PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland – If Brandon Hagy never does anything else in his amateur career, he can lay claim to one huge feat.
“I tamed Calamity,” the recent University of California at graduate said proudly as he stepped off Royal Portrush’s 18th green after qualifying for the match-play stages of the British Amateur Championship.
The 23-year-old hit a 5-iron to six feet at Royal Portrush’s feared 211-yard, par-3 14th hole and drained the birdie putt. The 14th is called “Calamity” because of the huge drop off to the right of the green where errant balls seem to drop into the mists of hell.
Pretty neat achievement for a guy who’s playing links golf for the first time.
Hagy returned a level-par 70 around Royal Portrush’s Dunluce course to go with his opening 2-under 69 at Portstewart for a 2-under 139 total. The plus-4 handicapper from Santa Monica finished equal sixth.
Hagy’s play at 14 was in stark contrast to the rest of the round.
“I hit a lot of 2-irons off the tee today and played conservatively,” said Hagy, a three-time winner in his senior year. “I knew after my 69 yesterday that I just had to keep it in play and not do anything stupid and I’d qualify.
“I’ve never played links golf before. The closest experience I’ve had was playing Royal Melbourne, which plays hard and fast, but nothing like this.”
Hagy, who finished the college season ranked sixth on the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, double-bogeyed the last but had already done enough to make the knockout stages.
Hagy is the seventh-highest ranked player in the field, at No. 22 on the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He is one of two Americans along with rising LSU senior Myles Lewis to make the match play stages.
A place in next week’s Palmer Cup at Walton Heath is Hagy’s final amateur stop before he turns professional. Unless, of course, he becomes he first American Amateur Championship winner since Drew Weaver at Royal Lytham in 2007. That would leave Hagy with a nice problem to consider – as he’d get automatic invites to the Open Championship, Masters and U.S. Open.
England’s Daniel Brown took medalist honors with a score of 8-under 133. It’s the second-lowest 36-hole qualifying total since qualifying was introduced in 1983. It’s just one shot worse than David Horsey’s 132 total in 2007.
Brown set a record in 2012 when he became the youngest ever Yorkshire Amateur champion. He’ll be hoping to make history by winning the Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush.
The 19-year-old qualified last year at Royal Cinque Ports, but lost in the first round. He’s hoping to go much farther this year. “It would be massive if I were to win this and play in the Open Championship, but I’ll try my best not to think about that,” said Brown, who is ranked 453rd in the world.
He’ll need to beat the medallist curse. Only three players – Philip Parkin (1983), Warren Bladon (1996) and Matteo Manassero (2009) – have taken medalist honors and gone on to win. Since qualifying was introduced in 1983, 15 medallists have lost in their opening round.
Hagy and Brown have strong opposition. World No. 6 Renato Paratore qualified, with the Italian making it through to the quarterfinals last year. World No. 12 Thomas Detry also qualified.
Scotland’s Grant Forrest might just be the man to beat. The San Diego player, currently the World No. 17, recently won the St. Andrews Links Trophy and will feel right at home on the links of Portrush.