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Native sons Stricker, Niebrugge perform well in Wisconsin

Loving the home cooking

ERIN, Wis. – When Steve Stricker was in his mid-40s and cutting back on his PGA Tour schedule, it seemed his days of qualifying for and playing in major championships were nearing an end.

Maybe he was just getting warmed up.

Stricker, 50, a native of Madison, Wis., shot a final-round 69 on Sunday and finished in a tie for 16th place in the U.S. Open.

That came on the heels of a tie for 16th in the Masters in April. And last July, he tied for fourth in the British Open.

How long can he keep this up?

“As long as I can get in them, I’ll play them,” Stricker said of the majors. “This one was a challenge to get in [through sectional qualifying]. But I’m in the British, and if I keep playing well enough I’ll be in the PGA. So I’m excited about playing in all four of them this year.”

Stricker’s wife, Nicki, who caddied for him at Erin Hills, said there was no reason for her husband to stop playing in majors.

“It’s just so simple, what he does, how he does it, how he goes about it,” she said. “If he stays healthy, yeah, I think he will keep playing in these. He putts well. He can get it around.”

Meanwhile, the other Wisconsin player in the U.S. Open field, 23-year-old Jordan Niebrugge of Mequon, is just starting his professional career, but already has played in four majors.

Niebrugge birdied three of the last five holes Sunday, shot a 1-under 71 and finished in a tie for 35th. He tied for sixth in the 2015 British Open as an amateur, and also played in the 2014 Masters and the 2016 British Open as an amateur.

“I didn’t hit it as good as I’d like to,” he said. “But I still was able to make the cut and manage my game pretty well. And I ended up being only 1-over [289] 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.”

This week, Stricker will play in the American Family Insurance Championship, a PGA Tour Champions event he hosts at University Ridge in Madison, Wis.

“I’d love to play well and see if I can’t win one on the Champions tour,” he said. “But it’s a totally different feel and atmosphere than what I just did here this week.”

Niebrugge will play this week in the Lincoln Land Charity Classic, a Tour event in Springfield, Ill. He received a sponsor’s exemption. He also has exempt status on the PGA Tour-sanctioned Mackenzie Tour-Canada.

His caddie, Austin Gaugert of Lake Geneva, Wis., thinks Niebrugge has what it takes to make it to the PGA Tour.

“I would think so,” Gaugert said. “He’s a very hard worker, and that’s probably the thing that I admire the most about him. He’s really in tune with where his game is at, and he knows what he’s got to work on.

“He’s one of the nicest kids I’ve ever met. I’m surprised he hangs out with me.”

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