Niebs- Gaugert looking at ball.jpg

Jordan Niebrugge, right, and caddie Austin Gaugert peer onto the seventh green to see where Niebrugge's chip landed during play at the U.S. Open this past summer at Erin Hills.

Wisconsin.Golf photo/Jim Kelsh

CHANDLER, Arizona -- The Devil’s Claw layout at Whirlwind GC played almost 2½ shots easier Thursday than The Cattail Course during the first round of the final stage of Tour Qualifying School and Mequon native Jordan Niebrugge took advantage of it.

The former Oklahoma State golfer shot a 3-under-par 69 on Devil’s Claw and was part of a 12-way tie for 22nd place, eight shots behind first-round leader Jose Toledo of Guatemala but just two shots outside the top 10 in a tight leaderboard after 18 holes of the 72-hole qualifier. Fifteen of the top 21 golfers played Devil’s Claw, which played to a 70.722 stroke average in the first round, while the other six played The Cattail, which played to a 73.125 average and will be the course Niebrugge plays Friday as golfers flip-flop layouts for the second round.

The medalist (or co-medalists) at the Q-School finale will be guaranteed a full exemption for the Tour for the 2018 season. Those finishing second through 10th will be exempt through the first two priority status reshuffles while Nos. 11 through 45 will be exempt through the first.

Former Marquette golfer Mike Van Sickle birdied Nos. 15 and 17 late in his round to shoot 2-over 74 on The Cattail Course. He is tied for 101st place, four shots outside the top 45.

Former Ohio State golfer Kevin Hall, with Cardinal Stritch golf coach Neal Grusczynski on the bag, shot 75 on Devil’s Claw and was tied for 109th. He had five birdies, four bogeys and two double-bogeys.

Temperatures started out in the low 50s with northerly winds between 8 and 13 mph gusting to 25 mph during the middle of the day.

That didn’t stop Niebrugge. He started on the back nine and birdied both par-5s to make the turn in 2-under 34 and, after a bogey at No. 3, birdied Nos. 5 and 8 to climb inside the top 25.