Stewart Hagestad may have arrived at Colorado Golf Club for the 39th US Mid-Amateur Championship emotionally fatigued and a bit travel-weary less than a week after helping the USA retain the Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool in England.
But after a few days in the rarified air of suburban Denver, the 28-year-old from California, appears to have recharged his batteries. The 2016 Mid-Amateur champion, who went 2-1 in the Walker Cup with a Sunday singles victory, marched into the quarterfinals on Tuesday with a pair of convincing victories.
On a breezy day – winds gusted to as high as 30 mph in some portions of the course – Hagestad defeated John Ehrgott of Illinois, in the Round of 16 and Blake Parks of Texas, in the Round of 32, both by 5 & 4 margins. Through three rounds of match play, Hagestad, a semi-finalist in 2018, has played just 43 holes, and is a combined seven-under-par, with the usual concessions.
“I know the whole way through, from here on out, you’re getting everyone’s best,” said Hagestad, who is the world’s top-ranked mid-amateur and No. 6 overall in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. “They’re throwing everything they have at you. There’s a lot of golf left, and you’ve got to kind of take it one match at a time and a hole at a time and all the adages that go with it. But everyone that’s here is really good. So, you can’t really take anything for granted.”
Nick Geyer of California, was equally as impressive, needing just 29 holes to eliminate Maxwell Scodro, of Illinois, 4 & 3 (Round of 16) and Jonathan Bale, of Wales, 5 & 4 (Round of 32) to set up a quarterfinal showdown with Hagestad. Geyer, a lefty who regained his amateur status in 2013, has gained a lot of momentum after claiming the second-to-last spot in the draw via an 18-for-6 playoff on Monday morning.
“It feels awesome,” said Geyer, a University of New Mexico graduate, of his run. “This is why I got my amateur status back in 2013. I think the USGA does an unbelievable job, and the feeling that you get being out here playing and competing, that’s why I love golf, whether it’s something small or something huge. Yes, it feels awesome.”
Two international players also are among the final eight. Andres Schonbaum of Argentina, who played his college golf at Jacksonville State and was a quarterfinalist a year ago, is joined by Lukas Michel, 25, of Australia.
Schonbaum, who runs his own insurance agency, avenged a 19-hole quarterfinal defeat to eventual 2018 champion Kevin O’Connell of Florida, in the Round of 32 by, ironically, going 19 holes. He then defeated another Floridian, Johnny DelPrete, 2 & 1, winning holes 16 and 17 to close it out.
“I knew it was going to be hard because Kevin is such a great player, not only for winning last year,” said Schonbaum, who is playing in his third Mid-Amateur. “So, I knew it was a challenge for me because he beat me last year, even though it was pretty close. But yeah, I just fought for it, and yeah, I was really proud of that one.”
Michel, who took advantage of a new World Amateur Golf Ranking category that exempts the first 30 age-eligible players (he is currently No. 287), edged local Nick Nosewicz of Colorado, 2 & 1, in the morning and Michigan State assistant men’s golf coach Dan Ellis of Michigan 4 & 3 in the afternoon.
“I’d been playing well leading into the event, but any time you’ve got 264 players to get down to the top-8 is always going to be a challenge. I’m obviously pleased with how far I’ve got so far, and looking forward to hopefully continuing,” Victorian Michel said.
He’ll face Jacob Koppenberg of Washington, who outlasted playoff survivor Daniel DeBra of Florida in 19 holes. Koppenberg carried a 1-up lead into the 18th hole, but made a double-bogey 6 to send the match to the par-5 first hole. The volunteer assistant men’s golf coach at Western Washington quickly made amends by having his short birdie putt conceded. Koppenberg also was extended to the 18th hole in his morning match against Jacob Dukeminier of Oregon prevailing 1 up.
“Oh, this is a dream,” said Koppenberg. “I’ve played pretty hard this year and lost. We had a match-play tournament up in Washington State, lost in the semi-finals, so that kind of stung a little bit. So, kind of hoping to redeem myself. It’s a grind, and at this point no one is going to give you a match.”
Joseph Deraney of Mississippi the 2018 and ’19 Canadian Mid-Amateur champion, earned his spot in the quarterfinals by rallying from an early 3-down deficit to defeat No. 5 seed Paul McNamara of Texas, 1 up. A conceded eagle on the par-5 16th hole gave Deraney his first lead since the first hole.
Deraney faces Yaroslav Merkulov of New York, after the Duke University graduate pulled away from Jeremy Gearhart from California, 4 & 2. Merkulov, who just regained his amateur status in May, went birdie-eagle-birdie on his final three holes to close out Gearhart, who advanced to the Round of 16 with a 20-hole victory over Todd White of South Carolina.
Jason Schultz, meanwhile, needed to convert a short birdie putt on No. 18 to squeak by Jon Olson from Iowa, 1 up, in the morning before rolling to a 5-and-4 victory over Indiana lefty Andrew Rhodes. This is Schultz’s first USGA championship and first match-play event in two decades.
“I was talking to my friend yesterday, and I said, ‘I don’t think I’ve played match play in 20-plus years,” said Schultz, who faces Schonbaum on Wednesday morning. “It’s different. I mean, it took me a while yesterday to kind of acclimate myself. But it’s fun. It’s a different approach, but like I said, you kind of just play, pick your spots more than anything.”