Men’s golf captures 18th MAC Championship

Rachel Jones

Hahn, Cairns tie for medalist

Kent State golfer John Hahn defended his title as the Mid-American Conference Championship medalist this weekend, sharing the honor this year with Brett Cairns.

The junior duo led the Flashes to their second MAC Championship in a row.

Kent State coach Herb Page said he was glad to see not only the team win, but also the roommates share the title.

“Thank goodness we didn’t have to break the tie with a playoff,” Page said with a laugh. “I’m just thrilled for both of them. They work very hard at their game, so it’s nice to see them rewarded.”

Hahn began his season with a cracked rib, which he said was difficult to overcome.

“It’s never fun to play with an injury,” Hahn said. “Mentally, it kind of got me out of it. I just had negative thoughts about golf and my game.”

After some time, the Honorable Mention All-American said he found a trick to boost his confidence.

“I think the more I kept telling myself, ‘Hey, John, you’re a good player. You can do this,’ the better I played,” he said. “It sounds corny, but it’s kind of what helped me.”

Page said he was glad to see Hahn turn his game around.

“He’s just starting to play his best golf right now,” Page said.

Cairns, who is ranked 79th in the nation, also finished the four-round tournament at 3-under par.

Previously, Cairns shot this season’s lowest round in the NCAA, a 62, which was also a Kent State record. Page said that helped Cairns this weekend.

“In the last two or three tournaments, you could just see his confidence grow,” Page said. “He played unbelievable today and as steady as can be.”

Cairns said the records gave him the confidence and momentum to succeed in the tournament.

“I just kept plugging along all week,” Cairns said. “I tried to stay positive and take good golf shots. (Sunday), I didn’t really have it, but I just grinded it out.”

While he was excited to win the individual medal, Cairns said he was glad to share the title with a great player like Hahn.

“(Hahn)’s a great person to share it with,” Cairns said. “He played a great (final) round, which I knew he would.”

Another Flash who shot well this weekend was sophomore Mackenzie Hughes.

Page said it was “mind-boggling” that Hughes placed third with a 2-under par performance, which is exactly what he did last year.

After an inconsistent regular season, Page said he was proud to see his top three golfers do well.

“I kept saying, ‘When those three put it together, we’re going to do some damage,’ and we did that,” Page said. “We’ve played our best golf of the year these past three days, and, boy, that’s the sign of greatness.”

Freshmen Kevin Miller and Isaac Charette also stepped it up in their first MAC Championship appearances.

Miller’s 11-over par tied him for 13th place with Toledo’s Jerel Whiting. Charette finished in 28th place, shooting 19-over par.

After battling eight other teams, the No. 47 Flashes finished 22 strokes ahead of MAC runner-up Eastern Michigan to win its 18th conference title. The championship is Page’s 14th MAC title in 31 years coaching Kent State.

“It doesn’t get old winning this,” Page said. “We’ve won this a bunch of times, but we’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of great players.”

However, Page said playing for Director of Athletics Laing Kennedy, who is retiring this year, meant the most to him.

“What was nice about this, for me, was to share this with Laing Kennedy,” Page said. “He was here in person, so we wanted really to win this for Laing and have him hoist up that trophy. He’s our support, for a program like golf can get overlooked.

“We have a tradition of excellence and an expectation to win championships. This just doesn’t happen by accident. People don’t understand how hard it is and how much work we put into it.”

That hard work will advance the Flashes to the NCAA Regionals on May 20-22. Hahn said the victory will boost the team’s confidence for its upcoming tournament.

“You absolutely need it going into the postseason,” Hahn said. “Once you get some kind of momentum and rhythm going, you can really take it that pretty (far) into the postseason.”

Page said the momentum will help, but for now, the team is planning on enjoying its victory.

“At this time of the season, you don’t need to work on stuff,” Page said. “You just need to keep that momentum going and sort of enjoy it. Keep playing golf.”

Contact sports reporter Rachel Jones at [email protected].