Men’s golf fantastic final round seals win for its sixth consecutive MAC title.

Members+of+the+Mens+Golf+team+after+winning+the+Mid-American+Conference+Championship

Scott Walstrom/NIU Media Services

Members of the Men’s Golf team after winning the Mid-American Conference Championship

Noah Keeney, Reporter

The Kent State Men’s golf team has now won six consecutive Mid-American championships.

Led once again by junior Chris Vandette and the Gilkison brothers, freshman Jordan and graduate student Josh, the Flashes were able to battle back from being down by 17 strokes at one point.

After round one, KSU was sitting at a team score of seven-over par while Eastern Michigan was one-under-par.

Vandette and Josh Gilkison had an opening round of 71 and 72 to wrap up Friday in third and fourth place. Kent State had only two golfers at or under par within the top five going into round two.

Jordan Gilkison and Luca Civello finished their day four strokes over par to tie for 16th place, keeping four of the five Flashes in the top spectrum of the field.

The Flashes continued to falter early into day two but began to finally surge at the end.

Toledo was able to have a fantastic start on Saturday, jumping to the top of the leaderboard and, at one point, sitting as many as 17 strokes ahead of KSU.

Kent State battled back to card a 301 in the second round, the best of the top three teams for the day.

Josh Gilkison had a tournament-best 72 on Saturday and went in the final round tied for the top spot individually.

Vandette placed top-ten and went into the final round alone in ninth place with a score of six-over-par.

Cade Breitenstine rounded out the Flashes in the top-20 with a score of 75 for the day, Bryce Reed also scored a 75 in place of Jordan Gilkison on Saturday.

The Flashes scored a conference-best 285 in the final round and were the only team to shoot under-par.

KSU shot 3-under par while Toledo shot two-over par, and Northern Illinois followed closely with a five-over par.

“It was a very tough weekend,” coach Jon Mills said. “We were able to hang around and other teams began to make mistakes that we immediately capitalized on. Our guys never caved in and battled to victory.”

Josh Gilkison sank his putt from the edge of the green to deliver the Flashes their team victory and send him to a playoff hole with Toledo’s Jamie Tofte Nielsen and Miami’s Jack Ebner for the individual title.

“Josh has had a very solid career but never had a collegiate victory,” Mills said. “I didn’t even tell him his putt was to tie and send him to a playoff hole. You can’t force it, no added pressure is needed. I am so happy for him and how he did it. Once he got into the playoff, he was locked in and determined to win it.”

On the second playoff hole, Josh Gilkison set himself up and sunk the biggest putt of his collegiate career to claim the individual title and join 26 former Flashes as individual Mid-American Conference Champions.

“It was really awesome to get my first collegiate win at my last conference championship,” Josh Gilkison said. “[It is] something I have been trying to accomplish for a long time and it finally happened. This was a team victory, and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it.”

Vandette recorded a 70 on Sunday to finish this year’s MAC Championship in fourth.

“We were determined to go out there the last day and give it our all,” Vandette said. “We know how quickly teams can catch or lose momentum, so we were never worried about trailing first place.

“Personally there were many ups and downs for me during the tournament, but I’m very happy I was able to contribute to the team. Our experience as a team took control and favored us heavily.”

Breitenstine had a huge part of the Flashes’ comeback, with a 71 score in the final round, finding himself tied for twelfth when it concluded. 

“The course played really tough,” Breitenstine said. “I think we enjoyed that it was very difficult because it played to our strengths. The longer the tournament went on, the more chance there was for us to win. We waited for the opposing teams to make mistakes and then stepped up our game to lead us to a tournament win.”

Jordan Gilkison, Civello, and Bryce Reed worked together to help the Flashes establish another top finish and continue their team dynasty in the MAC.

Josh Gilkison and Vandette were named to the All-Tournament team. KSU also won the two biggest individual awards of the year as Vandette was named MAC Golfer of the Year and Jordan Gilkison was named MAC Freshman of the Year.

“I feel very honored about receiving MAC Golfer of the Year,” Vandette said. “It’s very motivating to see I’m following in the footsteps of players such as Ben Curtis, Corey Conners, and coach Mills. I am very proud of my team and wouldn’t have won it without them.”

Jordan Gilkison was able to win something his brother never did.

“Freshman of the Year was definitely one of my biggest goals,” Jordan Gilkison said. “It was a very cool experience and something I will never forget. I’m very happy with the team and how we were able to come back and embrace each other.”

Kent State finished the tournament with a final score of 17-over par and an 881 overall. 

“It’s great to win the MAC again,” Mills said. “It certainly helps us with recruiting to be able to show athletes our history and what we can accomplish. Now it’s time to focus on regionals because we ultimately want an NCAA championship.”

The Flashes will now wait for the NCAA selection show on May 4th to see which regional they will be competing in on May 15th.

Noah Keeney is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected]