Record-Courier staff report
CARMEL, Ind. -- A hole-in-one by senior Corey Conners helped Kent State widen its lead to a commanding 23 shots during Saturday's third round of the Mid-American Conference Championship and inch closer to a record sixth consecutive outright team title.
While the rest of the nine-team field struggled with gusting winds at the 7,073-yard, par-72 Prairie View Golf Club in suburban Indianapolis, the Golden Flashes carded the day's only under-par round -- a 6-under-par team total of 282 that moved them to 12-under-par for the tournament.
The second-best round of the day was a 9-over-par 297 by Toledo. Akron shot a 12-over-par 300, and while the Zips remained in second with an 11-over-par total, they fell from just five shots down at the start of the day to 23 behind going into today's final round.
"What was pretty amazing is that this was the hardest day we've had out here this week," said Kent State coach Herb Page.
"The wind was gusting to 30 mph, and still all of our guys played great. Anything close to par out there was fabulous golf, and to have two of our seniors shoot 7-and-3-under was as good as I've seen. They were pretty phenomenal, and Corey in particular was a machine out there."
Conners, who was the MAC Championship medalist in 2012, seized the individual lead at 12-under-par with a brilliant 65 highlighted by his ace at the 192-yard 12th hole. It was the second time Conners marked a "1" on his scorecard in 10 days after adding to his lifetime hole-in-one total at the 12th hole of Ravenna's Windmill Lakes during a practice round last week.
Ironically, Conners and his teammates spent almost an hour during dinner on Friday night discussing all of their holes in one.
"That's the fourth one I've had," said Conners. "I had one last week at Windmill using the same club on the same hole, an 8-iron on the 12th hole. With this one, I saw the ball tracking and I thought it looked pretty good. When it went in, it didn't feel real. It was pretty sweet."
Continuing a course tradition, Prairie View Golf Club presented Conners with a flag after the senior signed his scorecard. The course then sent the flag to course designer Robert Trent Jones, Jr., to have it autographed for Conners.
Conners will begin Sunday's final round with a six-shot advantage over teammate Pendrith on the individual leaderboard.
Pendrith, who was the medalist at last year's MAC Championship, shot a 3-under 69 on Saturday, and very nearly recorded a hole-in-one of his own at the 12th, knocking his tee shot to within six inches of the cup just minutes before Conners stepped to the tee.
That birdie-two briefly moved Pendrith into a first-place tie with Conners.
"Corey may have more holes-in-one than me, but I have more double eagles," Pendrith said with a grin. "I've had only one hole-in-one, but I've had four double eagles."
Freshman Josh Whalen joined Conners and Pendrith in the individual top-10 with a round of 74 that put him 4-over for the tournament. Sophomore Sebastian Bendsen added a 74 of his own to move into 19th place while Kyle Kmieciek shot 76 to finish the day in 14th place at 6-over for the week.
"You can't overlook the contributions of those guys," said Page. "It wasn't easy out there, and with the wind it would have been easy to let a round get out of control. Instead, they put together a bunch of birdies and only a few bogeys or worse.
"Now we'll try to come back tomorrow and remember that it is not over. We still have to play a good solid round of golf. Every hole on the back nine has danger. We will try to work our way around the golf course and take care of business."