Hagestad enters final round with 4-shot lead for low amateur

Hagestad has 4-shot lead for low amateur

Mid-Amateur champion Stewart Hagestad looked calm and cool once again Saturday, as the 25-year-old from Newport Beach turned in another impressive round with 2-over par 74. He sits at 5-over-par in his Masters debut.

The Southern Cal graduate leads Curtis Luck, the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world, by four shots in the race for the Silver Cup, awarded to the tournament’s low amateur.

PHOTOS: Amateur Hagerstad's Saturday

Hagestad’s steady play has been impressive, and he got over any jitters after practice rounds with players such as Adam Scott, Thomas Pieters, Matt Kuchar and his close friend from junior golf days, Jordan Spieth.

“That’s the most nervous I’ve even been on the golf course was the two practice rounds,” Hagestad said Friday. “My nerves have gotten a lot better since. I slowly but surely adjusted.”

After bogeying the first hole Saturday, he had birdies at Nos. 2 and 8 to make the turn at 35. His second nine was a bit rough, with bogeys at Nos. 11, 12, 14 and 16, countered by a birdie at No. 15.

Hagestad went for the 15th green in two, lacing a long-iron from 225 yards that flew to the back right of the green, where he made a delicate up and down, on what he said was his best shot of the day.

“That’s one I’m most proud of,” said Hagestad, who will play in top amateur events this summer in pursuit of a spot on the Walker Cup team before enrolling in grad school. “I slid under it and landed it in a really tight area. Luckily for me I got some new wedges this week, and the new grooves helped on that one.”

Hagestad left his job as a financial analyst in New York City to chase after his amateur golf dreams. His experience at Augusta is one he’ll never forget. He stayed in the Crow’s Nest with the four other amateurs that made the field Monday night after the Amateur Dinner.

“I get goosebumps just talking about it,” said Hagestad, who attended high school at the International Junior Golf Academy in Hilton Head, S.C. “The whole dinner experience is in honor of Bobby Jones and Augusta National’s respect for amateur golf. To be up there and have the same experience that so many great amateurs before me have had, it’s a special tradition, a special honor.”

Luck had an up-and-down round. He opened with a bogey and took a double bogey at the par-3 sixth hole. But he bounced back with a birdie at No. 8 and followed that by draining a 24-footer for birdie at No. 9. He had four bogeys on the back, with birdies at No. 14, where he made a 33-foot putt, and No. 15.

“I decided to play aggressively today, and it paid off in some areas and didn’t pay off in some,” said the 20-year-old Australian, who will turn pro after the tournament. “I made a lot of bogeys and a lot of mistakes out there, but that’s just part of it. Fortunately I’m not here to make any money, so it was just about trying to see how many professionals I could beat.”

At No. 13, Luck hit his second shot into a tributary of Rae’s Creek, but he went in and blasted out of the water onto the green and saved par.

“The ball was mostly underwater but a few dimples up, so it looked like a good opportunity to try to do something special,” said Luck, who qualified as the U.S. Amateur and the Asia-Pacific Amateur champion.

Luck is known for his ability to come back from big deficits, but trailing Hagestad by four shots, he doesn’t seem too worried about finishing as low amateur.

“To me, it’s about putting a good round of golf together, and hopefully that will be a good confidence boost for when I turn professional next week,” Luck said. “I will stay aggressive, but try to make my misses in the right spots.”