Mequon's Jordan Niebrugge is a powder-keg waiting to explode in the golf world.
He's a world of potential barely 18 years old. Capable of shooting a pedestrian 77 one day but then opening everyone's eyes with a 67 the next on an even tougher track.
And with a scholarship to Oklahoma State firmly in his pocket, he's just added the biggest starburst yet to his already crowded résumé - Wisconsin Open champion - and in doing so becoming arguably the youngest such champ in 63 years.
Niebrugge's achievement has made an impression on others.
"I just think of all the great guys I was playing with these last four days," said Niebrugge of the championship won at Blackwolf Run. "Patrick Duffy, Charlie Delsman. They're all telling me that after this I can technically call myself the best golfer in the state of Wisconsin.
"All I can say is, wow, it's given me a lot of confidence."
Niebrugge showed lightning bolts of enormous potential in his final round 18-hole score of 67. After a birdie on the first hole, he appeared out of it after turning in a double-bogey on the fifth but then birdied both the seventh and the ninth before a tensely earned up and down out of a sand trap on 10 gave him the momentum he needed.
"I just kept battling from there," he said.
He also made a tough par on 18 and was astounded when Duffy three-putted the same hole to give him a one-stroke win with a 282 mark in the 72-hole event.
Game of inches, putts
Niebrugge said that his putting was everything this past week.
"I think I had only 26 or 27 putts in the last round," he said. "… I didn't play very well in the state junior tournament and that following day I just went out and practiced and practiced. I was working on my putting a lot. I had two people who I trusted look at my swing a little, too, because I wasn't getting a clean hit off my club face.
"But it was the putting I worked on the most. I think at one point, I hit the same 10-foot putt (on his home course of Ozaukee) about 200 times in a row.
"I just wanted to do the best I could here (at the state open)."
Niebrugge went into the tournament with the idea of keeping himself in the hunt, which is what he did, turning in solid, if unremarkable scores of 71, 72 and 72 in the first three rounds on the Meadow Valleys course of the Blackwolf Run complex.
He also remembered what Homestead golf coach Steve O'Brien frequently tells him.
"Coach said this right after I won a tourney last year," said Niebrugge. " 'Just always believe in yourself. Work hard, but always believe in yourself.'
"… I just wanted to be consistent. To give myself a chance."
And he believed he gained a mental edge with all that putting work at Ozaukee.
"I've never done it so much in my life," he said, "and people came in here and started complaining about how fast the greens were with all that undulation. I thought that they were pretty similar to what I had been working on (at Ozaukee).
"It just translated very well."
National tournaments ahead
Niebrugge will now turn his sites to the national stage. He will miss the start of school for his senior year at Homestead on Sept. 1 because he will be in Florida for the TPC Sawgrass Junior Players' Championship and then later in the month, he will head off to Oklahoma for the Ping Invitational, which will be played on Oklahoma State's home course of Carson Creek.
After that, there's only one thing more the "Best golfer in Wisconsin" needs to do to validate himself: claim the honor as best high school golfer in the state with a WIAA championship, a title that has eluded him so far.
His final chance will be in June 2012 at University Ridge in Verona.
"It would be nice if I could get that done," he said with a laugh.
All that's needed is another powder keg of a performance.
Your link to the biggest stories in the suburbs delivered Thursday mornings.
Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter Get the Newsletter!
- Inspired by Popp, Homestead seizes fifth state football title
- Homestead girls basketball team has high expectations
- Highlanders rejoice over state football title
- Homestead wins fifth state football title, 28-12, over Waukesha West (2)
- Homestead football team faces uphill title fight against West
- Wolf and Zortman fill in each other's gaps well
- Long travel times for state playoffs are dangerous at night
- Homestead football team back in state finals after 27-23 thriller
- Homestead football team back to state semis with win over East
- Homestead whips Brookfield East, 35-25, advances to state semifinals