Jordan Niebrugge knew what to say, he just hadn’t said the words in a while. When you go a few months without losing a tournament, handling defeat becomes even tougher.
Niebrugge lost his opening match at the 113th US Amateur on Wednesday to Georgia Tech’s Seth Reeves, 1 up. His early exit from The Country Club is about the only blemish in what’s been a very successful summer: Victories in the US Amateur Public Links, Wisconsin Match Play, Wisconsin Amateur, and Western Amateur.
A plugged lie in the bunker on No. 16 dropped Niebrugge two holes down, and after he won the 17th with a must-have birdie, he found another plugged lie in another greenside bunker at No. 18. It prevented him from getting his third shot close, and when he failed to chip in from behind the green for his par, Reeves was able to win the hole and hand Niebrugge a rare 2013 defeat. It also avenged a win Niebrugge had over Reeves recently at the Western Amateur.
“It’s all right, to go down to a good player like Seth, it’s fine,” said Niebrugge, a sophomore-to-be at Oklahoma State whose sister, Alyssa, was on the swim team at Boston College and graduated this year. “I’m proud of myself for getting one in there on 17 and making birdie, giving myself an opportunity on the last, so I’m happy.”
Walker Cup focus
It’s already been an eventful week for Patrick Rodgers, the only member of the early selections for the upcoming US Walker Cup team who qualified for match play. His group was hit with a one-stroke penalty on Monday for slow play — a stroke that almost proved costly, because Rodgers was part of the playoff for the final 15 match-play spots. He also needed to hole a 30-footer on his last hole on Tuesday just to get into the playoff, which came after his ball got stuck in a tree earlier in the round, and he made a late triple bogey.
“I am really happy to be moving on,” said Rodgers, after he knocked off Sean Dale, 3 and 2. “It was really hard out there.”
Rodgers is waiting to learn who will fill out the US Walker Cup roster, five names that will be unveiled after the US Amateur. Michael Weaver is hoping he’s on the list, but lost on Wednesday to Greg Eason of England, 3 and 2.
Weaver lost in last year’s US Amateur final, then had a solid season at California. Yet he wasn’t one of the initial five Walker Cup team selections, and said he wasn’t thinking about it this week.
“Not at all. There’s nothing I can do about that,” Weaver said. “It’s not objective, it’s completely subjective, and they’re going to make the decision they want. I hope I’ve done enough. I know I’m in the mix.
“I’m ranked pretty high [No. 8 on the world amateur list] and I didn’t get picked yet, so it’s not all off rankings. I knew I needed to keep playing well, and I didn’t play well today. I knew going in I could play well and not make the team.”
For 17 players, the first day of match play began with the conclusion of stroke play, and it started early. A playoff for the final 15 spots in the bracket started at 7 a.m., with those 17 players being sent off in four groups: three foursomes, and a fivesome.
The first hole of the playoff was the 14th, a par 4 that plays 505 yards (and is a par-5 for the membership). Two players in the first foursome — Jason Anthony and Jordan Smith — made triple-bogey 7s, which was matched by Jade Scott in the final group. The other 14 players scored lower and were safely in. Play continued on No. 15, with Anthony claiming the 15th and final spot by making a par.
Anthony’s reward? A match with No. 1 seed Neil Raymond from England. Anthony won the first two holes, but Raymond won the 10th to take the lead for good, winning 1-up.
Of the 15 players who earned their way into match play through the playoff, six won matches, including Gavin Hall, the No. 53 seed. He beat Bo Andrews, who shot a course-record 63 on Tuesday at Charles River, 2 and 1. It also includes US Junior Amateur champion Scottie Scheffler, the No. 55 seed who eliminated Stewart Jolly on the 20th hole.
The highest remaining seed is No. 59 Chase Koepka, who knocked out Michael Miller, 2 and 1.
The two remaining players with ties to Massachusetts both lost their opening matches. Richy Werenski, a 21-year-old from South Hadley, dropped the first two holes against Blair Hamilton and never led, losing 4 and 2. Recent Holy Cross graduate Steven Zychowski also never led, and also lost, 4 and 2, to Sebastian Cappelen of Denmark . . . Twenty of the 64 match-play qualifiers were international players representing 11 countries. Thirteen won first-round matches . . . Brady Watt, the stroke-play co-medalist with Raymond, beat No. 63 seed Sean Walsh, 5 and 3. Last year’s winner was the No. 63 seed, something Watt said he was aware of during his match . . . Brett Drewitt didn’t advance to match play, but he was back on site Wednesday. Drewitt was caddying for Nathan Holman, a fellow Australian. Holman beat Andrew Price, 3 and 2 . . . Coverage continues on Thursday, with the Golf Channel broadcasting from noon to 2 p.m.