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The independent news website of The Kent Stater & TV2


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Men’s golf uses individual title to bounce back with top-3 finish

Kent State men’s golf took third place in the Dorado Beach Classic event behind an outstanding performance from redshirt senior Chris Vandette.

Vandette took home the individual title in a field of 106 other golfers in an event that concluded Feb. 27.

Vandette got back to form after a rough outing last time out at the Hal Williams Collegiate tournament Feb. 12-13.

He shot five-over-par in the event and finished tied for 53rd in the previous event.

This is not the first elite performance this season, however, as the golfer finished tied for ninth in the Windon Memorial event Sept. 25-26.

“It was obviously a new event for us, and the guys really handled it well,” coach Jon Mills said. “It’s good to see Chris Vandette play as well as he did. It’s his fourth individual win since he’s been here, and it’s really good to see him play that good and have you hope that filters into the rest of the spring.”

The team rode Vandette and three other golfers who shot an even par or better to a third-place finish.

“You could tell (Vandette) has a different focus about him,” Mills said. “Obviously, he came in prepared. He was hitting the ball well, but really struggling putting, and he finally figured that out.”

Vandette’s 14-under-par performance over 36 holes is the second-lowest score in KSU men’s golf history through two rounds.

It is the team’s second-best finish in the 2023-24 season. The team placed second during the Gopher event Sept. 10-11.

Round 1

Three players shot under par to lead the Flashes to a top-five finish in the first round.

Vandette, of course, led the way for the team as he shot an eight-under-par 64.

The score was a tournament-best, and his first round saw eight birdies and zero bogeys.

Junior Bryce Reed also saw great success, shooting a four-under-par 68 in the first round.

Jordan Gilkison was not far behind, as the junior had a two-under-par performance in the first round.

Sophomore James Newton, who is playing in his second KSU event, shot a three-over-par 75, and redshirt senior Cade Breitenstine brought up the rear with a four-over-par 76.

The team finished the first event in a tie for fifth with Illinois State after the first round. The Flashes shot an 11-under-par 277 in the round.

Round 2

In the second round, KSU shot up in the team rankings to its third-place finish.

Vandette continued his tear as he shot a six-under-par 66, giving him his 14-under-par 130 for the event.

“We do a lot of stuff in practice, but it has to come from the player putting the time in,” Mills said. “It showed, obviously, but he’s been hitting the ball well most of the spring. He finally figured out the putter, and that was the difference maker. He’s making a lot of birdies and giving himself good looks.”

Reed shot his second under-par performance of the event, going for a three-under-par 69. He finished the event with a seven-under-par 137.

He tied his best career finish with a 14th place individual finish in the rankings.

“It was his top finish since he’s been here,” Mills said. “He keeps getting better, so it’s obviously a lot of good things. We’re just trying to work on getting a little bit more depth as we progress into this season.”

Gilkison was consistent, as he shot his second consecutive two-under-par 70 on his way to a four-under-par 140 overall score.

Newton improved the most from the first to the second round, as he shot a three-under-par 69, a six stroke improvement from the previous round. He completed the event with an even-par 144 total score.

Breitenstine was the team’s highest scorer, as he finished with a nine-over-par 153 after shooting a five-over-par 77 in the second round.

As a whole, the team shot a 14-under-par 274 for the round.

Kent State went 25 strokes under par (551) as a team and finished behind the University of North Carolina Greensboro, who hosted the event, and Ball State.

KSU had 50 birdies throughout the event, which was the most of any team that competed.

Vandette (1), Reed (T14) and Gilkison (T28) finished in the top-50 for the Flashes in the individual rankings.

The event was supposed to last for three rounds, but the weather prohibited the third round from being played.

Looking ahead and reflection

Mills and his team came back strong after its worst outing of the 2023-24 season.

The team had a 12th-place finish in the event but got back on track this week.

“What’s great about a week like that is that we finished third with Chris and Bryce playing good golf,” Mills said. “Jordan played solid – I think there’s a lot left there for him to improve on, and if you ask him, he’ll say the same thing. He definitely didn’t play as well as he would have liked, but still obviously contributed a lot to the team. 

“Even someone like James Newton, who’s progressively getting better, so far this year, as well. Once Cade (Breitenstine) figures out what he’s doing, we’ll get him back, and it’ll be pretty good.”

Breitenstine has had the highest score for competing Flashes in the last two events.

“He’s in that mode where he needs a good tournament and a good confidence builder,” Mills said. “He’s shown he’s good enough and has won at this level, so it’s only a matter of time.”

Newton continues to prove a strong case for being in the event lineup here on out.

He was the second-leading scorer (three-over-par total score) for the team in his first collegiate event in the Hal Williams event and followed it up with an even-par performance this week.

“Whether you’re going to be in the lineup or not comes down to the individual person and their results and how they practice on a daily basis,” Mills said. “We have some time to figure some things out, so we’ll find out how it all plays out.”

In the last event, Mills stressed the importance of putting, and the teams missed opportunities in that level of the game.

This time, he saw the improvement he was looking for on the greens.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done to be more consistent in that aspect of the game, but this is a good start,” he said. “We just have to keep building from it.”

The team will get back to the course in almost three weeks when the team competes in the General Jim Hackler Championship.

The event will run March 18-20 and is hosted by Coastal Carolina in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

“It’s an event we’ve played a lot of,” Mills said. “We’ve had some success, and we know the course. I’m excited to get down there, and a lot of the guys view it as one of the top golf courses we play all year. We want to continue that momentum and see how far we can kind of take it.”

The success Mills is mentioning is a tied-for-fourth finish last season in the same event.

Looking ahead to the end of the season and the Mid-American and NCAA Championships, Mills said that many of his golfers clicking at the same time during this event “[is] huge.”

“You do everything in the fall and spring to get the guys where they should be come the conference finals and regionals and obviously the NCAA final,” he said. “Everything is to work toward that. So far, I like where we’re going, but I still think there’s a lot of work to do and to be where we can go in and put ourselves in the best position possible to win that conference and get into the postseason.”

John Hilber is assistant sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]

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About the Contributor
John Hilber, Reporter
John is a sophomore majoring in journalism with a minor in psychology. This is his second year with the KentWired team as a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected].

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