The weather-delayed final match of the Western Amateur will resume Monday, and the remaining 10 holes should have significant ramifications for the upcoming Walker Cup.
The scheduled 18-hole final between Sean Dale and Jordan Niebrugge has twice been delayed by weather, and it is scheduled to resume at 8 a.m. ET Monday at the Alotian Club in Roland, Ark.
The Western Amateur is arguably the most grueling test in amateur golf. It boasts the strongest field, and after four rounds of stroke-play qualifying, the low 16 players must navigate two matches on both Saturday and Sunday.
In the opening round, Dale, who graduated from North Florida in May, knocked off medalist Patrick Rodgers, who already has been named to the U.S. Walker Cup team. After that, the 23-year-old Dale scored 2-up victories over Texas A&M’s Ty Dunlap and Texas’ Kramer Hickok.
The road to the final has been no less arduous for Niebrugge, a rising sophomore at Oklahoma State. First he knocked off Cowboys teammate Talor Gooch, followed by victories over Georgia Tech’s Seth Reeves and a hard-fought, 1-up win over Arkansas’ Sebastian Cappelen, when Niebrugge won the final two holes to advance to the final match.
The winner Monday will have the inside track to one of the three remaining Walker Cup spots. Five players have already been named to the team (Michael Kim, Max Homa, Justin Thomas, Cory Whitsett and Rodgers) and two spots are reserved for mid-am players.
Niebrugge, who turned 20 on Sunday, wasn’t even on captain Jim Holtgrieve’s radar before this summer, but he’s been hard to ignore after picking up consecutive match-play victories at the Wisconsin Amateur and U.S. Amateur Public Links. He sat next to Holtgrieve at a dinner Friday night in Arkansas, presumably to get to know each other.
Though the selection committee obviously favors players who win USGA titles, the Publinx victory alone doesn’t guarantee Niebrugge a spot on the team. In fact, in 2011, Corbin Mills won both the Players Amateur and the Publinx but was left off the uber-talented squad.
Dale also is in need of a victory to bolster his resume. He was a standout performer at North Florida, and he captured the prestigious Jones Cup at the beginning of the year. He went 2-1-1 at the Palmer Cup, tied for seventh at the Players Amateur, and now, after he delayed turning pro to try and make the Walker Cup team, has reached the finals of the Western Am.
The U.S. Amateur champion is virtually assured of a spot on the team, and Niebrugge, Dale, Alabama senior Bobby Wyatt and Cal's Michael Weaver are among the players vying for the remaining berths.
Monday’s resumption of play should help clear up the hazy picture.