DULUTH - When Jeff Belk showed up Monday morning to play the first round of the Yamaha Atlanta Open, he realized he had on shorts and switched to a pair of rain pants in his golf bag.
By Monday afternoon, nearly half the field might have wished they made the same mistake when they arrived at the Standard Club in Duluth and had on rain pants when afternoon rains settled in.
Belk shot a 5-under-par 67 to share the lead with Stephen Keppler at the two-day tournament and the afternoon field had to outlast a one-hour lightning delay and play in a steady rain for nearly an hour. Greater Atlanta Christian grad Parker Beck is in third after shooting a 4-under 68.
"I'll wear the rain pants again I guess," Belk joked. "They're good luck."
Belk is one of four amateurs at the top of the leaderboard and had eight birdies and pared seven other holes. Keppler, after starting on the back nine, was at even par on 18 when the lightning delay began, but it seemed to help him. Keppler went on to birdie two holes and got an eagle on No. 7 to tie Belk in the final group of the day.
"I haven't played that much, but I played last Friday at Marietta Country Club and I hit the ball really well," Keppler said. "Coming in I felt really good and I've just continued since last Friday, so it's surprising, but very pleasing."
Belk is an amateur who plays out of Rivermont Golf Club in Alpharetta. If he's able to continue his stellar play with or without his rain pants, Belk would become the first amateur to win the tournament since Matt Russell did in 1996.
"You never know - someone has got to win it," Belk said.
Beck (a 2003 GAC grad) finished with a 4-under 68 while his older brother, Jonathan (a 2001 GAC grad), shot a 3-over 75.
"I've been hitting it good," said Parker Beck, a senior at Lipscomb University. "When I played in the qualifier, I hit terrible. I got in as an alternate actually, but I've been playing a lot since then and got my swing back. Four under I'll take any time."
There's a five-way tie for fourth with amateurs Brian Davidson and Hector Cora shooting at 3 under. Georgia PGA Player of the Year Sonny Skinner is also tied for third after shooting a 69, and so are Kyle Owen and Greg Lee.
Shawn Koch, the defending Yamaha Atlanta Open champion, was in contention to be at the top of the leaderboard but struggled on the final four holes. Koch, who is the PGA teaching pro at Country Club of the South, was 4-under with four holes to go when he unraveled and finished even par at 72.
"I've got to shoot a low score tomorrow," Koch said. "I wanted to shoot something under par today and I had it under par most of the day. I was always comfortably under par until the last four holes. I'm disappointed, really disappointed."
The oldest guy in the field, 67-year-old DeWitt Weaver, also turned in a stellar performance. Weaver, who plays out of the Legends at Chateau Elan and won the event in 1969 and 1971, shot a 1-under 71 to finish tied for 13th place.
"I've been playing OK and I've been putting better than I putted today, but gosh, I struck it really well today," Weaver said. "I had a chance to shoot my age today, I really did. It was fun. I shot 71 and it's always fun when you're in contention. I just love to play the game."
Dacula grad Nathan Rau and Parkview grad Michael Saari both shot a 73. Recent Peachtree Ridge grad Billy Shida shot a first-round 76.
The Yamaha Atlanta Open is the state's oldest golf tournament.
The 36-hole event concludes today and is open to the public with no admission charge.