With a blistering back nine during Thursday’s opening round, Stewart Hagestad took the 20th annual Players Amateur by storm.
That back nine wasn’t so kind to him Sunday afternoon.
Hagestad made bogeys on three of his last six holes on Berkeley Hall Club’s South Course, limping in with a 3-over-par 75 and allowing Georgia’s Spencer Ralston to claim an unlikely victory in the prestigious amateur event.
Ralston matched the low round of the day with a 9-under-par 63 to surge to 19-under and edge Hagestad, Ohio State’s Will Grimmer, and Arizona’s David Laskin by one shot.
Ralston wasn’t really in the picture entering the final round, as the Georgia senior began the day 11 shots off the lead and teed off a full hour before the leaders Sunday morning. But he got off to a quick start with birdies on his first two holes and three of his first four and finished with eight birdies and an eagle. His only misstep was a bogey at No. 18, which he feared would be his undoing as he tried to find ways to pass the time until the leaders finished.
“I looked on my phone a little bit, and we were actually watching Wimbledon as it was coming down to the end,” Ralston said. “I thought that bogey on 18 probably put me out of it by one or two, but as we saw progressing over time, they were kind of struggling down the stretch.”
It was a grind all day for the 28-year-old Hagestad, who had made it look easy through the first three rounds. He was 2-over through seven but seemed to right the ship with back-to-back birdies at Nos. 9 and 10. Those were the last circles he put on the scorecard, though, and bogeys at Nos. 13 and 15 cost him the outright lead before another on the closing hole cost him the title.
The improbable win earns Ralston an exemption into the 2020 RBC Heritage, where the Gainesville, Georgia, native expects to have a strong following.
“You always want people on your side, and I’m sure I’ll have some friends and family here,” he said. “So I haven’t looked at the dates yet, but I know I’ll be busy with the spring season. I’m sure it’ll be kind of chaotic in the weeks leading up to [the Heritage] and afterwards, so I need to be in good form.”
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