Two U.S. Open local qualifiers were played recently in metro Atlanta, with Georgia golfers taking most of the available spots in sectionals from both of them.
In the first U.S. Open local qualifier of 2019, golfers with Georgia ties captured seven of eight available spots at Marietta CC.
Recent Georgia State golfer Max Herrmann shot 4-under 66 to share medalist honors with current Clemson golfer Bryson Nimmer, as amateurs earned six of the eight spots.
Taking third at 67 was Gainesville’s Spencer Ralston, one of the top players on UGA’s golf team. Ralston locked up his spot among the eight qualifiers with birdies on the 17th and 18th holes.
Tying for fourth at 68 were four golfers, including Florida State team member Jonathan Keppler, the son of Marietta CC Director Golf Stephen Keppler, who shot a 70 to narrowly miss joining his son at Sectionals. Jonathan had a wild final nine holes, scoring birdies at 11, 12 and 13 before making bogey at holes 14, 16 and 17. A birdie at the 18th enabled him to avoid a playoff.
Also shooting 68 were tour pros J.T. Griffin of Marietta and Ryan Elmore of Dunwoody. Griffin, a Web.com Tour member who played in college at Georgia Tech, birdied four of his last six holes to advance. Elmore, who played at Berry College and competed last year on the Canadian Tour, birdied two of his last six holes. Amateur Stephen Behr of Atlanta, a South Carolina native who played at Clemson, was the fourth player at 68.
Six players tied for the last available spot at 69, with Georgia State golfer David Li advancing in a playoff. Jacob Tilton, an assistant at Ansley GC, is the first alternate and high school golfer Parker Rostowsky of Kennesaw is the second alternate.
Also shooting 69 were Atlanta mid-amateur West Strieb and Carrollton’s Tyler Lipscomb, an Alabama signee.
Missing the playoff by one shot along with the elder Keppler were Warner Robins’ Ben Kishigian, Barrett Waters of Dallas, Dacula’s SM Lee, Sung An of Lawrenceville and recent Georgia State golfer Alex Herrmann, Max’s brother. A second U.S. Open local qualifier in the state was played at Whitewater Creek in Fayetteville, with Georgia golfers claiming six of the eight spots in sectionals.
Taking medalist honors with a 4-under 67 was Georgia Tech signee Andy Mao from Johns Creek High School. Mao went out in 4-under 32 and birdied the 17th and 18th holes to finish first in the qualifier.
Tying for second at 68 was Villa Rica’s Austin Fulton, a member of the golf team at Mississippi State, and former UNC golfer Ben Griffin, now a tour player living on St. Simons Island. Three golfers tied for fourth at 69, including high school golfer Lindsey Cordell of Rome, who rebounded from a double bogey on the opening hole to birdie five holes on the back nine for a 31. The other two players at 69 were a pair of Floridians.
Five players tied for seventh at 70, with recent Kennesaw State golfer Chris Guglielmo of Cumming and Atlanta Athletic Club assistant Jordan Walor both making birdies on the first extra hole the morning after inclement weather halted play late in the previous afternoon. An eagle on the par-5 18th, his ninth hole of the qualifier, helped Walor survive a bogey on his final hole.
The first alternate is St. Simons’ Scott Wolfes, a former standout at Georgia Southern who is playing professionally. Mini-tour pro Zach Caldwell of Sandy Springs also shot 70 and is second alternate.
Among the players missing the playoff for the last spots by one shot were UGA teammates Davis Thompson of St. Simons and Will Kahlstorf of Watkinsville, along with recent UGA golfer Zach Healy of Peachtree Corners. Healy carded four straight birdies to close out his front nine in 3-under, but did not make a birdie on the back. Also missing the playoff by a shot was former Georgia State golfer J.J. Grey.
Qualifiers at sites outside Georgia included:
Georgia Tech golfer Tyler Strafaci, co-medalist in Plantation, Fla., with a 66; former SEC football player Kane Whitehurst of Johns Creek, the co-medalist in Watersound, Fla.; Valdosta’s Sam Straka, an ex-UGA golfer, in a playoff in Ponte Vedra, Fla.; Cordele native and former Georgia Southern golfer Spence Fulford in Winter Haven, Fla., also in a playoff.
