Cairns earns top 10 finish at General Hackler

Rachel Jones

Kent State head golf coach Herb Page put his team’s performance at the General Hackler Championship into perspective with a positive outlook: “Out of something bad, something good always comes.”

The bad: his team playing without All-American John Hahn (broken rib) and the team’s first round performance, which had them tied for second-to-last going into the second round.

The good: junior Brett Cairns’ performance in lieu of Hahn, and the team’s strong finish to move up in the final standings.

After shooting a 78 in a first round where his team shot a 312, Cairns came back to reel off two solid rounds of 70 and 71 to lead the Golden Flashes to a 9th place finish while placing 7th in the 71-man field.

“Brett for sure (stepped up),” said associate head coach Rob Wakeling. “That was a first class competition. I think we were the seventh-highest ranked team there. Augusta State was ranked third in the country … So the level of competition was very, very high, so for (Cairns) to finish in the top 10 was a great accomplishment. It helped that without having John Hahn there, Brett really stepped up in a leadership role.”

Cairns’ second-round score of 70 was one of just four sub-par rounds of the entire competition.

Wakeling credited the team’s poor first round performance to bad weather and a lack of being able to play “real golf” in Northeast Ohio in the past few weeks.

“It was a tough course,” Wakeling said. “We haven’t played much in the last 10 days because of the weather. I think we were a little rusty out there.”

The Flashes were able to recover with decent second and third round performances to move up two spots in the final day to finish ninth.

Freshman Kevin Miller counted scores in every round for his second-straight tournament. Sophomore Mackenzie Hughes finished in 36th place with a low-round of 74.

Wakeling said Hahn’s absence allowed him to see what the underclassmen could do under pressure, but also allowed the underclassmen to gain experience in a first-class tournament.

“We’re looking for a four or five man that’s going to give us some consistent results. But, you know, when you get a freshman in there … they need experience so hopefully they got some good experience on a tough golf course,” he said.

As for Hahn’s return, Wakeling said it’s just a matter of time and, in the meantime, the other golfers need to make sure they collectively fill his shoes as well as they can.

“You don’t replace a John Hahn. It just doesn’t happen,” Page said. “But, again, good can come from bad. In this case, it’s an opportunity for one of our younger players, maybe one of our less experienced players, to get some experience in a big-time competition. That’s the way you’ve got to look at it.”

Wakeling emphasized this part of the season is a tough one for those who have to practice in cold weather, but said he is hopeful that the warm weather the region has been experiencing lately will hold up so the team can play during their two-week break.

The Flashes will return to action March 27-28 at the Fireline Towson Invitational in Maryland. Kent State won the event last year by 15 strokes.

Contact sports reporter Rachel Jones at [email protected].