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Keilch, 16, breaks course record to advance to U.S. Open sectionals

Robert Keilch
SCGA
“This tells me that when I put myself in good positions off the tee and make putts that I can play as well as anyone in the field.” - Sixteen-year-old Robert Keilch said, after shooting 9-under 61 and winning the U.S. Open local qualifier at Oak Creek Golf Club in Irvine, Calif.  - 

Incoming Long Beach State freshman Clay Seeber and PGA Tour Latinoamerica member Chris Gilman each shot 3-under 67 Wednesday in the U.S. Open local qualifier at Oak Creek Golf Club in Irvine, Calif. While they each earned tickets to sectionals, they also tied for second, six shots behind the medalist.

That medalist was 16-year-old Robert Keilch of Newport Beach, Calif.

Keilch, a sophomore at Mater Dei High, broke the course record by carding nine birdies and an eagle, and shooting 9-under 61. He started the back nine and capped his first-nine 29 by going birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. The eagle came on a hole-out from 120 yards at the par-5 16th. He also drained a 40-footer on No. 17.

“I putted really well, but the best thing was my driving," said Keilch, who hit 14 of 14 fairways. "[That] gave me the best opportunities to go at the pins.”

Keilch's previous career-low round was 64. Earlier this year, he won the Toyota Tour Cup event at Industry Hills by six shots. Now, he'll play in his first sectional qualifier.

Keilch is scheduled to compete in the June 3 qualifier in his hometown. He will again be one of the youngest in the field.

“This tells me," Keilch said, "that when I put myself in good positions off the tee and make putts that I can play as well as anyone in the field.”