Staff and wire report
SUGAR GROVE, Ill. -- Kent State's run of consecutive appearances in the NCAA Championships came to an end on Saturday at four.
The Golden Flashes, who dipped to seventh after Friday's second round, fought back valiantly to shoot a team-best 4-over during Saturday's final round. However, KSU could not overcome Friday's misstep, missing the fifth and final qualifying spot by four strokes.
Kent State's presence will not be altogether missing from Prairie Dunes in Kansas next week at the finals, though.
Taylor Pendrith earned the right to represent the Flsahes after finishing in a tie for third place individually at the NCAA Sugar Grove Regional in Illinois.
The Kent State senior shot a 2-under-par 70 at Rich Harvest Farms to complete an 11-spot climb up the leaderboard during the final round. At 2-over for the tournament, Pendrith (70-78-70--218) earned a spot in next week's NCAA Championship field as the low player at the regional not on a qualifying team.
KSU as a team entered the final round 14 shots off the top-five cutline necessary to qualify.
Illinois finished at 16-over to win the regional championship, while Alabama-Birmingham (18-over), Purdue (30-over), USC (32-over) and California (32-over) earned the other four NCAA qualifying spots. Clemson was sixth at 34-over followed by seventh-seeded Kent State (299-309-292--900) at 36-over.
"I'm very proud of how we fought back," said Kent State head coach Herb Page. "With two or three holes to go, we had the number we needed to get in, but we made just a couple of mistakes at the end. It was really tight. This may end a great run of four years in a row in the NCAA Championships, but people don't understand how hard it is to get out of a regional championship like this with so many great teams.
"I'm disappointed for our team, but it's not a disappointing day. Taylor Pendrith had a great final round with seven birdies and he will get to chase a dream next week at Prairie Dunes."
Kent State began the day on the front nine at Rich Harvest Farms. Pendrith caught fire in the middle of his round, getting birdies at 17 and 18 to turn in 2-under34, then added his third and fourth birdie in a row at hole Nos. 1 and 2.
Brian Campbell finished as the Sugar Grove Regional's individual champion at 5-under followed by USC's Anthony Paolucci at 1-under and Pendrith and UAB's Paul Dunne both at 2-over. The closest individuals not on a qualifying team were Pablo Torres of Jacksonville State and Carson Young of Clemson, both at 4-over.
Kent State's final-round charge was also led by sophomore Kody Fry, who mounted a comeback of his own by shooting an even-par 72 just one day after carding an 89 in round two. Fry's day included an eagle-three at the 532-yard seventh hole and three birdies.
Another return to form was completed by senior Kyle Kmiecik, who rebounded from rounds of 84 on Thursday and 79 on Friday to shoot 74 in his final round for the Flashes.
Senior Corey Conners also closed out his brilliant Kent State career, shooting a final-round 76 to finish in 17th place on the individual leaderboard at 8-over for the tournament.
"Kody Fry made a very nice comeback and I'm happy for Kyle Kmiecik with the way he played in his last round," said Page. "That has always been a trait of this team. They are a very resilient group. They all never gave up. We put up a fight, but we just didn't quite finish it off."