 holes to win the U.S. Mid-Amateur last fall at Stonewall in Elverson, Pa. So, he has to believe anything is possible.
One of his fellow competitors was duly impressed.
“He played really solid. He had a lot of good shots and made some good putts,” said 1987 Masters champion Larry Mize, who at age 58 also made the cut at 6 over. “I'm excited for him. He's a nice young man, and I'm happy he's going to be here on the weekend. He's in good shape, so we'll see what happens.”
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.