A pair of trends in Georgia amateur golf continued in 2019, one at the state level and another in a national championship.
The national story involved Alpharetta’s Bob Royak, who became the second Georgia senior to claim a USGA title over the past decade, capturing the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship in Durham, N.C.
Royak’s victory was the 13thin a USGA championship over the past 40 years by a Georgia golfer, including two U.S. Amateur titles by members of the Georgia Tech golf team, the second last year by Andy Ogletree, also in North Carolina at Pinehurst.
For the fifth time in the past decade, the son of a Georgia Golf Hall of Fame member took home the biggest title in Georgia amateur golf, as Jonathan Keppler captured the GSGA Championship at Ansley Golf Club’s Settindown Creek.
Keppler, the son of long time Marietta Country Club Director of Golf Stephen Keppler, joins 2015 Georgia Amateur champion Dru Love(son of DavisLove), 2014 winner Robert Mize (son of Larry Mize) and 2010 and ’12 champion Lee Knox, the son of career amateur Jeff Knox.
Prior to the victory in 2010 by Lee Knox at the Landings in Savannah, the previous decade had been dominated by current or former U. of Georgia golf team members, who captured six straight Georgia Amateur titles from 2004-09. Among that group were future PGA Tour multiple winners Brian Harman (2005), Harris English (2007) and Russell Henley (2008 and ’09).
No Bulldog has won a Georgia Amateur since, and none of the past 10 winners have enjoyed professional success to match that of the UGA trio who won the event just prior to enrolling in Athens or early in their college careers.
The 2020 Georgia Amateur will be played at one of the state’s highest profile private clubs, with Atlanta Athletic Club hosting the tournament July 9-12. The last time AAC was the site of the Georgia Amateur was 1995, with that year’s championship played on the Riverside course.
This year’s GSGA Championship will be played on the Highlands course, which has hosted the 1976 U.S. Open, three PGA Championships and the 2014 U.S. Amateur Championship, and will be the site of an LPGA major in 2021. The Riverside course co-hosted the 2014 U.S. Amateur and was the course used for the 1990 U.S. Women’s Open.
One thing that has been constant in the Georgia Amateur for most of the past two decades has been the dominance of the event by college and soon-to-be collegiate players. Since Dalton’s David Noll scored the first of his two victories in 2003, only one other mid-amateur has claimed the title – ex-Bulldog Bill Brown in 2006. Noll’s win at Pinetree in 2011 was the last for a mid-am in the championship.
The Georgia Amateur highlights the GSGA’s 2020 schedule, with the first big event the Four-Ball Championship April 24-26 at CC of Columbus. The event has had an array of winners over the past 15 years, with the only multiple champions in that stretch the Columbus duo of Will Fober and Cason Hammock(2011 and ’15).
The other major Spring event is the Mid-Am Championship, scheduled for May 15-17 at Brunswick CC. Noll won the event for a fourth time last year at the River Cub, and has been the state’s top amateur for almost two decades, earning Men’s Player of the Year for the 10thtime in 2019. His first nine titles came between 2003 and ’14. He will be among the 2020 inductees into the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame.
Other top men’s GSGA events this year are the Match Play Championship August 3-6 at the recently renovated and renamed McLemore Club (formerly Canyon Ridge) in the northwest corner of the state, and the Public Links Championship at Chateau Elan Sept. 12-13.
Senior events on the schedule begin with the Match Play April 14-17 at Savannah Quarters. The Super Senior Championship will be played Aug. 3-4 at Doublegate with the Senior Championship Aug. 17-19 at the Standard Club. Royak won the 2019 GSGA Senior at Cherokee Town & CC for the second time in three years , leading to his second straight Tommy Barnes Award as the overall Player of the Year for the GSGA and a third straight Senior Player of the Year honor. Royal also won the 2018 Georgia Senior Open.
The 2020 GSGA women’s schedule begins May 27-30 with the Match Play and Senior Women’s Match Play at River Forest. The Top 60 event is set for June 15-16 at Barnsley Resort, with the GWGA Championship heading to the Landings in Savannah July 19-21. The Senior Women’s Championship will be played Aug. 20-21 at Sunset Hills.
The Junior and Girls Championships are scheduled for June 22-24 in Savannah, with the girls playing at Savannah Quarters and the boys at Savannah GC. The Junior and Girls Match Play titles will be decided July 1-3 at the UGA course.
The GSGA will also host qualifiers for USGA Championships, beginning with a U.S. Women’s Open qualifier May 4 at Dunwoody CC. Other women’s qualifiers include the Senior Open at Atlanta CC June 2, the Women’s Am at Cobblestone July 6, the Mid-Am at Rivermont July 16 and the Senior Am Aug. 11 at Druid Hills GC.
Georgia’s two men’s local qualifiers for the U.S. Open are set for May 6 at Marietta CC and May 11 at Eagle’s Landing, with the Sectional qualifier June 8 at Settindown Creek. Cherokee Town & CC will host a Senior Open qualifier May 12, with the Senior Am qualifier set for Aug. 10 at Pinetree.
U.S. Am qualifiers are scheduled for July 14-15 at Rivermont and July 21-22 at the Legends at Chateau Elan, with the Mid-Am Aug. 24 at St. Ives.
Coosa CC will host a U.S. Girls qualifier June 18, with the U.S. Junior qualifier June 29 at the UGA course.
The 2020 GSGA season begins with the Mixed Team Championship March 8-9 at the King & Prince Resort. The Women’s Team will be played Sept. 13-14 at Osprey Cove, with the Senior and Super Senior 4-Ball in Statesboro Nov. 11-13. The Seniors will play at the Georgia Southern GC and the Super Seniors will tee it up at Forest Heights.
Other late-season events include qualifiers for the USGA 4-Ball (Oct. 5 at Berkeley Hills) and Women’s 4-Ball (Oct. 22 at CC of Roswell). The Tournament of Champions is scheduled for Nov. 1-2 at Currahee, with the Interclub Matches wrapping up the 2020 schedule Nov. 16-17 at the River Club.
The biennial Peters Cup, which pits the state’s top amateurs against a team from the Georgia PGA, is scheduled for Oct. 11-12 at aside to be determined.