WOODSTOCK – With his dad watching every shot, Jamie Hagen played a remarkable round of golf and was the talk of the tournament.
The 21-year-old routinely plays rounds of golf in gusting winds on unforgiving courses at Clark University in Dubuque, Iowa, which raised his handicap. So when the Woodstock High School graduate signed up to play in the two-day McHenry County Amateur at Crystal Woods, his 3.2 handicap placed him in the A flight, just out of the championship flight, which has a range of 2.0 to 2.9.
But playing in the lower flight didn't faze Hagen, who dominated the course on a perfect day for golf with little to no wind. He shot a 3-under-par 69, which left him one stroke behind championship flight leader Riley Bauman of Crystal Lake for the overall title.
"I wasn't hitting the ball particularly well on the front nine," Hagen said. "But on the back nine I got in a zone and started rolling everything in."
He wasn't kidding. His group mates Sean Lorch and Brent Sloat – both playing in the championship flight – marveled at the way Hagen was able to find another gear and hit perfect approach shots and sink difficult putts.
After carding just one birdie on the front nine, Hagen settled in and birdied his final five holes and even had a shot at eagle on the par-5, 505-yard 18th hole, but his eagle putt lipped out. When word of his remarkable finish reached those in the clubhouse, they joked he should be allowed to start his second round a day earlier while he was in a groove.
"I adjusted my game a bit after the turn," Hagen said. "I just kind of toned down my tempo and put myself into areas where I could hit irons close to the pin, and I was able to make all of the putts."
Ten golfers entered the tournament with a handicap under par but only four were able to shoot under 72. Aside from Bauman and Hagen, Greg Bauman (70) and Erron Nielson (71) broke par. Club champion Don Langland Sr. posted a 73.
Mike Kneip, an Algonquin resident playing in the championship flight, posted a 79 but found himself in the middle of things because of the higher scores. He triple bogeyed one hole and missed out on several birdie putts. He said if he can eliminate a bad hole during Saturday's second round and connect on more putts he will have a shot at the title despite the expected tougher pin placements.
"You just want to put yourself in position on the first day to be in striking distance," he said, "and hope that on the second day you can catch a low round."
Erron Nielson and Greg and Riley Bauman will tee off at 11:34 a.m. on Saturday in the top group in the championship flight, while Hagen, Nathan Daugherty and Dan Pondel will headline the A flight at 10:18 a.m. Flights B and C will tee off at 8:45 a.m. and 8 a.m., respectively.