Keppler, a junior, carded a 68 over the par-72, 6,413-yard course to win medalist honors for a third straight season. Meanwhile, the Hoyas completed the round with a 302 team score to capture their 17th consecutive region championship.
“The current players don’t talk about the (region championship) streak,” Harrison coach Dennis Attaway said. “I get texts from past players and (former Harrison) coach (Billy) Peek asking about it. They want to know if it’s still alive more than these guys. I’m excited for those past players. It’s a nice way to reconnect with them.”
Harrison’s score automatically qualified it for the Class AAAAAA state tournament, which will be held May 19 at Champions Retreat Golf Club in Evans. As the individual medalist, Keppler is also guaranteed a spot at the state meet.
Harrison golfers contributing to the team score included individual runner-up Chad Barfield (71), Sam Maryland (76), Nick Bell (77) and Luke Schneiderjans (78). Matt McMahon also shot 78.
“It’s a relief that we’re going straight to state,” Attaway said. “There are a couple of weeks in there, so we’re going to play some events before that. Not having to worry about the pressure of a sectional is a good thing.”
The top four teams in the region are eligible to move on in the postseason, provided they meet the boys Class AAAAAA qualifying score of 330 or better. Region champions who achieve this mark automatically advance to the state tournament. Region champions who do not post this mark, move on to the sectional meet, which will take place May 5 at Canongate at Georgia National in McDonough.
The second through fourth place teams advance to sectionals.
Kennesaw Mountain made the sectional tournament for the second straight year after firing a 325 team score. Rounding out the list of finishers were Hillgrove (342), North Cobb (370), Campbell (374) and McEachern (387), but they all failed to advance. Marietta, South Cobb and Pebblebrook did not have enough golfers finish to post a team score.
Scores from Keppler, Zach Wilson (83), Brendan Hughes (85) and William Dawson (89) contributed to the Mustangs’ finish.
“I’m happy for Jonathan,” Kennesaw Mountain coach Chris Walker said. “He does a good job and without him, we probably don’t get into the sectional. We’re happy to keep playing and it gives us another opportunity to get to state.
“I’m a little disappointed we didn’t do better competing with Harrison. We felt like we had a better team than that. We’re capable of putting up better scores and we hope to do better at sectionals and get to state.”
Sunny skies at tee-time gave way to clouds and rain by mid-morning and Keppler navigated the changing weather pattern better than most. He shot 1-over par through his first nine holes, but rallied by shooting 5-under over the back nine.
His bogey save on the par-4 10th to go 2-over ignited a string of birdies on the 12th, 13th, 15th and 17th holes. He completed his final nine holes with an eagle on the par-5 18th, and hit the pin on the 15th falling just short of an ace.
“I made a good bogey on 10 from 10 yards out and that got my confidence back,” Keppler said. “(Schneiderjans) was playing well so that put some pressure on me too. I made long birdies on 12 and 13 and just played steady golf.
“I knew the pin on 18 was in a bowl, so I crushed my tee shot and made the fairway and then aimed for the pin. I made a 10 foot putt for eagle. At that point I knew someone had to beat me to win. I was glad I didn’t beat myself.
“This is the best year I’ve played in a while, and I’m excited about the postseason.”
Campbell’s Vitthal Parker, a senior who’s been playing golf for 10 years, fired a 78 to advance to the sectional meet as the low scorer from a non-advancing team.
“It’s my first time to the sectional, so I’m excited,” Parker said. “My goal has been to get past region and now I have a chance to get to state. I’ve been improving every year, so this feels great.”
Top ten individual finishers included Keppler, Barfield, Maryland, Bell, Schniederjans, McMahon, Parker, Harrison’s Jacob Eanes (80) and Hillgrove teammates Taylor Mottern (80) and Tyler Cunningham (81).