ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – He’s not been the 21-year-old Jordan that everyone at the Old Course is chatting about this week at St. Andrews, but amateur Jordan Niebrugge is doing a pretty nice job of making a name for himself.
Shooting 67 to tie an all-time British Open mark for low amateur score at St. Andrews can do that for a guy. The last amateur to ever go so low at St. Andrews? Irishman Joe Carr, in 1960, the first year Arnold Palmer came across the pond to compete.
“It’s awesome,” Niebrugge said shortly after knocking down his seventh birdie of the day at the famous 356-yard closing hole at the Old Course. “It’s pretty incredible to think about. I just feel it (his round) was pretty solid and made the best of my opportunities out there.”
Niebrugge, who turns 22 next month, recently completed his junior season at Oklahoma State, and this isn’t his first time on the big stage. He played in the 2014 Masters after winning the previous summer’s U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, made the cut in a PGA Tour event (John Deere Classic, 2014), and qualified for this week’s British Open through the Open’s Final Qualifying contested at Hillside, which sits next to Royal Birkdale in England.
He was co-medalist at Hillside with rounds of 69-72. The FQ was the last leg of a three-week summer journey to the United Kingdom which included starts at the British Amateur (first-round loss) and the Brabazon Trophy at England’s Notts. Golf Club (missed cut). He called his Open qualifying opportunity “kind of an added bonus.”
“It happened to be about two days after the Brabazon, so definitely a great opportunity, and definitely wanted to play in that before we went back to the States,” said Niebrugge (pronounced Knee-BREW-Gee, with a hard G). “Even if it was the week after, I felt like I would have stayed over here.”
Niebrugge went out early, playing in the day’s sixth game, and took advantage of some tranquil scoring conditions. By the time he turned for town along the back nine, the winds had picked up and conditions worsened, and he showed a lot of mettle in playing his final five holes in 1 under. When he made the occasional mistake, as he did at 13, hitting his tee shot in a bunker, or 17, where he short-sided himself behind the Road Hole bunker, he did well to limit the damage and get out. At 17, in fact, he hit the flagstick with his pitch and ran in a 6-footer for a key par.
“His ballstriking has been great, and he added the other little bit to it today which is the guts to just hang in there when things don’t go well,” said his caddie, Graham Goodyear, whose regular player, Ryan Evans, didn’t qualify for the Open. Goodyear has plenty of knowledge around the Old Course, having looped there for seven years. “We played one (shot) at a time, and kicked in a golfer’s best asset: short-term memory. Forget it (any bad shot), and just get on with the next one. That’s all we were doing. ”
Niebrugge, who is from Mequon, Wis., is hoping to be back in the mix for a Walker Cup berth this autumn, having played on the victorious U.S. team two years ago at National Golf Links. That summer, Niebrugge wasn’t really on anyone’s radar until he put together an incredible summer, winning the Wisconsin Match Play, U.S. Publinks, Wisconsin Amateur and Western Amateur.
Certainly a strong week here at the home of golf would only bolster his chances of making Spider Miller’s U.S. squad. The U.S. will take on Great Britain & Ireland at England’s Royal Lytham & St. Annes Sept. 12-13. With each significant experience, Niebrugge’s comfort level on the big stage continues to grow.
“I asked him (Jordan) at the Masters, ‘Were you nervous?’ and he said, ‘It was nothing like hitting the first tee shot at the Walker Cup,” said Rod Niebrugge, Jordan’s dad. “Just like last time, he wasn’t anywhere until the end. If he plays well, he makes it, and if he doesn’t, he won’t. It’s pretty simple.
“His goal is to be a professional golfer, and whether he plays in the Walker Cup or not, that’s not going to deter him from that. It’s important to him – he’d love to represent his country – but that’s not what’s driving him this summer.”