Two shots down with only two holes remaining in the match, senior Brandon Hagy needed to win the 17th and 18th holes to advance in the first round of the 2012 U.S. Amateur.
But the pressure didn’t matter — Hagy was all too familiar with these situations.
Despite the vast distance, Hagy hit the green from 198 yards away. He birdied the par-5 17th hole and parred the 18th hole to force a sudden death. Teammate Michael Weaver extended a fist in support of his teammate as Hagy walked toward the final hole. He proceeded to drill a 12-foot putt to birdie the 19th hole to ice the match and advance to match play in his first U.S. Amateur appearance.
“I really felt like at that moment, I could compete against the best in the world,” Hagy says. “After that, it gave me a lot of confidence.”
Captain of the golf team. All-Pac-12. All-American. If he chooses to do so, Hagy can go pro directly after graduation. Yet Hagy sees another path, one stemming from his emphasis on academics and his major at the Haas School of Business — and one equally as tempting as going pro in golf.
After a record-setting senior year of high school in which he won back-to-back league MVPs, Hagy was heavily recruited by several major college golf programs. But with a history of excellence on the field and in the classroom, Cal was the perfect match for Hagy.
“Our hope for him was for him to finish his degree,” says his mother, Karyn Hagy. “If professional golf doesn’t work out, he’s got a great degree, so he’ll be able to be successful one way or the other.”
But Hagy knew he wanted a backup plan outside of the sport. He decided to redshirt his sophomore season to strengthen his Haas application. He was always a strong student, but getting into Haas would be a major challenge.
He knew he would have to earn excellent grades in all of his core classes. His redshirt year allowed him to spread out his most difficult classes so he had a manageable schedule in the future. Realizing he would have more free time than usual during his redshirt season, he used the year to take two courses in Haas to get them out of the way early. It was an adjustment period more than anything else; over the course of the semester, he learned what Haas expects from its students.
“It’s ‘student-athlete,’ and student is first for a reason,” he says.
The time away from the golf course was well utilized. Hagy finished the year with strong grades and the confidence that his application was competitive enough to get into Haas.
Apart from the usual butterflies that all prospective Haas students face leading up to the decision, Hagy was confident he would get in. Thanks to his redshirt year and coach Steve Desimone’s advice to graduate in five years, Hagy was able to get excellent grades in all of his core classes. In his first three years at Berkeley, his lowest grade was a B+. His application was also bolstered by his distinguished golf career. He even wrote his Haas essay on how golf has helped to strengthen the core values Haas encourages.
On the day Haas decisions were released, Hagy anxiously checked the Haas website to see whether his confidence was warranted. “Congratulations,” the first word said. He had gotten in. With a tempered reaction, Hagy called his family to tell them the good news. He celebrated with teammates Joel Stalter and Michael Weaver, who had also received the good news.
Juggling the Haas business program and the golf team, Hagy is in the classroom or on the golf course all day. His typical routine features waking up at 8 a.m. for classes, grabbing a quick lunch, running to practice until 8 p.m. and studying until he sleeps.
“You just have to manage your time well,” he says. “You have to stay focused on the golf, and when you’re not playing golf, you just have to get it done in the classroom.”
Hagy sees business as a universal major that can be applied to many principles of life, including golf. He says being on a team throughout his life has helped him in his negotiation and leadership classes at Haas.
”The unique thing about golf is that you get to meet a lot of cool people.” Hagy says. “There aren’t a lot of sports where you have four hours to meet someone and learn about what they do. Whenever I go out, I try to get a business card or get to know them well. I’ve already made a lot of incredible contacts through golf.”
Before going into the world of business, Hagy plans on trying his hand in the pros. He draws confidence from Max Homa, a recent Cal graduate who went professional. Homa finished ninth in his professional debut at the Frys.com Open.
“Playing with him for four years, competing with him and being at that same level gives me confidence that I can do the same thing,” Hagy says.
Upon graduation, Hagy hopes to get sponsors playing in the U.S. Nationals in June. After that, he will attend qualifying school in the fall and go professional.
“I am very confident in his ability,” Karyn Hagy says. “I think whatever he sets his mind to, whether it is the professional world based on his academics or athletics, he’ll be successful either way.”
Whatever path Hagy chooses, one thing is certain: Both golf and business are in his future.
“Brandon’s a great golfer, and hes been playing great lately, so I don’t see why he wouldn’t be a success after school,” Homa says.
Winston Cho covers golf. Contact him at [email protected]