Stewart Hagestad has fond memories of the three years he spent in the Lowcountry a decade ago. And his return visit is shaping up to be pretty memorable, too.
Hagestad fired a course-record round of 11-under-par 61 on Thursday on Berkeley Hall Club’s South Course, racing to a four-shot lead after the opening round of the 20th annual Players Amateur.
The 28-year-old Newport Beach, California, native spent three years attending Heritage Academy on Hilton Head Island and training at the International Junior Golf Academy, but he hasn’t been back in the decade since.
After his opening round at the Players Amateur, it seems he might have to make it a more regular stop.
Following a solid 3-under-par on the front nine, Hagestad caught fire on the back nine, playing his final eight holes in 8-under, including an eagle at the par-4 14th, where he cut the corner to knock his tee shot within 2 feet of the hole. He followed the eagle with four consecutive birdies to close the round.
Several players were in pursuit of Hagestad before thunderstorms halted play at 2:05 p.m., resulting in a 91-minute delay for the eight groups still on the course. No one was able to make a charge after the break, though Australian Blake Windred completed his round of 7-under-par 65 following the storms to move into second place.
Top-ranked Chun An Yu of Arizona State, Georgia Southern’s Steven Fisk, and UNC Greensboro’s Jonathan Brightwell are all tied for third at 6-under, and another five players are tied at 5-under.
With a strong field chasing him, Hagestad knows he has a long way to go to book his next trip to the Lowcountry — by winning the Players Amateur and earning a spot in the 2020 RBC Heritage. He also hopes to make some other future plans, having taken a leave of absence from his job at Crescent Capital in Los Angeles to play a full amateur schedule this summer with the goal of making a second consecutive Walker Cup team.
Bluffton’s Drew Weary (High Point) led the local contingent with a 3-under-par 69 and is tied for 18th, but it was a tough day for the rest of the golfers with Beaufort County ties. Hilton Head’s Daniel Azallion (Virginia Tech) and Andrew Orischak (Virginia) shot 1-over 73, Bluffton’s Brandon McBride (Charleston Southern) carded a 4-over 76, and Hilton Head’s Jonathan Griz posted 9-over 81.
Defending champion John Augenstein of Vanderbilt is tied for 53rd after an even-par 72 as he aims to become the event’s first two-time winner.
The second round begins at 7:30 a.m. Friday. The event is open to the public and admission is free.