In one week, the Kent State men’s golf team improved from 14th place to second place.
“We were much more prepared going into this event, and it showed,” coach Jon Mills said. “We sat down with each player and came up with a place for each of them to improve on what their weaknesses were that week. Being a short week, it’s tough to turn everything around, but they did a good job on working on those things.”
Kent State shot a 15-below 837 to tie for second place with Kansas in the Gopher Invitational Sunday and Monday. Georgia Southern won the tournament with a 20-under par. Last week in their season-opener in South Bend, the Flashes placed second to last.
In his team’s short week of practice, Mills said he focused on getting his men back out on the course.
“I made an effort to play more golf instead of sitting there on the range and working on the golf swing,” Mills said. “This time of year, when the guys have been playing all summer, all they need to do is just go golf.”
Kent State tournament leaders senior Chris Vandette and sophomore Jordan Gilkison tied for fourth place with a 6-above 207. Vandette had KSU’s best average score last season at 71.58 per round. Gilkison ranked fourth at 72.59.
Fifth-year Wilson Andress from Georgia Southern won the event, shooting a 202.
For Vandette, the reigning golfer of the year who helped lead his team to its sixth MAC title last spring, his shot of 207 is his best performance since October 2021.
Vandette averaged a shot of 207 in the team’s five tournaments last fall. He averaged a shot of 220 in his six spring tournaments. At the Fighting Irish Classic last week, Vandette carded a 217.
“He played really well last fall and struggled in the spring,” Mills said, “and even this summer, he didn’t play as well as he would have liked.”
But the veteran’s head coach saw this week’s performance as a positive sign for the rest of the year.
“He was really excited to get a finish like this and get a taste of what he’s striving for,” Mills said. “I think this will help him propel his game going forward to the rest of this fall.”
At the end of his first collegiate season, Gilkison won MAC freshman of the year. In June, he became the first amatuer to win the Ohio Open.
Mills said Gilkison has more big things coming.
“The more success he has, the more his confidence will build and his expectation will go up,” Mills said. “It is very exciting to let him play and watch him improve week to week. He’s very quiet and reserved, but he’s also very competitive. He does not like to lose, and he wants to beat everyone he’s up against.”
Sophomore Bryce Reed and senior Cade Breitenstine placed in the tournament’s top 50. Last year, Breitenstine had KSU’s third-best performance.
The Flashes now have two weeks off. They will travel to Illinois for the Windon Memorial, hosted by Northwestern, Sept. 26 and 27.
During this break, Mills said his team will not rest on their recent success.
“You give the guys a day or two off, and then we get back into it and forget about what we just did,” Mills said. “We build from it, but we can’t become complacent. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but as a team, we just continue with the process of playing a lot of golf.”
Isabella Schreck is sports editor. Contact her at [email protected]