Doubling Up: Hagestad Wins Second U.S. Mid-Amateur Title
October 1, 2021 | Siasconset, Mass.
By Ron Driscoll, USGA
Stewart Hagestad warned anyone who would listen that the 36-hole final match of the 40th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship was not over on Thursday, despite his 5-up advantage after 18 holes. On Friday, Mark Costanza proved Hagestad right by battling back to within one hole, nearly extending his opponent to the 36-hole limit before Hagestad captured his second title with a 2-and-1 victory at Sankaty Head Golf Club.
“[Costanza] gave me nothing the whole day,” said the 30-year-old Hagestad, of Newport Beach, Calif., a second-year MBA student at the University of Southern California who improved his match-play record in this championship to 20-3. “I thought that at some point I would maybe get a break or he would give me a hole. I knew that he would come out swinging. He’s a really good player. I tried to go out and basically make him beat me, and he damn near did that.”
Costanza, 32, of Morristown, N.J., an investment banker and the 2020 Player of the Year in New Jersey and the Metropolitan Golf Association, had trailed by as many as seven holes on Thursday, but he chipped away at his deficit, closing to 5 down through 18. On Friday morning, with temperatures in the low 60s and winds gusting to 20 mph on Nantucket Island, Costanza held the honor from the first hole through the 17th, whittling his deficit from five holes to one before he failed to get up and down for birdie on the par-5 penultimate hole and Hagestad converted his own up-and-down for birdie to win the match.
“At one point I was 7 down, right, so to get it to 5 [down] – I wanted to get it to 3,” said Costanza. “I said if I could get it to 3 at the end of the day yesterday would have been great. But to get it to 5 was satisfactory and gave me a chance. I knew I needed to get off to a good start.”
Costanza showed no signs of the shakiness he exhibited Thursday afternoon in the early stages of the match. The 2012 graduate of St. John’s University who was competing in just his second USGA championship won the 192-yard third hole on Friday with a birdie 2 and deftly converted several up-and-downs for par to keep his deficit manageable.
“It’s tough because when you’re digging yourself out of a hole, you want to make birdies, but you know if you falter, you’re going deeper into the hole,” said Costanza. “You’ve got to keep the momentum going. I think I kept the honor the entire day. I made some clutch up-and-downs and I’m proud of myself.”
Costanza birdied No. 5 with a short pitch to 2½ feet and won No. 6 with a par to Hagestad’s bogey from a bunker. After six straight halved holes (including Costanza knocking a tough bunker shot to 2 feet for a conceded matching birdie on No. 8), Costanza elicited a loud cheer with a 35-foot birdie on No. 13 to pull to within one hole.
The deciding stretch of holes came next, as Hagestad first could only watch, then successfully fended off Costanza’s charge. First, Costanza hit his tee shot just inside of 10 feet on the par-3 14th, but left his birdie try that would have deadlocked the match on the low side of the hole. They matched routine pars on No. 15 before Hagestad topped Costanza’s 24-foot birdie on No. 16 with a 14-footer of his own, and Costanza left his pitch short of the hole on No. 17, settling for a par that kept him from extending the match to No. 18.
If there is one Costanza could have back, it is the birdie try on No. 14 that would have evened it up with four holes to play.
“I’ve had that putt probably six times in the last two or 2½ days,” said Costanza. “Not on that hole, but just the same 10-footer, right to left, and it’s funny, when I'm playing at home with my buddies or just free-wheeling it, the stroke is a lot more free. I even said to Meredith, I’ve got to keep my stroke free because I’m not letting that putter face open a little bit on the back, and I did it again there, and I left it low, just a little low.”
The matching birdies on No. 16 showed the resolve – and the mettle – of both finalists.
“Kudos to Stew there,” said Costanza. “I mean, that was huge. That was one of the biggest putts, if not the biggest putt I’ve made in my life, and he drained it right on top of me. So good for him. He’s a great, great player.”
What the Champion Receives
- A gold medal
- Possession of the Robert T. Jones Memorial Trophy for one year
- Exemption into the 2022 U.S. Open Championship at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., and a likely invitation to the 2022 Masters Tournament
- Exemption into the 2022 and 2023 U.S. Amateur Championships at Ridgewood Country Club and Cherry Hills Country Club, respectively
- Exemption into the next 10 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championships
- Mark Costanza, the runner-up, receives a silver medal, a three-year exemption into the U.S. Mid-Amateur and an exemption into the 2022 U.S. Amateur.
