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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Hagestad, Maguire are Global Golf Post's top amateurs for 2017

   Global Golf Post, the world’s first designed-for-digital golf news publication, takes on the difficult task of identifying the world’s top amateur players with its annual All-Amateur teams each year and the 2017 teams were released last week.
   I was all over it last year when Global Golf Post named LedgeRock Golf Club’s Chip Lutz, three times the winner of the Seniors Amateur Championship and the reigning eight-time Golf Association of Philadelphia Senior Player of the Year, the top male amateur golfer in the world a year ago.
   It wasn’t mentioned in the coverage this year, but it appears Global Golf Post expanded the annual feature this year to include teams for men’s and women’s mid-amateur and senior players. I might be wrong, but it seems when I checked the All-Amateur issue at this time a year ago, there were only one men’s and one women’s amateur teams.
   Global Golf Post admits that the men’s and women’s World Amateur Golf Rankings have a big say in determining its men’s and women’s amateur teams. Determining mid-am and senior teams is a tough task, but give Global Golf Post credit for going the extra mile to recognize those men and women, most of whom are tremendous players who compete for the love of the game and the love of the competition.
   Lutz, by the way, does appear on the All-Amateur senior men’s first team even though he had, by his standards, an off year.
   Succeeding Lutz as Global Golf Post’s men’s amateur of the year is Stewart Hagestad, the 26-year-old Californian who a few lucky Philadelphia area golf fans like myself got to watch come from 4-down with five holes to play to win the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship on the 37th hole of an epic final with Scott Harvey at Stonewall.
   The top woman amateur in the world in 2017 is Leona Maguire, the 22-year-old Irishwoman who is a senior at Duke and has been at or near the top of the Women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking for going on three years.
   The victory at Stonewall was the launching pad for Hagestad’s award-winning 2017. First of all, it earned him an invitation to The Masters. Hagestad, who starred collegiately at Southern California, decided to quit his job with a commercial real estate firm in New York City and make a full-time commitment to golf in 2017.
   It paid off at Augusta National as he earned some face time in Butler Cabin by claiming the Silver Cup, which goes to the low amateur in The Masters. Hagestad was the only amateur to make the cut, finishing tied for 36th. He was also the first mid-am to make the cut at Augusta. So he had a front-row seat when Sergio Garcia donned the green jacket for the first time, the talented Spaniard’s quest for a major championship finally fulfilled.
   Hagestad also took out a junior membership at Los Angeles Country Club, knowing that as the U.S. Mid-Am champion, it was likely he would be selected to the U.S. team for the Walker Cup. L.A. Country Club is famously shy about its two courses, although they are highly thought of by those in golf course architect circles.
   Hagestad joined an absolutely loaded group of collegians and he contributed a come-from-behind 2 and 1 victory over Great Britain & Ireland’s Jack Singh Brar that may or may not have clinched the Walker Cup for the U.S. There were a lot of matches about to close out and the outcome of what would become a 19-7 U.S. victory was no longer in doubt. Suffice it to say, it was a pretty good weekend in L.A. for Hagestad.
   In some ways, Hagestad played better in 2016. He fired a 64 at the Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course in Atlanta in the second round to finish tied for second in qualifying and appeared ready for a strong defense of the U.S. Mid-Am title he won at Stonewall.
   But then Dusty Drenth, a 29-year-old salesman for a supply company in Davenport, Iowa stunned Hagestad in the first round of match play, claiming a 3 and 1 victory. Like I said at the top, there a lot of good players out there.
   “I wish I had been able to go deeper,” Hagestad told Global Golf Post concerning the Mid-Am defeat. “But I am still very pleased with my year. And I will never forget what it was like hugging my mother and father after The Masters and also after the Walker Cup. They had supported me so completely and because of them, I was able to win a USGA championship and play on a Walker Cup team.”
   It sounds like Hagestad will be around for a while. He has embraced being a mid-am. He’ll play a lot of golf again next summer before going back to school in the fall to pursue a graduate business degree. There will be plenty of opportunities for him to play amateur golf at the highest levels for years to come.
   Maguire is somebody you’ll be seeing on your TV screen, or your phone or your tablet if you must, playing on the LPGA Tour in the not-too-distant future.
   She could probably be there already, but she has chosen to finish out her four years at Duke. Maguire was eligible to tee it up in the LPGA Q-School’s Final Stage last year and this year, but announced while pulling out of Stage III a year ago that she intended to finish her entire senior year at Duke.
   I’ve posted on the Final Stage of LPGA Q-School the last two years, but there was one little subtlety in the Final Stage that I have been getting wrong. The top 20 finishers earn full-time status on the LPGA Tour for the following year. That part I had right.
   But I was under the impression that if an amateur finished in the top 20, she could choose to not accept the card and return to her college team. That is incorrect. If you finish in the top 20, you’re a pro, your college career is over. Now I understand why Maguire chose not to play in Stage III after advancing out of Stages I and II each of the last two years.
   “I wanted to stay until May and by going to second stage (of Q-School), I was assured of having Symetra Tour status,” Maguire told Global Golf Post. “Obviously, I’ll miss seven or eight Symetra Tour events early in the year, but earning your LPGA card through the latter half of the Symetra Tour is still very doable.
   “And if I earn my way on (the LPGA Tour) through the Symetra Tour, I’ll likely have better status than if I went through the final stage of Q-School anyway.”
   Last spring’s Southeast Conference champion Katelyn Dambaugh of South Carolina just made it by finishing 10th in the Volvik Race for the Card in 12 Symetra Tour events, although Dambaugh gambled on possibly losing the spring part of her senior season by playing in the Final Stage of Q-School last year.
   Maguire won the ACC individual title while leading the Blue Devils to the conference championship. She finished tied for second in weather only an Irish girl could love in the NCAA Championship at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill. For the second time in three years, Maguire received the Annika Award that goes to the top player in Division I college golf.
   Maguire claimed the Ladies British Open Amateur Championship at the Kyle & Penfig Golf Club in  Wales in the summer. She has played on three British & Great Britain Curtis Cup teams, including the home side’s victory at Dun Laoghaire Golf Club in suburban Dublin in the spring of 2016. Think Maguire has any fans in Ireland? Yeah, me too.
   If making sure she walks away from Duke with a degree sounds smart, you’re right. Maguire plays golf the same way, really smart.
   Only one thing has eluded Maguire in her career at Duke, a national championship. The Blue Devils are No. 2 in the Golfstat rankings at the midseason break. In what is shaping up as a tremendous spring of women’s college golf, Maguire’s pursuit of that goal is one of many intriguing subplots.
   Several of Hagestad’s teammates on the winning U.S. Walker Cup team can be found on Global Golf Post’s All-Amateur men’s first team, including U.S. Amateur champion Doc Redman, a sophomore at Clemson, Collin Marikawa, a junior at California, Norman Xiong, a sophomore at Oregon, NCAA champion Braden Thornberry, a junior at Mississippi, U.S. Amateur runnerup Doug Ghim, a senior at Texas, and Cameron Champ, who recently turned pro after playing the fall portion of his senior season at Texas A&M.
   Two members of the GB&I Walker Cup side, Florida State’s Harry Ellis, winner of The Amateur Championship at Royal St. George’s Golf Club last summer, and Alfie Plant, the low amateur in the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, are also on the first team. Both are Englishmen.
   Rounding out the first team is Joaquin Nieman, the junior phenom from Chile who ascended to the top of the World Amateur Golf Ranking and promptly turned pro, deciding to pass on the scholarship he had accepted to South Florida.
   The second team included a couple more members of the U.S. Walker Cup team, Texas senior Scottie Scheffler, the low amateur in the U.S. Open at Erin Hills, and Wake Forest’s Will Zalatoris, who, the Wake Forest website informs me, turned pro -- the announcement coming Thursday -- and will forgo the second half of his senior season.
   Zalatoris’ former teammate at Wake Forest, but his rival in the Walker Cup, Paul McBride of Ireland, received honorable mention. Also on the honorable mention list is U.S. Junior Amateur champion Noah Goodwin, the American Junior Golf Association’s Rolex Player of the Year.
   Matt Parziale, a firefighter from Boston who captured the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at the Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course in Atlanta, joins Hagestad on the men’s mid-amateur first team.
   Nathan Smith, the four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion from Pittsburgh and the 1994 PIAA champion as a sophomore at Brookville, also appears on the first team. Smith captured the title in the Pennsylvania Golf Association’s R. Jay Sigel Match Play Championship for the fifth time last summer.
