3 ‘old-school’ secrets to this mid-amateur’s longevity

Stewart Hagestad is competing in his 13th U.S. Amateur this week.

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PARAMUS, N.J. — Stewart Hagestad is somewhat of an elder statesman this week at The Ridgewood Country Club.

No, he’s not the oldest player in the field (that honor that goes to 59-year-old Jerry Gunthorpe), but he does have the most experience in this championship, the 122nd U.S. Amateur. When Hagestad pegged it up Monday, it began the 13th start for him in this storied championship.

“Do I feel like the old guy? Of course,” Hagestad said. “But I’d like to think physically I’m okay and I’ve got enough reps under my belt that I’m at least competitive with them.”

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Thus far, he’s been more than just competitive.

After rounds of 69 and 74 in stroke play, Hagestad comfortably advanced to bracket play. And in his first match of the single-elimination tournament, he dispatched seventh-ranked amateur Sam Bairstow 3 and 1 to advance to the Round of 32.

Just two months ago at the U.S. Open — where Hagestad made the cut and finished 64th — Hagestad said he believed his game would stay at en elite level much longer. And while we’re not far removed from that week at Brookline, the 31-year-old’s game still appears to be plenty sharp.

He’s made 11 birdies over 55 holes of some of the most difficult conditions in amateur golf, and despite his advancing age, he doesn’t give up much ball speed compared to his younger peers.

So, what’s the secret to Hagestad’s success (and longevity) on the amateur circuit? He shared some of his secrets with GOLF.com at Ridgewood.

1. Keep it old school

Hagestad is one of the most successful amateur golfers of the modern generation, but his approach is refreshingly old school. He rocks a vintage stand bag, sports classic wing-tip shoes on occasion, and keeps things simple when working on his swing.

“It’s important to have the tools of today, because that’s a super helpful thing,” Hagestad said. “But the original Trackman was to look at the divot and your ball flight.”

If Hagestad feels like he is losing his swing, he starts by assessing his ball flight and then examining his divot. These two data points inform what his clubface is doing at impact and the direction of his swing path. From there, he knows what he needs to change.

Stewart Hagestad’s old-school Shapland golf bag at the U.S. Amateur.

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2. Work out the right way

Hagestad was quick to admit that he does not enjoy working out, but that doesn’t mean he neglects the gym.

“Going to the gym sucks, we all know it,” Hagestad said. “So like, if you’re gonna go, let’s get it. Let’s do it the right way. I’m already there, so I might as well do it the right way.”

These gym sessions have a variety of benefits, Hagestad explained. For one, it helps his swing and allows him to maintain a high swing speed. Additionally, there are mental-health benefits to the workouts.

“I just become a really bitter person if I don’t work out,” he said. “And also, it just fosters good habits.”

3. It’s all in the legs

At 6-foot-5, Hagestad is owns a tall, lanky build. But even though he doesn’t have as much mass behind his ball as some players, he’s still able to generate plenty of speed — and his secret is simple.

“Squats,” he said. “For tall guys like us, I’ve always felt that our legs dictate how much the rest of our body fills out. So I really focus on my legs when working out.”

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Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF.com, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf.