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BANDON, Ore. – The quarterfinals of the 120th U.S. Amateur are set. Here are five interesting storylines to get you set for Friday’s action at Bandon Dunes:
Hagestad all business at Bandon
Do you feel like you’re…?
“Old?” interjected Stewart Hagestad.
For the record, Hagestad is only 29. Yet, he’s the oldest player remaining at Bandon Dunes by seven years. He’s the most accomplished, with 21 USGA championships, including the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur title, now under his belt to go along with a pair of Walker Cup nods and three straight U.S. Open berths.
Oh, and he’s the only one who has had to skip mandatory virtual orientation for his MBA program at USC because he’s kept winning this week.
He didn’t get an extension, either. Despite sending a courteous, well-crafted email to the program’s director, explaining his circumstances, Hagestad woke up at 5 a.m. Thursday morning to an email saying he would get no preferential treatment. He had to attend calls on Thursday and Friday afternoons, or else he wouldn’t be able to continue with the program.
“Unbelievable,” Hagestad said. “You’ve got to be kidding, right?”
Imagine getting ready for a 36-hole day at the U.S. Amateur with that on your mind.
But Hagestad took down Oregon State product Spencer Tibbits in the Round of 32 before returning to his room and logging into Zoom. However, when he had to leave shortly after noon to prepare for his next match, the call had yet to begin. He proceeded to beat Vanderbilt’s Harrison Ott, 4 and 3, to become the U.S. Amateur’s first mid-amateur quarterfinalist since Nathan Smith in 2014. (The last mid-amateur to win the Havemeyer Trophy? John Harris in 1993.)
While Hagestad was unclear on what his next steps would be academically, he preferred not to think about it. After all, he’s got other things on his mind. These days, Hagestad, who works a day job in finance, lives for these USGA championships. It’s why during the summer he often practices seven days a week, after work and until dark – even ghosting his friends at times – to get his game ready.
At 15th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, Hagestad is in position to accomplish much these next nine months. A victory this week would not only likely bump him up high enough to qualify for a fourth straight U.S. Open next month at Winged Foot, but it would also boost his Walker Cup stock for next May’s matches at Seminole, Hagestad’s favorite golf course in the world.
“For a lot of these kids, it’s more short-sided: You go to college, you try and win everything you play in, you go and try to win NCAAs, then you turn pro. There's kind of like an end game to it,” Hagestad said. “For me, I have certainly certain things I'd like to try and accomplish in my amateur career.”
Like winning a U.S. Amateur. An MBA is great, but it’s got nothing on that.
Barbaree’s new Scotty
Philip Barbaree is considered by many of his peers as the best putter in the country. Through four days of the U.S. Amateur at Bandon Dunes, it’s hard to argue.
Even with the winds howling and some balls oscillating on greens, the LSU senior has rolled in clutch putt after clutch putt this week – long ones, short ones, birdies, pars. In Thursday’s Round of 16 showdown with Pepperdine All-American William Mouw, Barbaree leaned on his flatstick yet again, rolling in an eagle putt on the third hole, stringing together some crucial par saves throughout the day and making a tough, breaking 8-footer for birdie on the par-5 13th hole that gave him his final lead of the day in a 3-and-1 victory.
“That was definitely the putt of the match,” said Barbaree, who now faces Charlotte’s Matthew Sharpstene in Friday’s quarterfinals. “I feel like that kind of switched the momentum for sure.”
Speaking of switching, Barbaree recently decided to put a new putter in play, going back to a similar Scotty Cameron model that he used to win the 2015 U.S. Junior Amateur, where he overcame a 5-down deficit with eight holes to play in the final against Andrew Orishack.
How recent? “Monday,” Barbaree said.
As his Round-of-32 opponent, Frankie Capan, said to Barbaree on Thursday: "Don't ever lose that putter."
Osborne displays short memory
After 18 holes at Bandon Dunes on Monday, SMU’s Ollie Osborne felt like his chances were shot. He had just shot 5-over 77 in the opening round of stroke play, digging himself a big hole with five bogeys and a double.
To make matters even worse: The next morning he three-putted his first hole for bogey.
“It was an awful three-putt,” Osborne said. “But then I brought it back, and it's crazy to be here now thinking about that.”
For as much as Osborne struggled Monday, the junior from Reno, Nevada, he was downright spectacular Thursday. He shot 5 under in a 2-and-1 victory over Georgia Tech’s Noah Norton in the morning, followed by 13 holes of even-par golf in brutally windy conditions in an afternoon rout of BYU’s Carson Lundell, 7 and 5.
Sisk glad to be in match play, too
Arizona State junior Cameron Sisk had to fight harder than most to get into match play this week. Not only did he open in 79 around Bandon Trails, to which he responded with a second-round 66, but he also had to get through a playoff Wednesday morning to earn one of the final seeds.
Sisk’s birdie on the first playoff hole sent him through to match play, which has been his forte in recent years.
Here’s a quick look at his resume:
2018 U.S. Junior Amateur semifinalist
2019 British Amateur quarterfinalist
2019 Cal State Amateur quarterfinalist
And now into the quarterfinals of this week’s U.S. Amateur.
“This is a whole new level,” said Sisk, who took down FAU’s Davis Lamb in the Round of 16, 5 and 3 (he has yet to reach No. 17 in three matches). “I'm just grinding my way through match play right now. … I'm just happy to be in the situation that I am now because I could have easily not been where I am right now.”
Gupta’s kick in the butt
Shortly before heading back to Charlotte, North Carolina, for the holidays last fall, Oklahoma State’s Aman Gupta had a sit-down with Cowboys coaches Alan Bratton and Donnie Darr.
The then-sophomore had turned in a solid fall performance – he tied for sixth at the Nike and went 4-2-1 in the team’s two match-play competitions – but nothing great, especially considering the standard in Stillwater.
“They basically gave me a kick in the butt,” Gupta said. “I wasn’t working hard enough, being lazy.”
While still not perfect, Gupta has grinded hard this summer, playing four straight weeks on the amateur circuit in what would be his lead-up to this week’s U.S. Amateur. After traveling to Bandon as the first alternate and getting into the field after Ricky Castillo withdrew, Gupta opened with a course-record 64 at Bandon Trails.
Now, he finds himself in the quarterfinals against Stanford freshman Michael Thorbjornsen – and with that little extra kick on the bag. After Austin Eckroat missed the cut, Bratton switched to Gupta’s bag. The Cowboys coach also caddied for former Oklahoma State stars Peter Uihlein (2010) and Viktor Hovland (2018) during their U.S. Amateur victories.
"He does a very good job on the bag, even at college tournaments when he walks with me," Gupta said of Bratton. "He's good at figuring out the number and helping you just commit to what you have because at the end of the day, you know what you need to do and you know what you need to hit that shot. He does a really good job just keeping yourself stable."
Could Gupta be Bratton’s third, and Oklahoma State’s sixth overall?