Hagestad feels right at home

NEWPORT BEACH — This week is becoming quite memorable for Stewart Hagestad.

The 21-year-old Big Canyon Country Club member qualified for his fourth United States Amateur championship at the Old Works Golf Course in Anaconda, Mont., on Monday. Then Saturday at his home course he shot a three-under-par 69 to move into second place after 54 holes of the Southern California Golf Assn. Amateur championship.

Hagestad, playing the SCGA Amateur for the first time, is four-under (70-73-69—212) for the tournament, trailing leader Bhavik Patel of Bakersfield (71-71-67—209) by three shots. Patel, the 2011 California Amateur champion, entered the third round three shots behind first-round leader Xander Schauffele of San Diego, but played a bogey-free round with five birdies, including three of the four par-fives.

Hagestad and Patel will play together in the final group beginning at 8:39 a.m. Sunday. Tee times begin at 7 a.m.

"This is what you practice and play for," Hagestad said. "I told my mom and dad, 'The goal is to be there on Sunday on the back nine. That feeling for us as players, that is what you want to put yourself in.' I feel like I have as good a chance as any. [I'll] do the best I can, and hopefully give everyone at Big Canyon, friends and family, mom and dad, something to root for."

Hagestad, who plays for USC, entered the third round in third place, four shots off the lead. He shot one-under on the front nine before making his move with three birdies and a bogey on his final four holes. Hagestad and playing partner Manav Shah of Bakersfield were spurred in part after they finished the eighth hole.

A rules official told the two players to speed up their pace. The official told someone that he clocked Hagestad taking from one minute, five seconds to a minute 11 seconds to hit once he stood over the ball.

"I took it for what it was; I felt like I was paying fast enough," Hagestad said. "I like to be thorough with what I'm doing. I'm one of the players who would like to be meticulous. I didn't feel like we were playing slow. I had a feeling like there would be a logjam on [holes] 14, 15, 16 holes, in the past they've slowed up play. I tried to walk a little quicker to the ball."

Hagestad birdied both 15 and 16, bogeyed 17, and birdied the par-five 18th.

Hagestad hit his drive right on 16, but punched out with a five-iron, giving himself a wedge shot into the green. He hit his approach to two feet and sank the putt.

On 18, he crushed a drive on the dogleg right that ended in the fairway inside of 200 yards. His second shot went right, but was long enough to clear the water. The ball settled in the greenside rough.

"I've been lucky to practice out here a lot," Hagestad said. "[The lie] wasn't great, but wasn't awful. I've had worse lies. It's tough to gauge how the ball is going to come out."

His chip across the green rolled 10 feet past.

"Ten feet is obviously not great for chipping standards, but with the lie I had and in the rough, it gave myself a chance at birdie and that was all I was looking for," Hagestad said.

The uphill, left-to-right birdie putt found the bottom of the cup and Hagestad responded with a fist pump. Like Patel, Hagestad birdied three of the four par-fives Saturday.

"The greens crew has done a great job both before and after rounds," Hagestad said. "The golf course is playing tough. The wind was up today."

Just four of 47 players who teed off Saturday are under par for the tournament heading into the final round.

Patel, who finished fifth in last year's SCGA Amateur, caught Schauffele at six-under with a birdie on the par-four ninth. Patel's drive found the left rough, but he hit his approach to seven feet from the front left flag and made the right-to-left putt.

They stayed tied until the 377-yard par-four 14th. Both players drove their balls into the fairway. Patel's approach shot landed short of the green, but still was in the short grass. Schauffele, meanwhile, chunked his second shot into the rough short of the green. He hit his chip shot 20 feet past the hole and three-putted to take a double-bogey. Patel got up-and-down for par and was in the lead to stay.

"I fell asleep," Schauffele said of his second shot at 14. "After I chunked the wedge shot, I was scared to hit; a loss of focus.

"Bhavik was playing really great. I felt like I should be closer to him, making more putts like him. I've got to worry about my own game."

Still, Schauffele, from San Diego State, is four shots from the lead heading into the final round.

Focusing on his own strategy is what Patel did, withstanding the urge to become over-excited at taking the lead on 14.

"I stayed aggressive, and stuck to my game plan, said Patel, in his first tournament at Big Canyon. "[Schauffele's double-bogey] didn't change anything at all.

"There were some tough pins out there. If you can keep it in the fairway and the right side of the hole, it's not too difficult. Even if you have a wedge in your hand, you can get on the wrong side of the hole…and have 7, 8 feet coming back. It just depends on where they put the pins."

Ramie Sprinkling of Camarillo is in fourth at one-under (71-72-72—215) while Niall Platt of Santa Barbara is in fifth at even-par (73-70-73—216). Recent Estancia High grad Jake Knapp crept up to eighth after a 71 Saturday while Don DuBois, a Big Canyon member, is tied for ninth at six-over (75-71-76—222).

UC Irvine's Ryan Knapp is tied for 13th at seven-over (74-75-74) and Will Tipton of Corona del Mar is tied for 22nd at 10-over (73-71-82).

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