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Homestead's Niebrugge wins state golf title

Ties state individual record score

June 12, 2012

Mequon - All Homestead golfer Jordan Niebrugge wants to do is be one of the guys.

But that is difficult when you get compliments like this one.

"How can you not mention his name (among the state's all-time best prep golfers)," asked his completely biased coach Steve O'Brien rhetorically after watching Niebrugge tie the state 36-hole record in winning the WIAA State Individual title at University Ridge in Verona on June 5.

Indeed, how can you not, because with his continued excellence Niebrugge continues to open doors of fraternities both elite and common.

And, as noted, it is the latter groups that he'd much rather belong to.

The top 1 percent elite fraternity of which he's a member is that of the aforementioned WIAA state golf championship. It's a small group that admitted just one a year from 1923 through 1987 and just two-a-year from 1988 until now.

Tied with fellow Highlander

The .01 percent grouping that Niebrugge entered on June 5 is one that includes secret handshakes and the same color graduation robes and diplomas: That of Homestead golfers who now share that selfsame state individual 36-hole record of 136. Niebrugge now co-owns that mark with 2006 fellow Highlanders grad Andy Hansen.

Hansen and O'Brien know each other's cellphone numbers and were texting avidly the afternoon of June 5.

"It's a running joke every year," O'Brien said. "After the final round, I'm supposed to get in contact with Andy and tell him if his record is safe or not. So this time, I texted him. It's safe, but it's tied.

"He tells me he's been watching the whole round and that I should thank Jordan (laughs) for missing that putt on 18 (that would have broken the record).

"He just said how fitting it is, that he's now tied with another Homestead golfer."

Niebrugge reciprocated the thought.

"I thought the putt was going left," chuckled Niebrugge of that final shot. "It's all good anyway. When I was younger I was always looking up to Andy (Hansen), so it's great to have my name beside his now."

And the .0001 fraternity, of which there are no members yet, could be founded by Niebrugge. He's the reigning Wisconsin Open champion, a title which he unfortunately won't be able to defend later this summer due to other obligations. But before that occurs, he has a chance at a unique trifecta.

"One of the older WSGA guys who was at the (WIAA) tournament who sits on one of the committees noted that he thought no one has held the state amateur, the WIAA state and the Open titles all at once," O'Brien said.

"Jordan has a chance at that. I can't wait to watch the light go on in his head with that."

The amateur will be held a little later this summer.

Team player

But as fun as the possibility of truly separating himself, of putting himself beyond the pale, and breathing air that only he could pull in, Niebrugge needs the company of his fellow golfers to share in his successes and failures.

It pained him greatly, that despite his best efforts the previous week, the Highlanders failed to advance as a team out of the WIAA sectional meet at Washington County.

"It was devastating," he said. "We really wanted to go as a team. It's so much better as a team. Matt (Mitman) is there and that's nice, but it would have been much better (with the whole team)."

He still got to go to state with Mitman, who finished 76th with a 170 score in his first go-round at state, but it wasn't quite the same.

Niebrugge was reminded of how much he'll miss Homestead golf at the team banquet that was held before the state tournament.

"I told everyone I was happy to be his chauffeur and ball-washer," laughed O'Brien. "To be around a kid of such character and talent is a once in a lifetime type of deal. One in a million.

"We tried not to get frustrated that day (at the sectional). Hats off to (Menomonee) Falls (which claimed the second state team spot). We wanted to go to state so bad, but if we had to lose it to somebody why not (Falls Coach Pritchard) Tony?

"And Jordan was frustrated for only a few moments. We could have gone 'Woulda, coulda, shoulda' but here we had this great kid and no doubt about it, there is room for comparison (with the best ever). There's not a high school kid who hits the ball like him. With Jordan it sounds different, the flight is different."

"He can move the ball. You could hear the crowd oohing and aahing (at University Ridge)."

That excellence was on full display on June 5, the second day of the WIAA tourney.

Friendly competition

Then Niebrugge was indeed sharing the company of his fellow golfers. He would wind up four shots clear in the final standings after shooting his second round 18-hole 66 all the while engaging in friendly competition in a foursome that included his old friend Zach Gaugert of Waunakee (tied for fifth), Andrew Schmidt of Green Bay Southwest (fourth) and Henry Klongland of Stoughton (tied for second).

The quartet were counting birdies like peanuts, laughing and one-upping each other like at a Sunday-afternoon friendly.

"He (Niebrugge) hadn't had a chance (to play) with Zach (Gaugert) before this, so the situation couldn't have shaped up any better," O'Brien said. "There was an ebb and flow and such a positive energy coming from that group. No delays. No lost balls. It couldn't have been more perfect, a utopian round.

"Jordan was just laughing. 'We've got to get more birdies in the cage!' "

"It was all fun," Niebrugge said. "We didn't think about golf much at all until we actually had to hit it."

That was the point.

Afterward, O'Brien was collecting comments from the vast common fraternity of Homestead golfers who have come through the program and with those comments Niebrugge had to be heartened even further, because he was being counted among the talented throng, but not above them.

"They were all talking about how he represents Homestead golf so well," O'Brien said. "I know at times he'd like to go under the radar but sometimes he shows he's so far above it all. But he fits into the group.

"At the banquet, another thing I said is that he's the most decorated golfer in Homestead history, but he's also one of the guys.

"That's the most important thing."

And that's all he's ever wanted, ever since his dad first put a club into his hand at age 3 and he played his first round at Glen Echo Country Club in Missouri.

He'll continue the team-first premise when he gets to Oklahoma State (to major in business) in the fall.

"High school and college golf, it is pretty much team-first," he said. "It's fun practicing with the team and fun playing with the team."

As both one of the best ever and as one of the guys.

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