Jeff Kaiser isn't normally the kind of golfer whose emotions get trotted out for public consumption.
Sunday was an exception.
The former University of Wisconsin golfer let loose with a fist pump for the ages — well, by his standards — after making a 10-foot putt for birdie on the final hole of the first round of the PGA National Professionals Championship at Belfair Golf Club in Bluffton, S.C. That capped a birdie-birdie finish for Kaiser, manager of the TaylorMade Player Development Center at Vitense Golfland in Madison, and left him in a tie for fifth place with a 3-under-par 69 — 3 shots off the lead held by Ron Philo Jr., the 2006 champion from Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., who bogeyed the final hole to shoot 66 and lead by one.
Madison natives Craig Brischke, who now plays out of the Minnesota PGA section, and Jim Schuman shot matching 72s and were the only other golfers with Wisconsin ties in the top 30. Former UW golfer David Roesch, a teaching pro at Storm's Golf Range in Milwaukee, shot 74 while Hudson's Brent Snyder shot 78; Egg Harbor's Jamie Christianson and Waukesha's Mark Voller shot 79s and Madison native Joe Leonard and Milwaukee's Craig Czerniejewski shot 80s.
"Obviously, a birdie-birdie finish isn't easy and it felt great," Kaiser wrote in a text message to Wisconsin.Golf. "I'm pretty level on the golf course and try not to get too up or down at any point, but even I gave a little fist pump after making the birdie on 18."
Kaiser started his round like he finished it with back-to-back birdies. But back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 3 and 4 dropped him back to even-par just as fast.
A birdie-bogey-birdie sequence to close the front nine left him with a 1-under 35. He made seven straight pars before the two birdies to end the round.
"Expectations for the week were to simply have fun," wrote Kaiser, who had a fourth-place showing at the 36-hole TaylorMade National Championship at Pebble Beach Golf Links in March. "I was lucky to play well at Pebble and, to be honest, the clubs never came out of the airline case between that and this. It is my crazy season at work and (I'm) simply happy to be able to get away for a few days and play down here.
"I expect to play well anytime entering a tournament, but never put much of a score or a finish along with it."
Now wouldn't be a bad time to put up a top-20 finish. It would earn him a spot in next month's PGA Championship at Bethpage Black in New York.
For now, Kaiser will take three more rounds as smooth as Sunday's.
"The plan for the rest of the week is a lot of the same," Kaiser wrote. "Hit fairways and particular greens in regulation and try to have as many birdie putts as possible. Hopefully, some of them continue to fall."