Record-Courier staff report
The Kent State men's golf team returns to Rich Harvest Farms near Chicago May 15-17 for its seventh consecutive and 23rd overall appearance in the NCAA Men's Golf Championship Regional Tournament.
The private course in Sugar Grove was also the site of the Golden Flashes' 40-shot victory in the 2012 Mid-American Conference Championship.
"I'm excited," KSU coach Herb Page said on Monday morning, after watching the regional selection show on The Golf Channel's Morning Drive. "We are going to the closest site where we will get to play on our grass and on a golf course we have played before and had some success. The teams in this regional are just fabulous. I'm proud of our team for getting into this position, and if we play well, we can advance. We are capable of doing it with a total team effort."
Since the 1988-89 season, Kent State has qualified for the NCAA Regional Championship in 23 of the last 26 seasons under Page's leadership. The Flashes have advanced to the NCAA Championship in 15 of those seasons, including each of the last four years. Overall, Kent State has appeared in the national championship 17 times. This year's finals will be held May 27-June 1 at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Kansas.
The Flashes will be the No. 7 seed in a 14-team regional field at Rich Harvest Farms that includes No. 1 Cal, No. 2 Illinois, No. 3 USC, No. 4 Alabama Birmingham, No. 5 UNLV, No. 6 Clemson, No. 8 Purdue, No. 9 Mississippi State, No. 10 Cal Fullerton, No. 11 New Mexico State, No. 12 Jacksonville State, No. 13 Cleveland State and No. 14 Saint Peter's.
"I think Herb Page and Rob Bradley at Kent State and Purdue are licking their chops because this is their neck of the woods," Florida head coach Buddy Alexander said on the Golf Channel, just after the regional selections were announced. "I see very little difference between maybe the No. 3 and the 8-or-9 seeds, so a lot of action there … This (regional) could be crazy."
The Flashes hope they can also draw on some positive memories from their runaway win in the 2012 MAC Championship. Seniors Corey Conners, Taylor Pendrith and Kyle Kmiecik were sophomores when Kent State shot 9-under-par (283-281-291-855) on the 7,735-yard, par-72 course located 50 miles west of Chicago. Conners won the individual MAC crown that week at 7-under-par, while Pendrith finished in eighth place.
"Does that help us? I think it could," said Page. "We've played it. We've seen it. Corey was the medalist there. Taylor and Kyle both played well there. It's the same grass we play on here in Kent. All of those are in our favor, but the bottom line is you have to go out and play under tremendous pressure. As a coach, this is the most pressure you have all year long."
The Flashes captured a record sixth consecutive outright MAC championship on Sunday with a 10-shot win over Toledo and Akron. The victory also extended Kent State's record for wins at the MAC Championship to 22. Conners and Pendrith finished one-two, respectively, atop the individual leaderboard and were named co-MAC players of the year.