Niebrugge Wins U.S. Amateur Public Links

Jordan Niebrugge defeated Michael Kim, 1-up, to win the 2013 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. The 19-year-old Niebrugge, a native of Mequon, Wis., vanquished Kim - the second-ranked amateur in the world - in the 36-hole final Saturday at Laurel Hill Golf Club in Lorton, Va.

The championship was a back-and-forth affair, with Niebrugge taking a 1-up lead through 18 holes. The sophomore at Oklahoma State went 3-up following a 17-foot birdie putt on the 23rd hole and took his lead to four at the 26th.

But Kim battled back, carding a birdie on the par-5 ninth hole (the 27th of the match) and another birdie on the par-4 12th to reduce the lead to two. When Niebrugge bogeyed the par-4 13th to Kim's par, his lead was reduced to one.

From there on out, though, the two players matched scores - including both carding birdies on the par-5 15th (the 33rd hole), with Niebrugge eking out the win by the slimmest of margins.

"That was a huge hole for me after he made birdie," said Niebrugge of his final birdie on 15. "I think that was kind of the momentum swing. If I would have missed it, we would have been [all-square] going into the last three holes and anything could have happened after that."

Kim tipped his cap to the champion. "Jordan played great," said the 20-year-old Cal player who was one of five players named to the 2013 USA Walker Cup Team on Wednesday.

"He only made one bogey in 36 holes, so I knew I had to make birdies to win holes and just fell one or two short. These USGA events are as much a physical grind as testing your golf game. I just have to keep improving and we'll see what happens next year."

Niebrugge understood he faced a formidable opponent in the championship match, but maintained the same strategy he had used successfully throughout the week. "Going into today I was really focused on playing the course like I had all week," he said.

"Obviously [Kim] is a great player with great achievements, but I didn't really look at who I was playing because I felt like I was hitting it good enough to stay with anybody."

The victory entitles Niebrugge to exemptions into the next two U.S. Amateurs, if he remains an amateur, and a three-year exemption from local U.S. Open qualifying. He is also likely to receive an invitation to the 2014 Masters. Kim is exempt into next month's U.S. Amateur at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., and he receives an exemption out of local qualifying for the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst. Both players will receive an exemption into next year's APL at Sand Creek Station Golf Course in Newton, Kan. - the final year of the championship.

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