The Kennesaw Mountain standout settled for a 4-over par 75 on Tuesday in the first round of the U.S. Amateur qualifier at Piedmont Driving Club in Atlanta.
The top five finishers after today’s round will advance to the U.S. Amateur, set for next month at Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek. This is the first of two Georgia qualifiers, with the second set for next week in Eatonton.
Whoever makes it out of the qualifiers will join one Cobb County native who’s already assured himself of a place in the U.S. Amateur. Former Harrison star Ollie Schniederjans, the leader of the Georgia Tech golf team, is in the field as the No. 1 amateur in the world.
Five birdies on the back nine put Atlanta’s Chris Waters on top of the leaderboard with a 65. Savannah’s Joe Lewis, a rising senior at Mississippi, is second with a 66, going bogey-free and making five birdies during his round.
Canton’s Justin Johnson and Peachtree Corners’ Zach Healy, an incoming Georgia player, both shot 67 and were tied for third.
Although the final score didn’t go his way, Keppler wasn’t concerned with the way he hit the ball Tuesday, but he’ll likely need to shoot low today just to stand a chance.
“I played really well. I just didn’t score very well,” Keppler said. “I’m excited about (today). I would have to shoot a 63 or a 64, but I think I can do it.”
Starting on the back nine, Keppler fared well, birdieing No. 12. Then, the numbers on his scorecard started to rise, with a double bogey on 16, and he continued digging a hole for himself 17 with a bogey on 17 and two more on 1 and 5.
Keppler’s birdie on No. 8 was offset by a bogey on 9 to end his round.
“I got a bad break on 16 when my ball hit the wood plank around the green and kicked into the hazard.” he said.
Kennesaw resident Tevis Upton, a former college player golf at Valdosta State, has a shot of finishing in the top five, tied for 10th at 69. Upton finished strong, birdieing three of his final five holes, and that could be enough momentum for a successful final round.
Marietta resident Brandon Johnson overcame a double bogey on his first hole to finish with an even-71. Starting on the back nine, birdies on 12 and 13 made up for his troubles on 10. He also got off to a strong start on the front nine with birdies on 1 and 3.
Mableton resident Brian Katrek made the cut with a 74. Marietta resident Scott Davenport matched Keppler with a 75, while former Lassiter golfer Max Weyrick and Josh Nelson, the son of Cobb County native Golf Hall of Famer Larry Nelson, both survived at 76.
There were a few local players who weren’t as fortunate.
Former Whitefield Academy golfer Anders Olsson came up short with a 78, while Walker’s Barrett Kulic and former Mount Paran Christian star Jacob Young shot 79. Zack Weld of Marietta fired 84, Kennesaw’s Brett Edell also shot 84 and fellow Kennesaw resident Hunter Davis shot 85.