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EAST PROVIDENCE â€“ Stewart Jolly admitted he had a tremendously difficult decision to make earlier this spring.
Do I travel with my teammates to the prestigious Palmer Cup, or do I keep my word and compete in the Northeast Amateur Invitational?
He struggled with which way to go for days, England or southeastern New England, he said, but the 21-year-old senior-to-be at Louisiana State University couldn't have been happier with the choice at about 3:20 p.m., Saturday.
After pummeling the pristine Wannamoisett Country Club's par-69 links the previous three days with under-par rounds, he fired an â€śOKâ€ť 71 on this final day to finish at two-under 274. In the process, he edged Oklahoma State University sophomore Jordan Niebrugge (pronounced NEE-briggy) by two strokes.
With a 72 on this day, Niebrugge, a native of Mequon, Wis., closed at even par. The next closest four-day score? Three-over 279, and four achieved it.
â€śI was contemplating on going to England for the Palmer Cup, but I felt like I had already made the commitment here, so this was where I was going,â€ť grinned Jolly, from Birmingham, Ala., before the ceremony, where Northeast Amateur tournament officials gathered on the first tee to present him with the coveted navy-blue jacket and crystal trophy.
â€śObviously, it looks like a pretty good decision now,â€ť he added with a laugh. â€śThere are a lot of great players out here at this event, so winning it is a huge bonus.â€ť
He later explained he would fly to England this morning for the Palmer Cup, the namesake event for PGA Tour legend Arnold Palmer. The tourney, one in which 10 of the United States' top collegians face off against a team of Europe's best, is slated to begin at Walton Heath Golf Club in Surrey on June 26.
â€śThat's going to be a thrill, too,â€ť he stated.
Jolly acknowledged his last round at Wannamoisett could've been better. He had entered the back nine at five-under and with a three-shot cushion, though he and Niebrugge both bogeyed the 453-yard, par-four ninth.
The LSU product, however, rolled in a 30-footer for birdie on the 421-yard 10th while Niebrugge parred, and, suddenly, he had attained a four-stroke advantage â€“ Jolly at five-under, his foe a mere one-under.
When Jolly's game began to lapse a bit, Niebrugge took advantage. On the par-four 11th, the OSU Cowboy pitched to within 12 feet and sank it for bird, while Jolly three-putted for bogey. That two-shot swing brought him to within two.
They both parred the par-three, â€śbowl-holeâ€ť 12th (so named for the curvaceous â€śhalf-pipeâ€ť green), but Niebrugge managed a par four on the straightaway 13th, considered the third-easiest on the course handicap-wise, and Jolly bogeyed after missing perhaps a four-footer.
That left Niebrugge just a stroke behind at two-under par.
Disaster struck the leader at the dogleg-right 14th; he flew a long iron into the right-side lake protecting the green. Niebrugge, who had hit first, knocked his drive over a mound and behind a maple tree about 35 yards from the green.
Jolly came up with a fine shot from the drop area, one landing perhaps 17 feet to the right of the cup. Niebrugge could only answer with a low poke that landed in the fairway about 20 yards from the hole (it slowed down significantly after catching the thick rough). Still, both two-putted for bogey, and Jolly left that green only two-under and one better than his playing partner.
â€śI hit a pretty terrible shot off the tee,â€ť Jolly noted of his three-iron drive on No. 14. â€śI put it in the one place you can't â€“ the water. My recovery was pretty good, but then I two-putted â€¦ Obviously, I wanted to birdie the whole back nine, but I got a little nervous and lost it a bit.
â€śI had a lot of wedges in my hands, but I made three bogeys (on the 11th, 12th and 14th),â€ť he continued. â€śI just made enough shots and got it back down the stretch.â€ť
His dilemma changed on the uphill, 196-yard 15th. Jolly produced a phenomenal flyer that bounced on the green's front, rolled up and missed the cup by perhaps an inch, causing the gallery to groan, then applaud.
