Rain stops Dale vs. Niebrugge Western Am final

Jordan Niebrugge during his final match in the 2013 Western Amateur against Sean Dale.

ROLAND, Ark. – Two lengthy weather delays Sunday will bring about a Monday finish in the 111th Western Amateur at the par-72, Tom Fazio-designed Alotian Club course.

Play first was suspended for about two hours, just after Jordan Niebrugge and Sean Dale hit their opening tee shots in the championship match about 2 p.m.

They got through eight holes before another storm cell rolled in and competition was suspended at 5:40 p.m.

Players had hit their approach shots on the ninth hole – both missing the green – when play was stopped and eventually called off for the day.

• Niebrugge wins 2013 Western Amateur, eyes Walker Cup spot.

Play is scheduled to restart at 7 a.m. Monday but will depend on weather – more storms are expected in the morning – and whether the course can be ready in time.

“It’s disappointing from the perspective of patrons, volunteers and everyone who would like to have seen the conclusion of a great match and the awarding of our championship trophy,” said Vince Pellegrino, vice-president of tournaments for the Western Golf Association. “We acted out of concern for people’s safety.

“But the suspension of play will do nothing to diminish the significance of the Western Amateur championship to the player who wins it,” he said.

Niebrugge, a sophomore at Oklahoma State and winner two weeks ago at the U.S. Amateur Public Links and again last week at the Wisconsin State Amateur, and Dale, a recent North Florida grad and second-team All-American last season, were all-square at the time.

Dale won the opening hole with birdie as Niebrugge made bogey after having to take an unplayable lie and return to the tee to start over.

Niebrugge came back with a birdie at the third hole and later went 1-up with a birdie at the fifth. Dale got it back to all-square with a par at the sixth.

This marked the first Western Am Monday finish since 2007, when Jhared Hack defeated Alex Prugh, 1-up, for the title.

In the morning’s semifinals, Dale was 2-down after nine holes but made five birdies during the final nine holes to come back and win 2-up over Kramer Hickok, a sophomore at Texas. Niebrugge won the final hole for a 1-up victory over Sebastian Cappelen, a senior at Arkansas who was trying to become the second Razorback in the last three years to win this title, following Ethan Tracy in 2011.

Dale went 1-up with a birdie at the fifth hole, but Hickok, who tied for sixth last week at the Porter Cup, won the sixth with a par and the seventh and ninth with pars.

Dale surged back and squared the match with birdies at the 12th and 14th and then went 1-up with when he drained a 50-foot birdie putt at 16. After they halved 17 with birdies, Dale closed it out at 18. Hickok’s approach shot on the closing hole was far short of the green and his pitch shot also came up short, just off the green some 50 feet away. Dale, meanwhile, put his third shot to within 8 feet and after Hickok’s chip stopped some six feet from the hole, he conceded Dale’s par putt to end the match.

Niebrugge and Cappelen went back and forth from start to finish. Niebrugge won holes 4 and 11 while Cappelen, the 2013 SEC champion, won Nos. 6 and 13. Cappelen, who tied for 16th at this year’s NCAA and won the 2012 Patriot All-American, won 15 to go 1-up. A birdie by Niebrugge at 17 made the match all square going to the final hole.

At 18, Cappelen pulled his tee shot into the trees and was forced to chip out. His third shot, from 243 yards out, went right some 30 yards from the green. Meanwhile, Niebrugge’s approach shot settled some eight feet from the pin. After Cappelen’s chip for par left him four feet away, he conceded Niebrugge’s birdie putt.

“It didn’t end the way I would have liked and especially on that last hole,” Cappelen said. “But overall it was a great week and I played great today. I’ll take away a lot of positives from this week.”

This marked the first time in the 111-year history of this world-class amateur championship, but the first time it has been played in Arkansas and first time it’s been held in the South since 1966 at Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort.

“The main thing for us was we wanted to make everyone involved, players, volunteers, spectators, whoever, to feel welcome and I think we did,” Alotian Club founder Warren Stephens said. “We also wanted to put on a first-class tournament, and I feel we did that as well. It’s been unfortunate the weather didn’t fully cooperate at times during the week, but overall I’m just extremely proud of the way everything went this week.”

Next year the event returns to the Chicago area, where it will be played at Beverly County Club on the south side of the Windy City.

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