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Reaching US Open has its own rewards for career amateur Stewart Hagestad

Tod Leonard, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Golf

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- The magnetic pull for most golfers of Stewart Hagestad's caliber is simply too strong to resist.

The path usually goes something like this: Play in national-level junior tournaments; secure a scholarship to a top-25 university golf program; upon graduation, play anywhere they offer checks to prepare for that first shot at Web.com Tour Qualifying School.

If success is not immediate, just keep grinding until either you break through or run out of cash and desire. If you're lucky, you don't completely loathe the game when it's all over.

Hagestad was the rare young hotshot who waved the smoke away from his face long enough to see the burnt wasteland that might lay before him. The Newport Beach, Calif., native figures that moment arrived around his sophomore year at USC.

"It's not quite as glamorous as people make it out to be," Hagestad said. "It's a really cool thing to think about and to fantasize about. But in reality ... I'm a very good player; I will say that. I also know how good those guys are."

For a 28-year-old who never went to Q School or officially made a dime in golf (Nassaus notwithstanding), Hagestad continues to show up in some of the game's most prominent places.

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Two years ago, it was the Masters. Hagestad qualified as the U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, made the cut and won the Silver Cup for being low amateur.

That summer, he qualified for the U.S. Open at Erin Hills, and in the fall of 2017 Hagestad played for the victorious U.S. team in the Walker Cup at Los Angeles Country Club, where he is a junior member.

Last year, Hagestad qualified for the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, and this week he's back for a third straight Open in the 119th edition at Pebble Beach. He emerged from last week's Sectional in Newport Beach, Calif., where he's been a member at Big Canyon Country Club since childhood.

On the Monterey Peninsula, Hagestad will reunite with friendly foes from his junior golf days such as Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. That pair already has 20 PGA Tour and four major victories between them before reaching their 27th birthdays.

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