Niebrugge finished with an up-and-down from the right fringe, though Jolly nailed the eight-foot bender to regain the two-stroke lead at three-under.
On the slight dogleg-left, 444-yard, par-four 16th, Niebrugge outdrove his foe by 20 yards, but his approach bounded off the top left section of the green and into the rough near the fence bordering Roger Williams Avenue. His flop shot rolled past the hole by about 18 feet, and he two-putted for bogey, pushing him back to even for the tourney.
With Jolly's par, he could breathe again with the three-shot lead.
Or could he? On the par-five 17th, Niebrugge's approach drilled the pin, then caromed 90 degrees left, coming to rest against the apron-rough cut. Had he landed it, the double-eagle would have gained him a tie for the lead.
But he sculled his chip, landing it about 10 feet off the green, and two-putted for par. Jolly did the same, and â€“ despite bogeying the par-four 18th â€“ finished as the newest Northeast Amateur champion.
â€śI hit a pitching wedge on the 16th; I was caught between clubs and I just pulled it,â€ť Niebrugge offered. â€śIt shot off a little lower than I had anticipated and bounced over. That's probably what cost me â€¦ You really can't think it's over because there was the par-five left.
â€śI hit a six-iron from 210, and it hit the stick on the fly,â€ť he added of No. 17. â€śI thought I hit a perfect shot, but maybe it was too firm. On the chip, the rough was too different (in height) to blade it. I tried to chunk it up there, and it rolled off â€¦ I felt like I played a lot better than I scored. The three-putts on the eighth and ninth didn't help, either.
â€śThe drives here are manageable, except for the par-threes. I think the greens are the course's best defense. It doesn't matter how long the course is (6,732 yards); it's just tough to get it to the pins because of how firm they were. Both the approaches and the putts are hard.
â€śStill, if anybody had told me (beforehand) I'd finish second, I would've said, 'Hey, pretty good.' I took a couple of weeks off, and I was eager to get it going again. I'll take second, with so many of the top amateurs here. I guess I got (my summer) off to a pretty good start.â€ť
As for Jolly, his name fit his mood, and why not? He led the Northeast start to finish.
After collecting several laurels this spring at LSU (including All-Southeast Conference first team, not to mention PING and Golfweek All-American third team selections and the Golfweek Conference Challenge co-championship), Jolly was looking ahead.
â€śMy biggest previous wins were two tournaments in college and one this past fall; I also won the Future Masters as a junior golfer,â€ť he mentioned. â€śBut this is bigger. I played pretty well here.â€ť
He now hopes to do the same in Surrey in less than a week.
CHIP SHOTS: Easily the most hilarious story from the Northeast's final round came during Saturday's morning rounds. Clancy Waugh, who hails from North Palm Beach, Fla. and attends Wake Forest, tried to drive the green on the dogleg-right, par-four No. 16, but he couldn't find his ball.
He didn't think it fell into the right-side lake protecting the green, but instead believed it landed on an island not far from it. According to tourney officials, he took off his shirt and pants, and swam â€“ in his boxers and with a club in hand â€“ to the isle.
He couldn't find it, so stroked back to shore, and ultimately triple-bogeyed the hole.
â€śI swam out there to take a look,â€ť he told a Northeast Tournament Committee member. â€śIt was very deep, and all a little weird.â€ť
The good news for Clancy: He finished his final round at even-par 69 and finished in a tie for 23rd with a nine-over total of 185.
Four players were knotted in third place, including Chelso Barrett of Surry, N.H.; Seth Reeves of Duluth, Ga.; Scott Scheffler of Dallas, Tex. (the reigning national high school champion bound for the University of Texas later this summer); and Lee McCoy of Clarkesville, Ga. All shot 279 â€¦ Three others finished at 280 â€¦ Barrett had been three-under before sustaining a double-bogey seven and bogey-five on the final two holes on Sunday â€¦ Joe Parkinson of Alpine, Ut. managed the best final round with a three-under 66, while four others fired 67. Parkinson tied for 12th at 282.View more articles in: