An award-winning weekend

Rachel Jones

Golf players, coach bring home multiple conference awards

When the Kent State men’s golfers left the Mid-American Conference Championships Sunday, they had more than the championship trophy in their van.

For the 17th time in his 32 years of coaching, Kent State coach Herb Page won the Kermit Blosser MAC Coach of the Year award. Associate head coach Rob Wakeling said it was a great accomplishment.

“Most people hope they can coach for that long, let alone win Coach of the Year,” he said with a laugh. “Kent State is very lucky to have coach Page. He’s truly a legend of college golf.”

Although he has led Kent State to win 67 tournaments, Page said he cannot take full credit for the award.

“Great players make great coaches,” Page said. “That award that goes in my name is won by the players. It’s not I, it’s we that have won that (award).”

While Page said he was glad he won, he was happier about the reflection it has on Kent State.

“I am very proud of it, but I am really very proud of Kent State University golf and the support that allows us to perform at this high level and reap the rewards at the end,” Page said. “We have been very fortunate at Kent State University to have some great players pass through this program (with) hard work, dedication and competitive spirit.”

One of those players, junior Brett Cairns, said it is great to have Page as a coach.

“He knows a lot about the game, and he’s helped us out a lot,” Cairns said. “It lets us realize how good we are (because) he brings out the best in us.”

Cairns himself was an award winner that day. After tying for first place with classmate John Hahn, Cairns was named MAC Golfer of the Year.

Page said the decision came down to Cairns and Hahn, who won it the past two years.

“I did not vote,” Page said. “Both players were deserving, and their seasons are almost dead even.”

Both golfers knew it would be close, but Cairns said Hahn knew who would win.

“I knew it’d be between me and (Hahn),” Cairns said. “But he told me, ‘I think you got it. You deserve it.’”

The other MAC coaches who voted seemed to agree.

Ranked 79th in the nation, Cairns has had two tournament victories and six top-10 finishes this season. Coach Wakeling said he was proud Cairns won.

“This was his second victory of the season,” Wakeling said. “It’s an accomplishment just to get one in your career, let alone two in one season.”

Cairns joined Hahn and sophomore Mackenzie Hughes on both the All-MAC First Team and the All Tournament Team.

The All-MAC First Team, which is the top six players in the MAC, also consisted of Eastern Michigan’s Cam Burke and Marty Jeppesen and Miami’s Nathan Sutherland.

Hahn is the first Flash since Ryan Yip in 2005 to be named to this team three years in a row.

The All Tournament Team is made up of the top five finishers at the tournament. Burke and Northern Illinois’ Jeff Dick joined the three Flashes.

Cairns said he was happy to be grouped with such great players and so was Page.

“I don’t want this to sound pompous, but we have a tradition of excellence in the golf program at Kent State,” he said. “These three men are very good, so it was really fun watching all of their hard work pay off.”

Freshman Kevin Miller rounded out the awards ceremony, winning MAC Freshman of the Year. He is the third consecutive Flash to do so.

“When Kevin was announced as Freshman of the Year, I think he got the biggest round of applause from our players,” Page said.

Coming to Kent State as a two-time state champion, Wakeling said Miller spent some time adjusting to college-level golf at first.

“(Miller) started a little slow in the fall, but I think he kind of re-dedicated himself when he came back to school from Christmas break,” Wakeling said. “He’s been putting the time in, and I think that’s really paid off for him.”

Wakeling added that he was proud of all of the golfers last weekend.

“That’s about as good as you can do,” he said with a laugh. “They’ve been working hard, so good things happened.”

Golf is an individual sport that focuses on team finishes, so Page said it was nice to see the individual golfers get some recognition. However, he did put things in perspective:

“These young men come in here with high expectations, and for them to win these awards, this is just the icing on the cake,” Page said. “But I think they’d all trade them in for a shot at the big one in the end, winning nationals.”

Contact sports reporter Rachel Jones at [email protected].