Niebrugge’s roll continues with Western Amateur Championship

Jordan Niebrugge won the final match of the 111th Western Amateur, 3 and 2, over Sean Dale at The Alotian Club outside Little Rock, thereby adding his name to a Hall- of-Fame list of champions who have captured one of golf’s most competitive and grueling championships.  
The victory was the third in three weeks – and the biggest yet – for the Mequon, Wis. native and Oklahoma State sophomore, who now seems a virtual lock to make the U.S. Walker Cup team.
 
"I’ve said this for a couple of years now: the Western Amateur is probably the hardest tournament to win in amateur golf because of the format," said Niebrugge, who celebrated his 20th birthday Sunday (Aug. 4). "You’ve got to make two cuts, and then you’ve got to play four good players who have been playing well all week. This one is the top."
 
Niebrugge won the U.S. Public Links, defeating the Michael Kim – low amateur at this year’s U.S. Open – in the final round of match play, and followed it up with a win at the Wisconsin State Amateur. And now, the Western Amateur.
 
"It’s pretty unbelievable," said the 6-foot, 4-inch resident of suburban Milwaukee. "You go into every tournament thinking you’re going to win, but you could never imagine winning three weeks in a row. It’s such a tough test, a different golf course every week. You’re feeling a little different every week. You get different competitors each week. So everything’s a little different.
 
"I’ve been playing great these last couple of weeks, hitting a lot of quality shots and I’ve been fortunate to make some putts…It feels pretty good, obviously."
 
The final match was all square when it was suspended Sunday evening because of lightning and rain after both Dale and Niebrugge hit their approach shots toward the ninth green.
 
When play resumed at 7 a.m. Monday, Niebrugge won the ninth with a par when Dale hit a poor chip and missed his 10-foor par putt.
 
Niebrugge then birdied Nos. 10 and 11 to take a commanding 3-up lead within 36 minutes of the re-start.
 
Dale managed a birdie 3 on the par-4 15th to cut Niebrugge’s lead to 2 up, but he immediately bogeyed the par 3 16th, where the match ended.
 
"When I started this morning on 9, I missed a 10-footer for par and got off to a slow start, and he happened to make a couple of putts, and that was the difference between winning and losing," said Dale, 23, now seemingly more of a contender for one of the final Walker Cup spots, with Michael Weaver and Bobby Wyatt.
 
"This tournament is definitely a premier event, if not the top event," said Dale, a North Florida graduate and aspiring tour pro. "It’s 156 of the top players, all invitation. They’re making sure they get the best field. If I had won today, I’d say it was my best."
 
Niebrugge credited his caddie, Brent Cook, of The Alotian Club staff, with helping bring him read putts on the club’s challenging green complexes. Despite stellar play in the medal play rounds, Niebrugge had struggled with short putts.
 
I learned a lot from Brent – where to hit the ball, the correct side to miss it on. I gained a lot of knowledge," Niebrugge said. "Having his knowledge coming in to these greens helped so much…and with a lot of the reads over and under ridges.
 
"I almost made every putt I had today. I was really seeing the line. Brent really helped me out on the line this week…It was good to see the ball going in the hole."
 
Early in the week, Niebrugge said his latest run of quality golf had come out of an idea he had: "Why not me?"
 
Indeed, why not? And now he joins Nicklaus, Woods, Mickelson, Crenshaw and other major champions as winners of the Western Amateur.
 

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