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&1 victory at Sankaty Head Golf Club.

“[Costanza] gave me nothing the whole day,” said the 30-year-old Hagestad, of Newport Beach, California, 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, New Jersey, 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.

Costanza fought admirably all day, but was unable to stop Hagestad's run to a second win in this event. PHOTO: USGA.

On Friday morning, with temperatures in the low 60s and winds gusting to 20 mph on Nantucket Island, Costanza held the honour 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 – 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 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 honour 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 two and a half 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 two 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 two and a half 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.”