Kennesaw Mountain junior Jonathan Keppler knows that all too well after his stunning victory at the Class AAAAA meet two years ago.
Since then, although Keppler has had a difficult time getting back to the top of the podium, he hasn’t been far from it as evidenced by his 1-under 71 score and fourth place finish at this past season’s Class AAAAAA state tournament.
“I couldn’t find the fairway,” Keppler said about his performance at the state meet. “I hit it so bad off the tee, and my iron shots weren’t very good either. I didn’t perform well there. But my short game and putting were on. If it weren’t for that I definitely wouldn’t have shot 71.”
Keppler did enough to finish in the top five at the state tournament, and his 68 at the Region 4AAAAAA tournament earned him medalist honors and his third straight region championship.
“Since I couldn’t win state all four years, I definitely want to do in region now,” said Keppler, the 2014 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Golfer of the Year. “So, I have my senior year left. I’m going to go play hard and then maybe I can pick up another state championship.”
Kennesaw Mountain coach Chris Walker believes Keppler had his best season this past year.
“It’s the best he’s played,” Walker said. “It’s better than the year he won state. Overall, he’s a more mature player and he’s physically better. He knows his abilities and plays to his strengths. He’s very confident at this stage.
“As a freshman, he got hot at the right time. He came in playing well and caught fire after spring break. This year, he’s been hot from day one and stayed consistent throughout the season.”
Keppler knows his golf game has progressed since his freshman year.
“I’m definitely hitting the ball longer and my consistency from tee to green is better,” he said. “But, my biggest improvement is my short game. My short game has gotten so much better from freshman year to now, and that’s the key to golf.
“I played well this year. I played a lot better than I did last year. It kind of stinks that I didn’t win state this year. I felt like I had a pretty good shot, but I came up short. I can’t complain because I had a fun year with the team.”
Besides winning another state title, one of Keppler’s goals was to play with his teammates at the state tournament. The Mustangs fell short of that goal, finishing 11th at the Class AAAAAA sectional, and the result didn’t sit well with Keppler.
“It sucked,” he said. “I didn’t play very well so I kind of felt like it was on me. But, my team was great. They picked me up and we all agreed that it was a team effort and we didn’t perform to our best. It made me feel better, but it still kind of sucks because I still should have played a lot better and we should have made it as a team.”
Although the team wasn’t able to advance, Walker likes the way Keppler puts the team on his shoulders.
“I’m very proud of Jonathan,” Walker said. “It doesn’t shock me how well he does and how much he appreciates his teammates. He works hard and he’s a great kid to be around.”