Jon Mills emphasizes culture of competition for mens golf team

Jon Mills coaches at the 2018 NCAA Men’s Golf National Championship at the Karsten Creek Golf Club on May 28, 2018, in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Men’s golf coach Jon Mills is trying to tap into and expand the culture of Kent forged by former coach Herb Page.

“Obviously creating that culture is hugely important,” Mills said. “The great thing about this program is Herb has already developed a culture here. Since I played and coached under Herb I feel like I have a good grasp of it.”

Mills is coaching a young team and he is helping them adjust to playing in a new environment and with new goals, adapting them to what he calls “Kent State golf.”

“The culture here is having a group of kids that all have the same goal, and have a drive to play at the next level,” Mills said.

That emphasis on team-building comes from the fact that golf is played for only individual prizes on most levels.

“At the heart of the game it is an individual sport,” Mills said. “College is unique in that you compete as a team. A lot of these guys have competed solely as individuals so that is a big adjustment.”

Mills said core character of the Kent program is deeply ingrained and is why the program has been so good historically.

“For now I am trying to keep it almost business as usual, to keep doing the same things,” Mills said. “I am sure over time things will change, but the core part of the program is always going to stay how it is.”

Mills’ assistant coach Ryan Yipp is a former Kent golfer who played professionally as well, and he echoed the commitment to developing elite play.

“We are trying to build professional golfers here, we want all of our guys to move on to the next level,” Yipp said.

Yipp talked about sticking to the culture and tradition of the program, while also bringing the experience both he and Mills have from playing professionally.

“With Jon’s and my playing experience, we both have over 13 years of experience on tour,” Yipp said. “We have seen numerous different styles of play and coaching, so we are very adaptive to anyone’s style.”

Both coaches see recruiting as an extremely part of building and continuing the team culture, signing players they know will fit easily into the system.

“You are recruiting kids who fit that culture,” Mills said. “Ideally you find a good player who matches the other guys, and have a team that will all work well together.”

Yipp also helps with recruiting, and since joining the coaching staff three months ago, he has recruited two players.

“From playing here and being around the program, we know the types of guys that we are looking for,” Yipp said. “From good families, with good mannerisms on the golf course and guys who are competitive.”

Mills pointed to freshman Cade Breitenstine as an example of a young player who has adapted well.

“Cade has played great,” Mills said. “He was pretty nervous in his first event but then he got into a bit of a rhythm and was our best golfer at Inverness.”

The Inverness Intercollegiate was the Flashes’ last tournament, which Breitenstine finished 11th. He was named MAC Golfer of the Week for that performance.

Mills will continue to push his players to compete, and make their own spot on the tournament roster.

“I like getting them in the position to fight for it,” Mills said. “I don’t like being the one picking the lineups. Prove to me you should be in the lineup by playing good golf.”

Contact Owen MacMillan at [email protected].