- Costanza and his wife got married on Sept. 18, and they came to Nantucket a few days later to prepare for this championship, in which she caddied for him the entire way. Meredith was no stranger to the island, however, having vacationed here with her family since she was a child, in the village of Madaket. “I’m so thankful for her, and for her to be able to caddie for me has been amazing,” said Costanza. “Nantucket has been a special place for her since she was a little girl. We’ve been up here multiple times, and we're going to continue to come here. Now for sure it’s got a special place in my heart, too.”
- Stewart Hagestad played 121 holes of match play this week in earning the title, including a 23-hole match vs. Stephen Behr Jr. in the Round of 16. That total ties for the fourth-most since this championship went to a 36-hole final in 2001. Austin Eaton III went 126 holes in his 2004 victory at Sea Island Golf Club in St. Simons Island, Ga.; Randal Lewis went 124 holes in winning at Shadow Hawk Golf Club in Richmond, Texas, in 2011; and in 2019, Lukas Michel went 123 holes in winning at Colorado Golf Club in Parker, Colo. Hagestad ties Nathan Smith (in his 2012 win) and Steve Wilson (2008) at 121 holes.
- The 2021 championship had a record 5,339 entries, breaking the mark of 5,271 from 1997. The 2022 championship is scheduled for Erin Hills, in Erin, Wis., from Sept. 10-15, with stroke play co-host Blue Mound Golf and Country Club in Wauwatosa, Wis. The 2023 championship is scheduled for Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Scarborough, N.Y., and stroke play co-host Fenway Golf Club in Scarsdale, N.Y. from Sept. 9-14.
- Mark Heartfield, the head professional at Sankaty Head and the host club’s championship liaison for the U.S. Mid-Am, is retiring effective at the end of the championship after 34 years at the club.
“I had a feeling he would make that. I don’t know why. Putts just seem to go in on that green. I tried to be prepared for the body blow [because] then you have to go out and you have to hit your putt. I give a tremendous amount of credit to him, but in a weird way it almost kind of freed me up to hit almost a better putt, if that makes sense. But I’m sure glad I don’t have to hit it again.” – Hagestad, on matching Costanza’s 24-foot birdie with his own from 14 feet on the 16th hole
“It puts me on the same level as Spider Miller, a guy who I’m good friends with and close to, and I played for him [in the Walker Cup Match]. Still a couple behind Nathan [Smith], but it puts me on par with Spider. It’s an honor to have my name on that trophy twice.” – Hagestad on winning his second U.S. Mid-Am in his fifth start in the championship
“I’m speechless, and I can’t stop smiling. It’s something I’ve set as a goal for myself for a long time, and I’m thrilled.” – Hagestad, on winning his second U.S. Mid-Am title after being a semifinalist in his last two starts, in 2018 and 2019
“The birdie I made on No. 3 was huge. That was a tough shot, and I hit a great 4-iron in there, and I think that kind of just set the tone and relaxed me almost for the day. Just started playing well from there.” – Costanza, on his rally from 5 down to 1 down in an 11-hole stretch
“Going into this morning, I’ve got to admit I wasn’t feeling too great. I had a rough night sleeping. It’s a lot of golf. It’s a lot of pressure. It’s a lot of mental and physical strain. I just said, regardless of what happens, it’s been a great week, and let’s just try to play my game. Luckily I came out and I played the way I know I’m capable of playing. I hope I earned Stew’s respect.” – Costanza
“I’m happy to be able to fly to Italy tonight and enjoy the next week and not see a golf club for a while. We’re flying to Rome tonight and then we’re going to stay in Capri and Positano for the next week. We’re leaving out of JFK, so I was hoping maybe there was somebody here with a jet that could take me down there in case things got interesting.” – Costanza, on his honeymoon plans with wife Meredith
“In 2013, I played the U.S. Amateur at The Country Club, and for a very long time, that was the hardest golf course I’ve ever played until I played the U.S. Open at Shinnecock. I’m obviously thrilled to have a spot in the U.S. Open. I think I’m a much more complete player, and I'm certainly more at ease and confident with my own abilities, so I look forward to the challenge and the opportunity.” – Hagestad, on competing in his fourth U.S. Open next June
The Social Scene
Stewart Hagestad is your 2021 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, defeating Mark Costanza 2&1!— USC Men’s Golf (@USCMensGolf) October 1, 2021
The Trojan amateur star used his 5-hole lead thru 18 to withstand Costanza's morning rally, clinching the title with a birdie on 35, the only hole he won today. Incredible finish. #FightOn pic.twitter.com/892BG4uH9o