Challening course awaits state's best amateurs

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Gary D'Amato, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Monday, July 21, 2014

MEQUON—Bill Linneman, the director of rules and competitions for the Wisconsin State Golf Association and the man who sets up the course for the State Amateur, has an uncanny ability to predict the winning score in a tournament before the first shot is struck.

So golfers playing in the 113th State Amateur Championship this week should heed his warning about the challenge that awaits them at Ozaukee Country Club.

“My guess,” Linneman said, “is that the winning score will be well above par.”

The rough at Ozaukee is 3 inches tall and lush, so the penalty for a missed fairway will be severe. Miss with your approach on the wrong side of the green and par is almost out of the question.

And the slick, sloping greens on the classic parkland-style course, designed by William Langford and Theodore Moreau, will induce three-putts and meltdowns.

The greens could be running as fast as 15 feet on the Stimpmeter by the final round Thursday. For comparison's sake, that's about 50 percent faster than the greens on a typical well-conditioned public course.

“The greens will be somewhere north of 13,” Linneman said. “This place is going to be tough.”

At about 6,750 yards, Ozaukee isn't long, and big hitters theoretically will have a lot of short irons into the greens. But if a golfer isn't straight with his driver, precise with his irons and skillful with his putter, it won't matter how far he hits it.

The State Amateur has been held four times previously at Ozaukee. The last time was 1989, when Dave Miley won with a 4-over 284 total.

“I think it's a great course,” said Kyle Hubertz of Elkhorn, a State Amateur qualifier who played a practice round Friday. “It favors someone who puts it in the fairway and on the right part of the green.

“You'll be rewarded by a great shot, but even a good shot can cost you.”

Dick Sucher, an Ozaukee member since 1955 and a 16-time club champion and two-time State Amateur champion, said the tournament would be decided on the course's five difficult par-3 holes.

“They're healthy par-3s,” Sucher said.

A field of 168 of the state's best amateurs will find out starting Monday.

One thing they won't have to worry about is defending champion Jordan Niebrugge. The 20-year-old Mequon resident, who would have been the heavy favorite on his former home course, withdrew Friday, citing fatigue.

Niebrugge played in the John Deere Classic two weeks ago and tied for 27th in his PGA Tour debut. Then he drove to Kansas, where he made a spirited defense of his U.S. Amateur Public Links title, falling in 23 holes in the round of 16.

Including his two stroke-play qualifying rounds at the Public Links, he played 163 holes of tournament golf in eight days.

He needed a break because next week he will attempt to defend his title in the Western Amateur at Beverly Country Club in Chicago.

Also missing from the field is Charlie Danielson of Osceola, the Big Ten Conference co-medalist at Illinois and the runner-up to Niebrugge in the 2013 State Amateur at The Bog.

“This is a chance for someone else to step up,” Linneman said.

Ozaukee members Nathan Colson, Jonathan Fall and Charlie Maleki will have the home-course advantage.

Others who could contend include reigning WSGA Match Play champion Josh Udelhofen; Ray Fischer champion Jake Wisniewski; U.S. Amateur qualifiers Brandon Cloete and Nick Nelson, both members of the Marquette University team; and Kyle Henning, a recent graduate of Valparaiso University.

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