When the USGA established a national championship for the post-college amateur golfer – the U.S. Mid-Amateur – it made a splash by holding the inaugural event at Bellerive Country Club in suburban St. Louis, Mo., the site of the 1965 U.S. Open where Gary Player completed his career Grand Slam.
Since that 1981 competition, won by local Jim Holtgrieve with a future USGA president on the bag (Tom O’Toole), the U.S. Mid-Amateur has become one of the most popular amateur competitions, drawing the third-most entries among the Association’s stable of events behind only the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur.
And Bellerive isn’t the only U.S. Open site to host the best amateur players age 25 and older. Cherry Hills Country Club (1983), Atlanta Athletic Club (1984) and Hazeltine National Golf Club (1994) followed suit.
This year, Erin Hills becomes the fifth past U.S. Open venue to welcome these elite amateurs. The daily-fee layout in suburban Milwaukee, Wis., opened in 2006 and quickly jumped into the spotlight, getting awarded the 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links even before welcoming public play. The 2011 U.S. Amateur, won by future PGA Tour player Kelly Kraft (he beat future PGA Tour Player of the Year Patrick Cantlay in the final), served as a precursor for the 2017 U.S. Open that was claimed by Brooks Koepka, the first of consecutive titles and four overall major championships. In 2025, Erin Hills will host a U.S. Women’s Open Presented by ProMedica.
But before the ladies arrive in three years, the venue, along with stroke-play co-host Blue Mound Golf & Country Club, will challenge the world’s finest mid-amateurs, with the winner receiving an exemption into the 2023 U.S. Open at The Los Angeles (Calif.) Country Club and a likely invitation to next April’s Masters Tournament.
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Since his dramatic U.S. Mid-Amateur victory at Stonewall in 2016 when he rallied from 4 down with five to play to defeat 2014 champion Scott Harvey in 37 holes, Stewart Hagestad has become the world’s top mid-amateur. He’s occupied a top-20 position in the World Amateur Golf Ranking® (WAGR®) – he’s currently No. 8 – for the past several years along with helping the USA Walker Cup Team to three consecutive victories (2017, 2019, 2021).
The 31-year-old from Newport Beach, Calif., solidified his lofty status last fall when he claimed his second U.S. Mid-Amateur title by defeating Mark Costanza at Sankaty Head Golf Club in Siasconset, Mass. He’s also advanced to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur two of the last three years, including last month at The Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J.
Now the University of Southern California graduate is looking to join more rarified air as he goes for a third Mid-Amateur title. Only two others have claimed three or more championships: Pennsylvanians Nathan Smith (4) and Jay Sigel (3), the latter of whom is considered one of the greatest amateurs in the post-World War II era. He also owns two U.S. Amateur titles and competed on a record nine USA Walker Cup Teams.
Hagestad can also join Jim Stuart (1990-91) and Smith (2009-10) as the only players to successfully defend. It’s a tall task, but if anyone can pull it off, it’s the 6-foot-5 Hagestad.
The two venues hosting the stroke-play portion of the championship couldn’t be more different. One is a daily-fee public course designed by modern architects Dr. Michael Hurdzan, Dana Fry and Ron Whitten in 2006 (Erin Hills), while the other is a private country club built by the legendary Seth Raynor 80 years earlier (Blue Mound).
It’s modern versus classic.
And the players can expect to see entirely different challenges. For starters, Erin Hills will measure 600 yards longer and play to a par of 71; Blue Mound, at 6,744 yards, will be a par 70 for the championship.
“Erin Hills presents itself as a big, powerful modern golf course with a classic styling and feel based on the architects’ minimalist design,” said Bill McCarthy, the director of the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship. “The players are going to have both a physical and mental challenge even if the wind does not add to the strength of the golf course.
“Blue Mound will stare the players in the eye with an amazing example of early 20th century golf architecture. Seth Raynor took what is a rather straight-forward piece of property and created the illusion of movement along with providing variations on any number of classic template holes. Redan, Biarritz, Alps, Punchbowl, Short and others are all presented at Blue Mound. With the rough being up and the greens being appropriately firm and fast, the players will need to stand on each tee at Blue Mound and work from the hole location back to the tee in order to develop a proper plan of attack. The combination of these two courses will bring out the best in each player and ask everything of their games.”
The biggest reason Mark Scheibach applied to get his amateur status back prior to the 2008 season was the Mid-Amateur being staged at Milwaukee Country Club. Although he was living in the California desert (Bermuda Dunes), his roots were in the Badger State, and Scheibach, then 35, wanted to enjoy a homecoming. It was a happy one, too, as he advanced to the Round of 32 in his first USGA championship since the 1991 U.S. Junior Amateur at Bay Hill.
Fourteen years later, the 49-year-old is getting another chance to come “home,” and this one might even be better. Scheibach was born and raised in Fond du Lac, a small town 67 miles north of Milwaukee. One of his mentors growing up was teaching pro Rich Tock, now a PGA Ambassador for Erin Hills. Scheibach, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, has known Tock since he was 10, and he worked for him at South Hills Golf & Country Club in Fond du Lac and Ozaukee C.C. in Mequon, a Milwaukee suburb.
Four other current Wisconsin residents are also in the field, including Milwaukee’s Jack Schultz, who missed qualifying for match play in last month’s U.S. Amateur by three strokes. He has the honor of hitting the first ball at Blue Mound at 6:50 a.m. CDT. Nathan Colson, of Mequon, will have the honor of hitting the first tee shot at Erin Hills on Saturday at 6:50 a.m. CDT. This is his fourth Mid-Amateur and first in nine years. Ryan Zikeli, of Hartland, goes off No. 10 at Erin Hills at 6:50 a.m., while Sam Van Galder, of Janesville (6:50 a.m. off No. 10 at Blue Mound) rounds out the contingent.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.