Kent State alum returns on men’s golf staff


The Kent State Golf Course on Jan. 27, 2016.

Eric Conway

A familiar face returned to the Kent State men’s golf team this season with the experience of playing at golf’s highest level, the Professional Golfers Association (PGA). Jon Mills, a 2002 Kent State graduate and former golfer for the men’s team, came back to his alma mater as the associate head men’s golf coach and will assist head coach Herb Page.

“(Mills) coming onto the golf staff was three years in the making,” Page said. “A year ago he was asked by Ohio State’s coach to join their staff. Then he called me, and here we are.”

Page said it was Mills’ experience on multiple tours that set him apart from the other candidates for the position.

After turning professional in 2002, Mills competed on the Canadian tour in 2003, the PGA tour in 2006 and 2008, and has been on the tour since 2004.

“It was awesome. That was my dream of my entire career,” Mills said about his experience on his tour play. “Playing against guys you watched on TV and looked up to can be overwhelming.”

His two non-consecutive years on the PGA tour were based on his placing on the money list, a ranking determined by how much prize money a player earns in a given year. Mills said that back then, PGA tour qualifiers had to be in the top 20. Today, the qualifying list is larger.

“When you play a ton of events, you earn a good amount of prize money,” Mills said. “But when you win a few events, you pretty much guarantee your PGA tour card.”

The tour Mills played on is comparable to what the minor league is in baseball. More so, it’s a tour that professionals play when they don’t make the PGA tour list. Mills said his time on the tour was enjoyable because of all the travelling that came along with the competition.

“The neat thing about playing on the tour,” Mills said, “was that the guys I played with on this tour, I played in college. With the travelling, you have to do some heavy planning when you’re on this tour.”

During his professional career, he said Titleist, one of the most popular brand names in golf, sponsored his clubs. 

Page said it was exciting to see Mills’ name come up in the applicant pile.

 “Once he applied, it was a no brainer,” Page said. “The other candidates were qualified enough, but when you have someone who’s competed at the highest level and is familiar with a program already, you have to go with that choice.”

Although Mills graduated nearly 15 years ago, he remained in contact with Page and others from his time on the team. Recently, he and fellow Kent State alum Ben Curtis, now a professional golfer, stopped by the indoor training facility.

“(They) were in here putting the other day and it gave me goosebumps to see two highly successful Kent State alumni interacting like that,” Page said.

Just by watching players and coaching staff interact, there’s no doubt the golf team is a family.

“There’s a tightness from guys that go through this program,” Mills said. “There’s a connection we have. Some of us have gotten together and played the Canadian Open. It’s a huge deal when you have that many Kent State guys playing in a PGA tour event.”

Mills is confident in bringing the right skill set based on how he played as an undergraduate student and his experience in the professional realm.

“When it comes to seeing talent, it’s not new to me,” Mills said. “This team has a lot of talent. They’re young, and all I can do is look at last season’s scores and we’ll go from there. I’ve played at the highest level of golf, so I know what it takes to get there.”

Page is confident in his choice in hiring Mills to the coaching staff, but cannot gauge how he’ll do as a coach until after the team’s first tournament on Monday.

“He gets it,” Page said. “We develop players and we have high expectations for him and he knows this.”

Mills lives in the Pittsburgh area with his wife and children. He stays with a former teammate during the week and goes home to his family on the weekends. He said now that the season is beginning, it’ll be harder, but technology and being able to FaceTime his family makes it easier to stay in touch.

The team with Mills as a new addition to the coaching staff will begin its season Monday in Lafayette, Louisiana at the Louisiana Classics.

“We’ll make things run smoother,” Mills said. “Without knowing (Page), I wouldn’t be able to jump into this position like I already have.”

Eric Conway is a sports reporter for the Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].