Date: November 29, 2015
Author: Mark Hayes

More than just another Jordan

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First thing’s first – it’s pronounced NEE-broog-EE.

As odd an introduction as that is, you get the distinct feeling that those are important words, because the golf world will soon be clambering to know a lot more about Jordan Niebrugge.

That’s not to say he hasn’t already achieved plenty. As the No.11 ranked amateur in the world and already with a T6 finish and silver medal as low amateur at this year’s Open Championship, his burgeoning resume will attest to his credentials.

The 22-year-old from Milwaukee has that endearing mid-west American trait of impeccable manners and, music to the ears of golf officials in this neck of the woods, has already developed an affinity with Australia having visited twice in 2015 alone.

Not only that, he possesses a trait that will rapidly endear him to Aussie sports fans – he’s a fighter and seemingly has a golfing will that needs to be experienced rather than explained.

That was never more evident than at The Australian Golf Club this week in Niebrugge’s first Emirates Australian Open appearance.

The lanky right-hander began nervously, going double-par-triple-bogey in his first four holes. Another double on the ninth took the gloss off a fine birdie on the eighth and the Oklahoma State University product could have been excused for ordering a taxi to nearby Sydney airport at seven over through his opening nine holes.

But that’s not how Niebrugge ticks.

“Yeah, it was a rough start, but you’ve gotta keep at it,” he said.

“I started to hit it a lot better on that back side on Thursday and had a few chances ended up getting it to six over, but it could have been a little better.

“Friday was much better and (Saturday) was OK until the back nine I couldn’t hit the ball.

“But I focused in and made a lot of putts from 5-8 feet. It was nice to see some of those fall, but if I can hit it like I did the last two days, I should have a good round (today).”

That growing confidence around a course that has brought many seasoned and quality pros to their knees this week, enabled the American to make the cut at four over, despite his opening 77.

Yesterday, a composed 70 brought him up to three over and scything through the field to be joint leader in the amateur ranks alongside countryman Bryson DeChambeau and emerging Taiwanese star Yu Chun-An, both of whom enjoyed far brighter starts to the week.

Melbourne’s Ryan Ruffels is the lone remaining Aussie amateur in the field and started the final round at six over, three strokes behind his peers.

Niebrugge said the wave of youngsters who’ve either just turned or are contemplating becoming professional were pushing each other along.

“There’s a lot of young players, especially guys who just turned pro, that class and the next two classes that I’m aware of, (who) all seem pretty strong based on what they’re achieving in professional tournaments,” he said.

“It’s good to see we’re keeping up the trend that’s been happening and it just shows that if you get that opportunity like Bryson did last week (when tied second at the Australian Masters), if you get that break and play well, you can kind of get your name out there.”

Which brings us back to that very thing: his name.

“I’ve heard it dozens of different ways, yeah,” he said.

“I think probably (the weirdest) ones that I hear end in “R”, like `Nye-burger’ – I can’t see how that one happens!” he joked.

So Aussie fans, get that pronunciation going. Or maybe a nickname — because he hopes to be a repeat visitor to these shores.

“I loved it the last time I got to play here at Royal Melbourne (in the Australian Master of the Amateurs), so I thought it would be nice to get this opportunity and come back to play here because it’s something I would like to do in the future.

“To get that opportunity and gain that experience of playing over here – this course is more like playing in the States than at Royal Melbourne – but still it’s just learning and it’s a pleasure to play here.”