MURRIETA, California — Jordan Niebrugge would have loved to skip Stage 2 of Qualifying School for the 2019 Web.com Tour, just as he did a year ago, and harvest all of the riches that go with a place in the final stage:
- No worse than conditional status on the Web.com Tour.
- Weekly passes from the annoying pre-qualifying for Web.com Tour and PGA Tour events directly into the Monday qualifiers, where the odds aren't great, just better.
- Options for 2019 heading into the holidays without waiting for Qualifying Schools for Mackenzie Tour/PGA Tour-Canada and PGA Tour Latinoamerica in January.
But the Mequon native found a little silver lining in having to tee it up Tuesday at Bear Creek Country Club to begin the process of getting back to the Web.com Tour (the PGA Tour's top developmental circuit): Momentum.
Niebrugge birdied four holes in a five-hole stretch on the back nine to start his round and four more holes in a five-hole stretch during the middle of the front nine. He saved par from a green-side bunker on No. 18 to finish off a 6-under-par 66, leaving him one shot off the lead after 18 holes of the 54-hole event.
Niebrugge led a contingent of four Wisconsin golfers on opening day.
River Falls native Neil Johnson and Oostburg native Patrick Stolpe, paired together for the first two rounds, shot matching 72s and were tied for 30th while Beaver Dam native Dan Woltman was another shot back after a 73 in a tie for 41st. The top 18 golfers plus ties following Friday's final round will advance to the final stage, which is Dec. 6 through 9 in Chandler, Arizona.
"Last year, I went straight into (the Web.com) finals and I don't think I played in (more than) one tournament from the end of the (Mackenzie Tour) season to the final stage," said Niebrugge, who tied for 99th at the final stage where the only the top 45 golfers were fully exempt for 2018. "(This) is kind of a blessing in disguise. Once you start playing a couple of events in a row, that's where you gain the most from what you're doing out on the course. You know how you're playing and what you need to work on. Going into this week, I hadn't played (since Sept. 16), but it's a month less than last year."
Niebrugge looked sharp from start-to-finish during the opening round.
Starting on No. 10, the former Oklahoma State golfer went birdie-birdie-par-birdie-birdie to get to 4-under. He gave one shot back with a bogey at No. 15 and, after turning in 3-under, gave back another with a bogey at No. 2 before going birdie-birdie-par-birdie-birdie again starting at No. 3 to get to 6-under.
"I've had a couple rounds out here," said Niebrugge, who is staying with Kevin Dougherty — his former Cowboys teammate whose family lives on the back nine — and played practice rounds with the No. 26 finisher on the Web.com Tour money list. "It's pretty demanding off the tee on a couple holes. Once you can place your ball in a good spot off the tee, you can kind of attack from there. There are some tricky pins, where you have to be pretty patient, play where you want to be and I was able to make some putts (Tuesday)."
For Johnson, meanwhile, his round was predicated on avoiding the temptation to try to keep up with his playing partners off the tee. He chuckled when it was suggested he was a placekicker among linemen paired with Stolpe and Jamie Sadlowski, who won back-to-back RE/MAX World Long Drive titles in 2008 and '09 and was 7-under through 14 holes before fading to a 70.
"It was a fun day to be, by far, the shortest player in the group," Johnson said. "I'm like 'I'm hitting first (from the fairway) all day.' You have to check your ego at the door when that happens; just accept it. I'm going to hit my driver the same distance as Sadlowski's driving iron. That's how golf goes."
None of the four Wisconsin golfers was immune from golf's highs and lows.
Johnson and Woltman got the worst of it on the par-4 fifth hole, each making a double-bogey. Johnson hit his second shot into a green-side hazard, left his third shot in it, blasted his fourth shot over the green into a bunker and scrambled to make 6 with a 4½-foot putt. Woltman's woes came off the tee, where his drive down the left side kicked into a hazard and forced the former University of Wisconsin golfer to punch out, chip on and two-putt for his 6
"We were talking about it later; we've never stepped up on that tee and played it into the wind," Woltman said. "It's always off the right and all three of us (in his group) hit poor tee shots. Mine just scooted into the hazard and then I had to pitch out sideways because I had no shot from where I was.
"It's frustrating that the ending result is 1-over-par, but in four rounds you know you're not going to have your 'A' game all four rounds. Hopefully, this was the bad one and I got it out of the way. If I have three solid days, I should be in a good spot."
As for Niebrugge, who finished 145th on the Web.com Tour money list with $18,135 in 10 events and 14th in Canada with CAD$46,623 in five starts, his round was one shot off his season low and one back of Utah's Dusty Fielding.
"I've been playing great golf," Niebrugge said. "I'm just looking forward to keeping it rolling."
Photos: Wisconsin quartet converges on California for Round 1 of Stage 2 of Web.com Tour Qualifying School
The quest for one of 18 spots in the final stage of Web.com Tour Qualifying School began Tuesday for Wisconsin golfers Jordan Niebrugge of Mequon (66), Neil Johnson of River Falls (72), Patrick Stolpe of Oostburg (72) and Dan Woltman of Beaver Dam (73). Here are pictures from their opening rounds.