   Harvey, the hard-luck loser to Hagestad in the 2016 U.S. Mid-Am final at Stonewall, is on the first team. Another alumni of that Stonewall U.S. Mid-Am who I was extremely impressed with, Derek Busby, made the first team.
   Rounding out the first team are Americans Tyler Crawford, Patrick Christovich and Michael Muehr, one of the qualifying co-medalists at Stonewall, Peter O’Keefe of Ireland and Garrett Rank of Canada, the Canadian Mid-Amateur champion and, apparently, a full-time NHL referee.
   Delaware County’s own Michael McDermott, a product of Haverford High and Saint Joseph’s University, made the honorable mention list.
   The Merion Golf Club representative probably had a better 2016, when he won the latest of his three Golf Association of Philadelphia’s BMW Amateur championships on Merion’s famed East Course and reached the quarterfinals at Stonewall before falling to Hagestad.
   But McDermott did win the Crump Cup last summer at another of his home courses, Pine Valley Golf Club, for the second time. The Crump Cup is exceeded by only the U.S. Mid-Amateur among titles coveted by mid-ams in this country.
   Another GAP stalwart, Lutz, heads the men’s senior first team.
   Like I said, it was a bit of a down year for Lutz. He could do not better than tie for eighth in defense of his Seniors Amateur Championship at Sunningdale Golf Club’s Old Course. When you’ve won the thing three times, I guess a tie for eighth is disappointing.
   But Lutz’s annual trip across the pond included a low-amateur finish in the Senior Open in dreadful weather at Royal Porthcawl in Wales.
   He reached the round of 16 in the U.S. Senior Amateur at The Minikahda Club in Minneapolis by knocking off a familiar rival in Don Donatoni, the reigning five-time GAP Super-Senior Player of the Year, 5 and 4, in the second round.
   Lutz then ran into a red-hot Paul Simson, a two-time U.S. Senior Amateur champion, and the 66-year-old Simson knocked Lutz out.
   Joining Lutz on the first team is the winner that week at The Minikahda Club, western Pennsylvania’s Sean Knapp, who, at 55, was making his U.S. Senior Amateur debut.
   Giving a nod to his friend and frequent rival Nathan Smith for passing along some of the secrets of match play – often when Smith was beating him – Knapp edged Simson, 2 and 1.
   Simson made the men’s senior second team.
   Maguire’s fellow members of the women’s first team reads like an NCAA all-star team, led by three members of the Alabama golf team, ranked No. 3 by Golfstat.
   With All-Amateur first-teamers Cheyenne Knight, Lauren Stephenson, both juniors, and sophomore Kristen Gillman, the Crimson Tide might have something to say about who wins the NCAA Championship next spring at the Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.
   Lilia Khu-Tu Vu, the leading lady for the top-ranked UCLA Bruins, also appears on the first team. Vu was a semifinalist in the U.S. Women’s Amateur at San Diego Country Club last summer.
   The winner that week in Chula Vista, Calif., Texas senior Sophia Schubert, also appears on the first team. The woman she beat in the final, Stanford sophomore Albane Valenzuela of Switzerland, makes the first team. As does Valenzuela’s fellow Stanford sophomore Andrea Lee.
   Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho, who shared second with Maguire at the NCAA Championship last spring, is on the team.
   Rounding out the first team are a couple of teen phenoms, Rachel Heck of Memphis, Tenn. and China’s Wenbo Liu. Heck, AJGA’s Rolex Player of the Year, made the cut in the U.S. Women’s Open at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. at age 15, while Liu beat pros in winning a China LPGA Tour event last spring, also at 15.
   Two of Vu’s teammates at top-ranked UCLA, sophomore Mariel Galdiano and freshman Paphangkorn (Patty) Tavatanakit, head the women’s second team.
   South Korea’s Eun Jeong Seong, who dominated the summer of 2016 by winning both the U.S. Junior  Girls and U.S. Women’s Amateur championships, is on the second team. It seems as though it’s just a matter of time before Seong turns pro.
   Two college stars who have turned pro in the last month are also on the second team. Robynn Ree will not return for the second half of her junior season at Southern California after earning her LPGA Tour card for 2018 by finishing tied for fifth in the Final Stage of Q-School. And defending NCAA champion Arizona State will lose Linnea Strom to the pro ranks, although the Swede struggled in the Final Stage of Q-School and will start the next stage of her golfing life on the Symetra Tour.
   Also on the second team is one of Strom’s teammates from the Sun Devils’ 2017 national champions, sophomore Olivia Mehaffey, an Irishwoman and a teammate of Maguire’s on the winning Great Britain & Ireland Curtis Cup team in 2016.
   The rest of the second team is populated by teen phenoms, led by California 15-year-old Lucy Li. The latest head-turner by Li came in the second round of the AJGA’s Rolex Tournament of Champions last month when she fired a spectacular 10-under 62 at the PGA National Resort & Spa’s Champion Course on her way to a five-shot victory.
   A couple of Swedes, Florida State recruit Frida Kinhult, and 15-year-old Julia Engstrom and Puk Lyng Thomsen, a 15-year-old from Denmark, round out the second team.
   Katie Miller, who won her second Pennsylvania Women’s Amateur title last summer, landed on the women’s mid-amateur first team. The 32-year-old Miller, a three-time PIAA champion at Hempfield Area and an All-American performer at North Carolina, was one of the three co-medalists in qualifying for match play in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship held at Champions Golf Club’s Cypress Creek Course in Houston.
   Miller of Jeannette popped up in USGA events throughout 2017. She teamed with Delco’s own Aurora Kan, the 2010 PIAA champion as a senior at Chichester, to qualify for match play in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship at The Dunes Golf & Beach Club in Myrtle Beach, S.C. and again teamed with Kan and Johnstown’s Katrin Wolfe to lead Pennsylvania to a 20th-place finish in the USGA Women’s State Team Championship at The Club at Las Campanas in Santa Fe, N.M. in September.
   Miller heads an all-American list of 10 players on the first team that also includes South Jersey native Meghan Stasi, a four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion who also qualified for match play in this year’s Women’s Mid-Am at Champions. Stasi was also part of a Florida team that finished third in the Women’s State Team in Santa Fe.
   The winner at Champions, Kelsey Chugg, a 26-year-old from Salt Lake City, Utah, also appears on the first team.
   Miller’s two qualifying co-medalists at Champions, Lauren Greenlief, the 2015 U.S. Women’s Mid-Am champion, and former Stanford standout Marissa Mor, also made the team.
   Julia Potter, the 2016 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion who was the individual medalist at the U.S. State Team at Las Campanas, made the first team. Rounding out the first team were Olivia Herrick, Courtney McKim, Shannon Johnson and Amanda Jacobs.
   Four Canadians head the list of 10 players named to the women’s senior first team, including the suburban Toronto golfing buddies who met for the U.S. Women’s Senior Amateur crown in September at Waverly Country Club in Portland, Ore., Judith Kyrinis and Terrill Samuel.
   Kyrinis captured the title with a 4 and 3 win over her all-too-familiar rival. It was the first time two Canadians had ever met in a USGA final.
   Also making the team from north of our border were Helene Chartrand and Mary Ann Hayward.
Also among the international cast on the senior first team were Sue Wooster of Australia, Macarena Campomanes of Spain and Fiona Edmond of England.
   For Mary Jane Hiestand, it was her remarkable run to the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur final at Champions that landed her on the senior women’s first team.
   At 58, Hiestand wasn’t even going to try to qualify for the Mid-Am, but it was scheduled to be played in her hometown of Naples, Fla. at Quail Creek Country Club. Well, she made it, but Hurricane Irma did so much damage to Quail Creek that the Women’s Mid-Am was moved to Champions in Houston and pushed back a month.
   The only player the tenacious Hiestand couldn’t beat was Chugg, who finally stopped Hiestand in the final with a 3 and 1 victory.
   Rounding out the first team was American Lara Tennant.
   Among the second-team selections was Philadelphian Lisa McGill, who was based at Sunnybrook Golf Club for a long time. I’m just not sure if she’s still there.
   The 58-year-old McGill really got it going in the U.S. Women’s Senior Amateur at Waverly, reaching the quarterfinals before falling to the eventual champion Kyrinis in a hard-fought 2 and 1 setback.

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