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Someday the Kent State women's golf team will finish somewhere other than first place at the Mid-American Conference Championship.
But knocking the Golden Flashes off their perch this weekend is going to take some doing.
The Flashes have won their conference tournament every year since the program came into existence in 1999. They set a MAC record for all sports by earning consecutive title No. 18 last year, and enter the 2017 event ranked 12th in the nation after capturing three tournament titles during the regular season.
This year's event will be held close to home at Silver Lake Country Club and hosted by Kent State, with 18-hole rounds scheduled for Friday through Sunday.
All signs point to another MAC title for the Flashes, a fact no one can deny. But fourth-year head coach Greg Robertson is determined to make sure his players take nothing for granted heading into the weekend.
"One thing we've learned the last couple of years is that we can't just show up and they hand us the trophy," said Robertson. "Two years ago Eastern Michigan was beating us with 12 holes to play, then last year we only beat Toledo by four shots. The competition in the MAC gets stronger every year, and teams are always gunning for us. We've got to come into the tournament ready to compete like we always do, and we've got to play up to our capabilities to win."
Kent State's ceiling is certainly the highest in the conference.
Competing against a highly difficult national schedule, the Flashes have notched three wins and four runner-up finishes -- including victories in two of their last three tournaments. They've never finished lower than sixth in an event this season, and enter the MAC Championships having earned top-three finishes in their last five events.
"Overall we've been very pleased with our play," said Robertson. "Coming into the season we weren't quite sure what to expect after losing three seniors from last year's team that were all major contributors. We still had Wad (Phaewchimplee) as a senior, but the rest of the lineup was going to be all freshmen and sophomores. For them to play like they have and finish the way we have in tournaments, and be ranked in the top 15 in the nation, it's been a good year for sure."
Phaewchimplee has been the rock Robertson expected, finishing among the top 25 individually in all 10 events in 2016-17. She's recorded three top 10s in her last four tournaments.
"Wad is just a special player, a special person all-around. Everybody loves her as a person and a teammate," said Robertson. "She works as hard or harder than anybody we've had at Kent State, and has been such a consistent player. She's also a three-time Academic All-American. She does everything the right way.
"She hasn't won yet this year, but every week she's putting herself in contention. I could see her jumping up and doing something special this weekend."
Sophomore Michaela Finn (7th) and Phaewchimplee (4th) both earned top-10 finishes at last year's MAC Championship. Finn has a pair of top-3 showings this season.
"Michaela didn't play well at Ohio State (last week), but she's ranked among the top 100 world amateurs," said Robertson. "She'll get it back together."
A pair of freshmen from far away have played major roles in Kent State's success this season.
Freshman Pimnipa Panthong from Thailand won her first collegiate event last fall, and added another victory last month at the Henssler Financial Intercollegiate in Georgia. She's claimed six top-5 finishes in 10 events this season.
"Right now she's ranked in the top 20 in all of college golf," said Roberston. "She averages 71, and she's shot 67 or better five times this year, including a 63 in the final round (of the Jim West Challenge) in Texas. She's done a lot to help us out."
Freshman Karoline Stormo, who hails from Norway, had never cracked the top 20 individually before winning the BYU at Entrada Classic last month.
"We knew she was going to be a pretty good player coming in, and she was a solid four or five player for us. Then she came on and won a tournament at BYU, then just finished 12th at Ohio State," said Robertson. "She's really made improvements throughout the year. It's been a pleasant surprise."
Rounding out the KSU lineup is sophomore Kelly Nielsen, a former Kent Roosevelt High School standout who has started the last three tournaments for the Flashes.
"Kelly's game has really improved over the last year," said Robertson. "I have a lot of confidence in her helping us out this weekend."
While this year's tournament will be played at a course close to their campus, the Flashes actually don't have much experience playing Silver Lake Country Club according to Robertson.
"It's a neutral course. We only played it once in the fall, just like the other teams," said Robertson. "As the host we set up the course in terms of the tees and pin placements. We have to give all of that information to the other teams, but I can set it up the way I want to. That's probably the little advantage that you have as the host team."
Robertson is hoping his players also get a boost from area fans, who will have a rare opportunity to see the perennial national power program in action.
"We never play close to home, so we hope we get some people to come out," said Robertson. "I think they'll be very entertained by watching our girls play golf. We've got some of the top players in the world on our team."
Together, the Flashes will attempt to pad their MAC record by claiming consecutive conference crown No. 19 this weekend.
"We know it's going to be a great challenge, but I think we'll be ready," said Robertson. "Silver Lake has done an unbelievable job of getting prepared for this event. I think it's going to be a tremendous weekend."