Marietta’s Jonathan Keppler said he got nervous a couple of times on Sunday during the final round of the 98th Georgia Amateur. Any jitters were never visible, though, as he rolled to a three-shot victory at Ansley Golf Club – Settindown Creek in Roswell.
Keppler shot a 3-over 73 to finish at 7-under 281, securing a three-shot win over Timothy Schaetzel of Atlanta, who closed with a 70. Ben Carr of Columbus finished with a 76 and in third place at 2-under 286. Keppler became the first player from Cobb County win the Georgia Am since Bill Bergin in 1981.
“I was nervous before the round and about the 12th hole, I could feel them coming back around, but I held on,” Keppler said. “I played alright. I did what I needed to do. That’s all I could ask for.”
Keppler is the son of Stephen Keppler, the PGA professional at Marietta County Club. Keppler represented England on the 1983 Walker Cup team, has competed in four PGA Championships and nearly won the 1995 BellSouth Classic at Atlanta Country Club. Keppler, a member of the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame, was there with wife Karen to greet their son as he walked to the scoring area.
The young Keppler just finished his career at Florida State and has decided to turn professional later this season rather than return to school for a redshirt season. He will try to qualify for the U.S. Amateur and has an exemption into the Georgia Open in August before entering the PGA Tour Q-School.
Spencer Ball of Suwanee, a senior at Mercer, and Nicolas Cassidy of Alpharetta, a redshirt junior at Georgia, tied for fourth at 1-under 287. Ball shot 75 and Cassidy shot 74 on Sunday. Defending champion Brett Barron of Suwanee tied for 17th at 7-over 295.
Scoring conditions were difficult again. Only five players broke par. Chip Thompson of Thomasville matched Schaetzel for the day’s low round (70) and moved into sixth place at even-par 288.
Keppler began the day with a two-shot lead over Carr and a four-shot advantage of Grant Crowell of Athens, at senior at North Georgia, and Ball. But Crowell took himself out of contention with a nine on the fourth hole and Ball’s round went the wrong way with a triple bogey on the fifth hole.
That left Keppler and Carr, a sophomore at Georgia Southern, in a virtual match-play scenario. Carr drew to within one shot after making birdie at No. 4, but could never get closer.
Keppler regained his two-shot lead with a six-foot birdie at No. 6 and played perhaps his best shot of the day when he saved par at No. 7. Keppler’s tee shot flew the green and left with a skittish pitch to a short-sided hole location, which he somehow got up-and-down for par.
The lead stretched to three shots when Carr bogeyed the 10th hole and Keppler led by four after Carr made a bogey at No. 12. From that point Keppler was just trying to avoid making a big number.
. “I was trying not to get too far ahead of myself, but once I hit the green on 18, I felt I had it wrapped up,” Keppler said.
Schaetzel, 33, was exempt into the tournament because he was the club champion from the host club. He played college golf at Michigan and played professional golf until 2012, when he took five years off – playing maybe one a year, he said – before regaining his amateur status in 2017. He birdied the final four holes after changing his strategy.
“I told my caddie, ‘It’s out there, let’s start turning up the aggressiveness a little,’” Schaetzel said. “I made some putts that lipped out earlier in the day and that made the difference.”
Keppler became the third son of a prominent PGA player to win the Georgia Amateur over the last five years. Dru Love, son of Davis Love III, won the title in 2015 and Robert Mize, son of Larry Mize, won it in 2014.