Niebrugge into semis at Western Am; Rodgers out

Jordan Niebrugge during the U.S. Amateur Public Links.

ROLAND, Ark. -- The Niebrugge express keeps on rolling -- and still is packing plenty of fire power and steam.

Jordan Niebrugge, a sophomore at Oklahoma State, won both his matches Saturday and leads the final four into Sunday morning’s semifinal round in the 111th Western Amateur at the Alotian Club.

After a 1:45 storm delay in the morning, Niebrugge went out and defeated his Cowboy senior teammate Talor Gooch 4 and 3 in the Sweet 16 round and followed in the afternoon’s quarterfinals with a 3-and-1 win over Seth Reeves, a senior at Georgia Tech.

He’s joined in the semifinals by Sebastian Cappelen, a senior at Arkansas, Sean Dale, a recent North Florida graduate, and Kramer Hickok, a sophomore at Texas.

After a grueling opening match where he beat Golfweek’s No. 1 junior and Alabama bound Robby Shelton IV on the 20th hole, Cappelen turned back Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz, 4 and 3.

Hickok, who defeated fellow Longhorn freshman Beau Hossler, 2 and 1, in the morning, came back with a 2-up win over David Snyder, who at 15 was the youngest player in the Sweet 16 and second youngest in the starting field of 156.

Dale won his quarterfinal match 2-up over Texas A&M junior Tyler Dunlap, and won his Sweet 16 match 2-up over Stanford junior and 2011 and 2013 Walker Cupper Patrick Rodgers, the No. 1 seed in match after winning the 72-hole stroke play portion of this grueling championship.

Niebrugge, who two weeks ago won the U.S. Amateur Public Links by beating highly regarded and U.S. Walker Cup player Michael Kim, 1 up in the 36-hole final, was 3 up at the turn. He won the 14th to go 4 up, but Reeves fought back and won 14 and 15. Niebrugge closed things out with a birdie at the par-5 17th.

“I’ve been playing well for the past two years, but just haven’t been putting well,” said Niebrugge, who followed his APL victory with another one the next week at the Wisconsin State Amateur. “But my putting has really come around and I’ve been getting good results.

“In today’s afternoon round I had a lot of really, really good up and downs from some sketchy places. I made some good chips and then made some key 2 and 3 foot putts. Overall it’s been a very good day. I putted really well all day. Now I just have to keep it going tomorrow.”

Cappelen, from Denmark, is trying to become the second Razorback player to win this prestigious title in the last three years, joining 2011 champ Ethan Tracy.

Cappelen surged to a 4-up lead after nine holes. After Ortiz won holes 15 and 15, Cappelen closed things out with a birdie at No. 17.

“I’ve been able to play the last three holes very well and that’s been crucial,” said Cappelen, who won two of the last three in the morning to force extra holes. “This afternoon I felt really comfortable with my swing and just had a great feeling from the start.

“My caddie (former Razorback Jamie Marshall) has been huge for me,” Cappelen said “He’s been on top of everything and has made me feel confident and comfortable over every shot. I don’t think I could have done it without him.”

Hickok used a hole-in-one on the par-3 11th hole to help spur him to victory in the quarterfinals. It gave him a 1-up lead, and even though he gave it right back on the next hole, he went on to win the 14th and close it out with a par win on the 18th.

“That hole-in-one is the first one I’ve had in like seven or eight years and definitely gave me a boost,” said Hickock, a first-team all Big 12 selection. “It gave me confidence and a good mind set. Overall, I hit a lot of shots close and made some birdies. David played well so I feel fortunate to win and move on.”

Dale was 2-down after four holes, but squared the match by winning Nos. 6 and 7. Dunlap got it back to 2-up with wins at holes 12 and 13, but Dale bounced right back and evened things by winning 14 and 15. Dale then won 16 and closed the door by winning 18 with a par.

Even though he had played some great golf over the previous four days and earned stroke play qualifying medalist honors with a tournament record 18-under-par 280, Rodgers, a junior at Stanford, knew he would have his hands full against Dale.

The two were familiar with each other through college golf and were teammates on this year’s victorious U.S. Palmer Cup team.

“I know (Dale) is a great player and I knew I would have to have my best game to beat him,” said Rodgers, who earlier this month was named among the first five selections to this year’s Walker Cup team. “Even when I was 3 down, I knew I could get back in it. I just didn’t give myself enough opportunities toward the end.

“I gave him a lot of holes in the middle of the round with bogeys at 9, 10 and 12,” Rodgers said. “I was above the hole all day and that made things very difficult. I just made too many mistakes.”

Obviously very disappointed, but Rodgers tried to keep things as positive as he could.

Dave won the fifth hole with a birdie and never trailed in the match. After Rodgers squared things with a birdie at No. 7, Dale took advantage of Rodgers bogeys and won holes 9, 10 and 12 to go 3 up.

Rodgers battled back and cut it to 1 up with birdies at the 13th and 14th. At the par-4 closing hole, both missed the green. Rodgers, from the front edge some 50 feet away, three-putted for bogey, while Dale chipped to four feet and made the par putt.

“Overall I have nothing bad to say about the week,” he said. “I just feel bad about having to leave the Alotian Club. It’s such a great place and it’s been such a great experience. Now I’ll just re-group and get ready for the U.S. Amateur.”

Four of the last five Western Am qualifying medalists lost in the first round. The only exception came last year when Chris Williams took the honor and then went on to win the championship.

WHAT'S UP, ACE?! There were two holes-in-one made during Saturday’s play and oddly enough both on the same hole, No. 11. Seth Reeves holed his 9-iron shot from 167 yards on his way to a 2-and-1 victory over Jonathan Garrick in the morning’s round of 16. Kramer Hickok did the same with an 8-iron when the hole played 158 yards in the afternoon’s quarterfinals, where he defeated David Snyder, 2 up.

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