Record-Courier staff report
HUTCHINSON, Kan. -- Taylor Pendrith will become just the third player in Kent State men's golf history to represent the Flashes as an individual at the NCAA Championships when he tees it up at Prairie Dunes in today's first round.
The Kent State senior follows in the footsteps of Chuck Crawford and Karl Zoller, who made back-to-back finals appearances as individuals in 1986 and 1987, respectively.
Pendrith will also be just the second player from Kent State to participate in the NCAA Championships in all of his four college seasons. Kevin Miller became the first to accomplish that feat just last season when the Golden Flashes qualified as a team for the fourth consecutive year.
"Not many players go to the finals four consecutive years," said Kent State head coach Herb Page. "I'm sure Taylor would have loved to bring his teammates along with him this week, but he is also now free to just go out and play.
This will be a different scenario for him playing for himself, but we are expecting great things from him this week. This is an All-American season for him that has seen consistency from him every week with multiple top-fives and top-20's during a difficult schedule."
Pendrith qualified for the NCAA Championship as the low individual not on a qualifying team last week at the Sugar Grove Regional near Chicago, where he tied for third place at 2-over following three rounds at Rich Harvest Farms. The Flashes missed qualifying as a team by just four shots despite a final-round charge that matched the lowest round posted by any team all week.
"I've been (to the NCAA finals) the last three years, so this will be a different experience, but I'm excited to go and compete," said Pendrith, who visited Prairie Dunes with his Kent State teammates to close out spring back back at the end of March. "We were in Florida for a little bit, and then the last two or three days we went to Kansas to see the course and get in a few rounds … That's an advantage. I think most of the teams did that, but seeing it a couple of times before the practicing round will definitely help. It's a tricky place, so it is nice to have already played two rounds on it."
Prairie Dunes is not a long course, playing at just 6,948 yards for this week's championship. If the wind stays down, scores could be low this week. But if the wind howls over its exposed fairways like it did during one of Kent State's preview rounds, the priave course, par-70 course could become a beast.
"We saw it on one calm day and then on a day when it blew from 30-to-35 mph," said Page. "When the wind blows, you will find out if you have the game to be a national champion. For good players, which Taylor is, you have to have the game to play under all kinds of conditions. And as a senior, Taylor has played all kinds of courses in every type of condition. He is not a rookie.
"If Taylor goes out and continues to execute the way he has, he can be in the hunt to win an individual championship," added Page. "People don't realize that while he is one of the longest hitters in college golf, it is his short game that is his strength. His feel around the greens is the best on our team and he is also our best putter."
All qualifying teams and individuals will play three rounds May 23-25 followed by a final round just for individuals to determine a champion on May 26. That round will be broadcast live on Golf Channel. Match play to determine a team champion will follow May 27-28.