|IN CONTENTION - Qualifiers: 18 Alternates: 0|
|1||Dusty Fielding Richfield, UT||-7||F||-7||65||65|
|T2||Jordan Niebrugge Mequon, WI||-6||F *||-6||66||66|
|T2||Manav Shah Bakersfield, CA||-6||F||-6||66||66|
|T4||John Oda Las Vegas, NV||-4||F *||-4||68||68|
|T4||MJ Maguire St. Petersburg, FL||-4||F||-4||68||68|
|T4||Brett Coletta Australia||-4||F||-4||68||68|
|T4||Armando Favela Chula Vista, CA||-4||F *||-4||68||68|
|T4||David Gazzolo Riverside, CA||-4||F||-4||68||68|
|T4||Yikeun Chang Hacienda Heights, CA||-4||F *||-4||68||68|
|T10||Brock Mackenzie Scottsdale, AZ||-3||F||-3||69||69|
|T10||Andres Gonzales Lakewood, WA||-3||F||-3||69||69|
|T10||Steven Alker Fountain Hills, AZ||-3||F *||-3||69||69|
|T10||J. Creel Cheyenne, WY||-3||F *||-3||69||69|
|T10||Lorens Chan Los Angeles, CA||-3||F||-3||69||69|
|T10||Norman Xiong Las Vegas, NV||-3||F||-3||69||69|
|T16||Jimmy Gunn Mesa, AZ||-2||F||-2||70||70|
|T16||Jamie Sadlowski Canada||-2||F||-2||70||70|
|T16||Seann Harlingten Canada||-2||F||-2||70||70|
|T16||S.J. Park La Habra, CA||-2||F *||-2||70||70|
|NOT CURRENTLY IN CONTENTION|
|T20||Riley Wheeldon Canada||-1||F *||-1||71||71|
|T20||Mark Hensby Scottsdale, AZ||-1||F||-1||71||71|
|T20||Harrison Endycott Australia||-1||F||-1||71||71|
|T20||Richard Lee Phoenix, AZ||-1||F *||-1||71||71|
|T20||Curtis Yonke Olathe, KS||-1||F *||-1||71||71|
|T20||Justin Keiley Haiku, HI||-1||F *||-1||71||71|
|T20||Jonny Baxter Pleasanton, CA||-1||F *||-1||71||71|
|T20||Johnny Ruiz Camarillo, CA||-1||F *||-1||71||71|
|T20||Zach Foushee Lake Oswego, OR||-1||F *||-1||71||71|
|T20||Matt Campbell Clifton Park, NY||-1||F *||-1||71||71|
|T30||Cody Blick Alamo, CA||E||F *||E||72||72|
|T30||Benjamin Alvarado Chile||E||F *||E||72||72|
|T30||Timothy Madigan Las Cruces, NM||E||F||E||72||72|
|T30||Yannik Paul Phoenix, AZ||E||F||E||72||72|
|T30||Redford Bobbitt Las Vegas, NV||E||F||E||72||72|
|T30||Zane Thomas Las Vegas, NV||E||F *||E||72||72|
|T30||Patrick Stolpe Oostburg, WI||E||F||E||72||72|
|T30||Neil Johnson River Falls, WI||E||F||E||72||72|
|T30||Zahkai Brown Golden, CO||E||F *||E||72||72|
|T30||Byron Meth Tempa, AZ||E||F *||E||72||72|
|T30||Mathias Dahl Sweden||E||F *||E||72||72|
|T41||Chris Williams Moscow, ID||+1||F||+1||73||73|
|T41||Steve Allan Scottsdale, AZ||+1||F *||+1||73||73|
|T41||Benjamin Campbell New Zealand||+1||F *||+1||73||73|
|T41||David Mathis Wake Forest, NC||+1||F *||+1||73||73|
|T41||Ted Purdy Phoenix, AZ||+1||F||+1||73||73|
|T41||Daniel Woltman Beaver Dam, WI||+1||F *||+1||73||73|
|T41||Edward Olson Aptos, CA||+1||F||+1||73||73|
|T48||Nick Flanagan San Antonio, TX||+2||F||+2||74||74|
|T48||Chris Killmer Bellingham, WA||+2||F *||+2||74||74|
|T48||Sebastian Saavedra Argentina||+2||F||+2||74||74|
|T48||Kaleb Gorbahn Reno, NV||+2||F *||+2||74||74|
|T48||Ryan Williams Phoenix, AZ||+2||F *||+2||74||74|
|T48||Eric McCardle Las Vegas, NV||+2||F *||+2||74||74|
|T54||Skyler Finnell Carmel, CA||+3||F *||+3||75||75|
|T54||Brad Adamonis Coral Springs, FL||+3||F||+3||75||75|
|T54||Blair Hamilton Canada||+3||F *||+3||75||75|
|T54||Alex Franklin San Rafael, CA||+3||F||+3||75||75|
|T54||Jay Hwang Fullerton, CA||+3||F *||+3||75||75|
|T54||Andre Metzger Scottsdale, AZ||+3||F||+3||75||75|
|60||Bart George Arnold, MD||+4||F *||+4||76||76|
|T61||Jin Zhang Temecula, CA||+5||F||+5||77||77|
|T61||Juan Diego Fernandez Paradise Valley, AZ||+5||F||+5||77||77|
|T61||Alex Springer Stilwell, KS||+5||F||+5||77||77|
|T61||Ben Geyer Arbuckle, CA||+5||F *||+5||77||77|
|T65||Myles Lewis New Orleans, LA||+6||F||+6||78||78|
|T65||Denzel Ieremia (a) Ames, IA||+6||F *||+6||78||78|
|T65||Robbie Greenwell Canada||+6||F *||+6||78||78|
|T68||Michael Putnam University Place, WA||+7||F||+7||79||79|
|T68||Nahum Mendoza III Chula Vista, CA||+7||F||+7||79||79|
|70||Jonathan Sanders Chatsworth, CA||+9||F||+9||81||81|
|71||Rhett Rasmussen (a) Draper, UT||+10||F||+10||82||82|