Local golf talent welcomed back to Kent State


Sophomore golfer Kyle Kmiecik watches his putt at the Jack Nicklaus Invitational on Oct. 11. Photo courtesy of Kent State Athletic Department.

Grant Engle


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After a successful career at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Kyle Kmiecik chose to take his talents to Oxford, Miss. and join the Ole Miss men’s golf team.

Kmiecik said his decision came down between Ole Miss and Kent State. So like many other athletes he opted for a warmer destination. He thought a better climate would help his development. He discussed his decision with Kent State coach Herb Page before committing to Ole Miss.

“I thought the best opportunity for me to get better was playing two or three more months a year,” Kmiecik said. “I expressed this to Coach Page, and we agreed.”

Terry Hopkins, a golf coach at St. Ignatius during Kmiecik’s time in high school, gave many reasons why Kmiecik was so highly recruited.

“He’s a tremendous ball striker,” Hopkins said. “He’s physically disciplined, he knows when to fire at the pin and he knows the situations when he has to manage the golf course.

Kent State assistant head coach Rob Wakeling, who coached against Kmiecik at Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, also saw Kmiecik’s ability in high school.

“I probably saw him play 20-30 rounds of high school golf before I came to Kent,” Wakeling said. “I remember him well. He was a very talented, great high school player.”

When asked how his freshman season at Ole Miss went, Kmiecik harshly critiqued his play.

“I did not play well,” Kmiecik said. “That was an off year for me. There were a bunch of issues surrounding it, but I just wasn’t comfortable with my game.”

Kmiecik said that he didn’t think the coaching hurt his play, but that the coaching wasn’t “a good fit for him.” Kmiecik said that he left things at Ole Miss “as neatly as he could,” and that he didn’t mean to burn any bridges. He still keeps in touch with former teammates and assistant coach Jack O’Keefe.

O’Keefe praised Kmiecik for being a “hard-worker who enjoys competition.” O’Keefe said he likes to check up on Kmiecik and see him do well, and that he understands that sometimes coaching styles and players don’t necessarily mix.

“College is a tough decision,” O’Keefe said. “Sometimes it looks right, but it doesn’t work out. I just want to see kids be in the right position to succeed.”

When the Ole Miss golf team released Kmiecik, he remembered that his decision out of high school came down to Ole Miss and Kent State, and since he didn’t burn a bridge with the coaching staff, he reached out to Page with hopes of joining the Flashes.

“I called him and he said we could sit down and talk,” recalled Kmiecik. “I explained my situation, he explained his conditions, and we went forth with it. It was an easy decision for me.”

Wakeling said that the conditions for Kmiecik’s transfer were similar to every new recruit or walk-on player that joins the team.

“We just wanted him to come in with an open mind and work hard,” Wakeling said. “We hope to be a competitive team every year, and we can only play five guys at each tournament. There is no guarantee that you’ll ever play for Kent State.”

Kmiecik said that he had no problem working hard and earning his spot on the team. He said that after he started losing confidence at Ole Miss, he tried to “outwork it and get over the hump.”

Wakeling said that Kmiecik’s work ethic is second to none, but sometimes the coaching staff has to rein him in.

“He’s the kind of guy who’s the first one here and the last to leave,” Wakeling said. “Sometimes we have to remind him to be 19 years old again and just play golf.”

In Kmiecik’s first start for the Flashes at the Inverness Intercollegiate in Toledo Sept. 27, the sophomore shot a one-over 72 to tie for 7th overall in the tournament, helping Kent State win the tournament that featured several nationally-ranked universities.

Kmiecik said that the support staff at Kent State is worth having to deal with the miserable winter months in Ohio. He also said he was impressed with the entire athletic department’s attitude.

“This school has a winning mentality,” Kmiecik said. “When we had our first all-athletic meeting; I knew it was going to be a good year.”

Contact at Grant Engle at [email protected].