Stricker, Niebrugge receive much love, adulation at U.S. Open

By MATT COHEN - Conley News Media

June 20, 2017

Jordan Niebrugge of Mequon smiles as he receives a hug from his aunt,
Jenny Niebrugge of Springfield, Ill.
John Ehlke/Daily News

TOWN OF ERIN — Steve Stricker got a standing ovation at the No. 18 green, while Jordan Niebrugge signed his glove and gave it to a young bystander after his final round Sunday.

The two Wisconsin natives were fan favorites all week at the 117th U.S. Open Championship, though they weren’t found on the leaderboard for most of the event.

Stricker, of Edgerton, finished his last round of play with a 69 to tie for 16th at a 5-under par 283.

“It was really cool,” Stricker said of his ovation from the Wisconsin faithful. “Yeah, I don’t get those very often, so it was pretty cool to get that, and to play well today on top of it was extra special.”

Niebrugge, of Mequon, made the cut at his first U.S. Open, finished with birdies on three of the last five holes Sunday, shot a 1-under 71 and finished tied for 35th.

“It was pretty awesome playing in front of all the fans and family and friends rooting me on every step of the way,” he said. “There’s more and more people here each day and the crowds got louder, which I expected, and I love playing in front of everybody. We just had a lot of fun out there.”

Niebrugge turned professional in 2016, and has already seen his influence on golf in the state of Wisconsin.

“Obviously I was in their position not too long ago,” he said of giving away the autographed glove. “It’s always nice to give back and be able to inspire some of those kids.”

Crowds gather around hole No. 10 to watch Edgerton native Steve Stricker tee off Sunday afternoon during the final round of the 117th U.S. Open Championship at Erin Hills in the town of Erin.
John Ehlke/Daily News

After his showing at the Open that responsibility might grow. Niebrugge’s caddy, Austin Gaugert, thought playing in his home state had a positive effect.

“I don’t think it ever really ruined (his mental state),” Gaugert said. “But I think when things maybe started to go a little sour it really helped him out.”

The 23-year-old golfer heard cheers from the crowd at each hole, many of which shouted out his high school alma mater, Homestead. He felt his championship ending gives him confidence moving forward with his career. “It gives me the confidence that I didn't play as good as I would like to. I didn't hit it as good as I’d like to, but I was still able to make the cut and manage my game pretty well,” Niebrugge said. “And (I) ended up being only 1-over after all is said and done.

'I’m pretty proud of myself in how I finished. And coming in 3-under on the back nine is pretty solid.”

Both natives thought Erin Hills held up for its first U.S. Open.

“I think it’s a fair course. You've got to drive it well. you’ve got to be able to hit your irons where you want them to be because the greens have a lot of undulations and you’ve got to putt it well,” Niebrugge said. “… I think it’s a great spot.”

Fans cheer Edgerton native Steve Stricker after his tee shot on hole No. 9 Sunday afternoon during the final round of the 117th U.S. Open Championship at Erin Hills in the town of Erin.
John Ehlke/Daily News

“I asked some of the players how they liked Erin Hills and for the most part everybody seemed to like it,” Stricker added. “A few changes here and there, according to some people. It’s tough when you come to a place for the first time and not really know how to set it up, how to play it.

“But I thought it was great.”

The 50-year-old's wife and caddie, Nicki, believes there’s no reason for him to stop playing in majors because his game is so simple.

“As a family we’re fired up about it, which I think keeps him fired up about it, too,” she said. “We like hanging out with him either way, if he’s on home or on the road.”