‘Just smile and go have fun’

Rachel Jones

In the first round of the Aggie Invitational last Saturday, junior Brett Cairns shot a 78. He was disappointed, but then something changed his attitude.

“I walked off the last green, and (Kent State coach Herb Page) was like, ‘Hey, it’s not the end of the world. Just smile and go have fun,’” Cairns said.

With those words, Cairns said he felt relaxed and got in the zone.

“I think in the past events, when I don’t do well, it’s from a lack of fun,” Cairns said. “I said to myself before the second round, ‘Go out and have fun.’ I was just trying to get back in position for the next day but got hot with the putter and started making everything.”

Cairns finished his second round with a 10-under par 62, the lowest round of U.S. college golf this year and a Kent State record for the lowest individual score.

It was previously a 63, which was shot by Ryan Yip at the 2005 Mid-American Conference Championships and Rick Meeker at the 1968 MAC Championships.

But Cairns knew that before the tournament.

“It was weird because a week before we went to Texas, I was actually looking at all of the career low scores,” he said. “When I was on the course, I wasn’t really thinking about it until I hit it to a foot on the last hole.”

Laing Kennedy, the director of Kent State athletics, said he was proud when he found out the news.

“The history and tradition of our golf team is outstanding,” Kennedy said. “It’s a program of excellence at the highest level. When you see a record like that, it’s another point of pride for the program.”

Cairns said his friends and family, who were following the tournament live on www.golfstat.com, were also proud of him.

“I had my phone in my room, and I got back and got a bunch of texts that said ‘congratulations,’” he said. “I don’t think they really knew it was a record; they just knew it was a low score.”

Cairns said his family has always been supportive. One or both of his parents will travel from Courtland, Ontario, to watch his tournaments.

His father also got Cairns interested in golf when he was nine years old, and he’s been hooked ever since.

Cairns attended Holy Trinity High School where he and another friend led the golf team.

“High school is always a lot different,” he said. “But in Canada, I think, it’s not so serious. In our high school, we only had three kids who really golfed, so the competition wasn’t that great.”

Head coach Herb Page, who often recruits from Canada, heard from another alumnus that Cairns was a consistent, hard-working golfer. After watching Cairns play in two junior tournaments, Page knew he wanted him to be a Flash.

“He plays with no fear,” Page said. “That sounds funny about golf, but some people get nervous when they’re three or four under; Brett Cairns does not.”

Cairns said this comes from a genuine love of the game.

“It’s addicting,” Cairns said. “I played other sports when I grew up, mainly hockey, but golf is nothing like any other sport. I think it’s just a continuous learning experience, so that’s what makes it exciting for me.”

Cairns added that he liked the individual aspect of the sport. The soft-spoken golfer is constantly working on ways to improve at practice or on his own.

“I like it better when you’re on your own and maybe coach is just helping,” Cairns said. “(At a team practice), I have to try hard to focus. Being around other people, I goof off sometimes and maybe lose focus.”

But don’t be fooled; he takes his game very seriously.

“Brett’s had a little bit of an up-and-down year, but mostly, he’s had probably the most consistent year of any of our players,” Page said.

“Up-and-down” means a 72.5 scoring average with 14 rounds of par or better this year. As No. 93 in the nation, Cairns is the only MAC golfer in the top 100. He has also been named MAC Golfer of the Week three times this season.

Page said it was phenomenal to see him continue a strong season with this record.

“In that single moment, he’s done something that no one else has done in 80 years of Kent State golf,” Page said. “That is the singular round of golf that is going to stand out for a long, long time.”

Contact sports reporter Rachel Jones at [email protected].