Atlanta’s Keller Harper, who plays collegiately at Furman, shot 66 to earn medalist honors in Columbia, S.C. Milton’s Ryan Stachler, who plays at South Carolina, lost a playoff after shooting 69 and is first alternate. Recent Georgia Tech golfer Chris Petefish, who is living in Cumming, shot 67 to tie for first in Jackson, Tenn. Jaime Lopez Rivarola, a recent member of the UGA golf team, got the fourth of four spots at the Robert Trent Jones Trail Silver Lakes course in Glencoe, Ala. Keith Guest of Athens shot 66 in a qualifier in Knoxville and tied for second.
Alpharetta’s Chandler Eaton, one of the top players on the golf team at Duke, barely advanced from a qualifier on his college course in Durham, N.C., getting the last of two playoff spots. Former Kennesaw State golfer Matt Nagy of Buena Vista competed in a qualifier in Pennsylvania and shot 68 to earn the only available spot at sectionals.
On the final day of qualifying, Savannah tour pro Mark Silvers tied for third in a qualifier at nearby Colleton River in Bluffton, S.C., but lost a 4-for-2 spots playoff and is the second alternate. Dave Bahr, a former pro at Cherokee Town & CC, shared medalist honors in a qualifier in Cincinnati, where he is a head pro in the area.
Sectional qualifying begins May 20 in Dallas, prior to the PGA Tour stop at Colonial later that week. Other than a European qualifier in Japan May 27, the other sectional qualifiers will be played June 3.
Most of the Georgia’s local qualifiers will compete in the sectional at Hawk’s Ridge in Ball Ground, but there are also qualifiers in Florida and the Washington, D.C., area. Many of the state’s PGA Tour members will play in a qualifier Columbus, Ohio, following the Memorial Tournament. There is also a second Ohio qualifier in Springfield.
With the changes to the PGA Tour schedule this year, the tournament preceding the U.S. Open is now the Canadian Open, and a qualifier near the site of that tournament will be played earlier that week in Canada.
Players competing on the Web.com Tour will likely choose between the qualifiers in Atlanta and the D.C. area, as they are playing the day before in Raleigh, N.C., and later that week in Greenville, S.C. There is also a sectional qualifier in New York and two on the West Coast.
The USGA also held recent qualifiers in the state for the U.S. Women’s Open and the U.S. Senior Open. Recent Duke All-American Leona Maguire was one of two golfers to qualify for the Women’s Open, shooting 10-under 134 at Druid Hills GC to place second, one shot behind a golfer form the Philippines. Maguire, one of the top players on the Symetra Tour, lost in a playoff on that tour later that week at Atlanta National.
The low finishers among the Georgia contingent include a trio of golfers who also competed in the Symetra event at Atlanta National. Newnan’s Jean Reynolds, Alpharetta’s Amira Alexander and Ji Eun Baik of Cumming tied for 16th at 144 along with Mercer golfer Payton Schanen of Alpharetta.
Jessica Welch of Thomasville, who also competed in the Symetra tournament at Atlanta National, tied for second in a qualifier in Ocala, Fla., but lost a playoff and is first alternate.
Players from the Champions Tour claimed all five available spots from a U.S. Senior Open qualifier at Green Island in Columbus, which once hosted a Champions Tour event. Former UGA golfer Tommy Tolles, a Champions Tour member, tied for third at 68, but lost a 5-for-3 playoff and is the second alternate.
Stephen Keppler missed the playoff by a shot at 69, with former Champions Tour player Joe Inman of Marietta shooting a 71. Most of the Georgia PGA’s top senior players competed in the qualifier along with Keppler, with James Mason shooting 71, and Craig Stevens (72) and Sonny Skinner (74) also failing to qualify.
Five golfers from Georgia earned spots in qualifying for this week’s Web.com Tour event in Knoxville, four of whom previously advanced in U.S. Open qualifying.
Former Georgia Tech golfer J.T. Griffin of Marietta, who has status on the Web.com Tour, was the medalist in a qualifier at Oak Ridge with a 63. Chris Petefish, also an ex-Tech golfer living in Cumming, tied for second at 65 and advanced in a 6-for-5 playoff.
Kane Whitehurst of Johns Creek tied for first in the Knoxville qualifier at Three Ridges with a 67, while Alpharetta’s Anthony Maccaglia, who played in college at Oglethorpe, and amateur Jonathan Keppler of Marietta, a member of the Florida State golf team, shot 68 and advanced from a 5-for-4 playoff.