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RECORD-COURIER STAFF REPORT
CARMEL, Ind. -- Kent State became the first team to win six consecutive outright Mid-American Conference men's golf championships by completing a 10-shot victory on Sunday at Prairie View Golf Club.
With a 3-over-par total of 1,155 (286-284-282-303), the Golden Flashes increased their record of conference championships to 22. Senior Corey Conners added the 23rd individual MAC title won by a Kent State player since the event was first contested in 1947, and became conference medalist for the second time in the past three years.
"Winning never gets old," said Kent State head coach Herb Page, who was voted MAC Coach of the Year. "This is special because our seniors, Corey Conners, Taylor Pendrith and Kyle Kmiecik, have now never lost in this championship. And to win six in a row is a tribute to the support we get from above and the fact that it is important to the athletic department at Kent State to have a championship golf program."
Conners and Pendrith were voted the MAC co-Players of the Year by the league's coaches. Both were also selected to the All-MAC First Team and to the MAC All-Tournament Team, while Kmiecik was selected to the All-MAC Second Team.
Conners also won in 2012 with a 7-under-par total over three rounds at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill. He finished at 11-under 277 (72-67-65-73) to claim a five-shot victory over Pendrith, who won the MAC tourney last year.
"This is obviously pretty special and I feel very lucky," said Conners. "I'm happy with how I played and how the team did. We got the job done. Hopefully we can gain some confidence from this week, especially the way we played in the (third) round."
Kent State put a stranglehold on the team championship in that third round on Saturday, building a 23-shot lead with a 4-under-par 282. The Flashes needed that cushion, as they struggled to a 15-over-par 303 on Sunday that matched Ball State for the final round's highest score.
"We've had some ups and downs and inconsistencies, but this team is very resilient," said Page.
"We didn't play our best round on Sunday, but Saturday's round was one of the best I've ever been affiliated with. To have that big lead, we could afford to play a little less than our best. Corey and Taylor were both great all week, and when you have a third senior like Kyle Kmiecik, you win championships. Once again, they held it together."
Pendrith (71-70-69-72) was the only Kent State player to shoot par or better in all four rounds, finishing at 6-under for the tournament. Only Conners, Pendrith and Akron's Charlie Bull (4-under) closed the week in red numbers. Bull led the Zips to a second-place finish.
Kmiecik, freshman Josh Whalen and sophomore Sebastian Bendsen all shot 79 for Kent State on Sunday. Whalen (71-70-69-72-282) finished in 17th place at 11-over-par, while Kmiecik (71-73-78-79-301) and Bendsen (76-74-74-79-303) finished in 23rd and 29th place, respectively.
Kent State finished ahead of Akron to secure another full point in the PNC Wagon Wheel Challenge, giving the Flashes a 6.5-5.5 lead over the Zips with points still to be awarded in baseball and men's and women's outdoor track and field.