A new look for men’s golf

Ray Strickland

The Kent State men’s golf team is coming off another strong season, as it won its sixth consecutive Mid-American Conference Championship and placed seventh in the 2014 NCAA Sugar Grove Regionals.

The Flashes nearly advanced to the NCAA Championships last year for their fifth consecutive year, but missed the cut by four shots at 36-over.  Seniors Corey Conners, Taylor Pendrith and Kyle Kmiecik were the key contributors and leaders on the team last season.

“From experience, you don’t replace guys like Taylor Pendrith, Corey Conners and Kyle Kmiecik,” Head Coach Herb Page said about the departures of his senior leaders. “We lost three spectacular seniors.”

Conners and Pendrith won the 2013-2014 MAC Golfer of the Year award. Conners also made first-team All-MAC team and the All-MAC tournament team. His fellow teammates were accomplished as well.

Pendrith had a successful season last year, qualifying for the 2014 NCAA Championships at the Prairie Dunes in Kansas. According to kentstatesports.com, Pendrith was also one of only two players in Kent State history to play in the NCAA Championships in all four seasons, joining Kevin Miller (2010-2013).

Kmiecik also displayed great ability during his four-year tenure at Kent State. He was awarded second-team All-MAC honors as a sophomore, junior and senior.

The Flashes have six golfers returning this season, including Sebastian Bendsen, who contributed to the Flashes Mid-American Conference Championship victory. Bendsen said it won’t be easy replacing last year’s seniors.

Even though this year’s Flashes are less experienced, the team is adding a talented freshmen class to the mix. Among the group of newcomers are Chase Johnson, Ian Holt, J.D. Hughes and Spencer Dobbs. The group must have impressed Coach Page, as all of them will be in the lineup for the Flashes upcoming tournament.

“They are very motivated,” Page said. “It’s a very nice group. They’re pushing each other. I am excited about it. I know there is some youth there, but they are good. If they keep improving and keep working hard, I’m very confident at the end of the season we can reach all of our goals.”

Bendsen believes the freshmen are talented and expect them to do well because they have the right attitude.

“We had the qualifying last week and three of the four freshmen finished one, two and three, so they’ve shown that they can do it in qualifying, so I’m excited to see what they are going to do in the tournaments,” Bendsen said. “They all seem to be strivers. They want to be the best and that’s what we want to have. Coach always said the guys he is recruiting — he wants them to beat us.”

Johnson said he does not feel any added pressure to perform due to the fact the team lost three of their best players. He said he is going to go out there and just play his game.

“I look at it as an incentive for us to come in and step up our game to fill those spots,” Johnson said. “I feel it’s an opportunity to come out and prove ourselves.”

Page said his expectations do not change for the upcoming season. It’s just golf, he said, though he is excited for things to come.

“The expectations are high,” he said. “There is a championship culture on this team. That is what the expectations are and we have to deliver the goods. They should be nervous. Once they get over their nervousness and get in their relaxed state, I’m pretty confident that this group will be a really, really competitive group.”

The Flashes first tournament of the year is Minnesota’s Gopher Invitational at the Windsong Farm Golf Club on Sept. 7 in Independence, Minn.

Contact Ray Strickland at [email protected].