16-year-old Robert Keilch sets course record in U.S. Open Local Qualifying Round

SCGA

16-year-old Robert Keilch sets course record in U.S. Open Local Qualifying Round

Amateur

16-year-old Robert Keilch sets course record in U.S. Open Local Qualifying Round

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Sixteen-year-old Robert Keilch had a round to remember Wednesday at the Southern California Golf Association’s U.S. Open Local Qualifying Round.

In fact, it’s a round everyone at Oak Creek Golf Club will remember for some time.

Not only did Keilch take first place and qualify for sectionals, he beat the Irvine, Calif., course record by two shots.

“(Getting the course record) tells me that I can compete with anybody that I’m in the field with and I can shoot as low as I think I can,” the sophomore at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif., said.

Keilch’s 9-under 61, which beat the runners-up by six strokes, was a completely different outcome than last year’s local qualifier when the then-freshman missed the cut by six strokes.

On Wednesday, Keilch hit 14-of-14 fairways and 16 greens in the 18-hole round on the same course which he scored 15 stokes higher last year. Keilch dedicated his improvement to spending time at Oak Creek over the past year. In total, he said he’s played the course approximately 15 times— enough to know it intimately.

“You have to hit it straight off the tee if you want to score low,” Keilch said. “It’s not very difficult if you put the ball in good positions. The greens are really fast, so staying below the hole and keeping it in the fairway, you can shoot really low.”

Keilch’s process of studying the courses on which he plays was learned by watching his favorite golfer, Tiger Woods. The thoughtfulness Woods brings to his game is something Keilch has tried to replicate in the five years since he started playing golf. He even applied a few specific tactics during his record-setting round that he observed in Woods’ most recent Masters win.

“I noticed how (Woods) really made sure that he was in good positions off the tee and I kind of used that at Oak Creek in my qualifier,” Keilch said. “Kind of just the way he played the course, he plotted it really well. He didn’t try to hit long off the tee. He just put himself in good positions in the fairway that helped him score really, really well.”

Keilch’s next step to qualifying for a spot at the U.S. Open June 10-16 at Pebble Beach Golf Links is the sectional qualifying round. Beginning on June 3, he will play 36 holes at Newport Beach Country Club and Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach, Calif. 

Before he tees off in the sectional round, Keilch will play with his Mater Dei team as they work toward the California state championship. He is playing in the CIF third-round individual tournament and first-round team tournaments this weekend. If his team continues to advance after this weekend’s events, he could play in few more high school golf events before the sectional qualifier.

Keilch is also playing in the Southern California PGA Junior’s Toyota Tour Cup event May 18-19 at La Quinta. Despite his busy schedule, he has no concern about expending too much energy or losing his groove between U.S. Open qualifier events.

“I like to play as much as I can and I think just after shooting as low as I did, it just gives me more confidence in my game and just playing the same way I did,” Keilch said. “I think just the more I can play will probably help me for the next (U.S. Open qualifying) round.”

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