The Kent State men’s golf team is no stranger to major championships.
The program was put on the map in 2003 when Ben Curtis won the 132nd Open Championship at Royal St George.
17 years later, and a couple thousand miles over the Atlantic ocean at Winged Foot Golf Club in Westchester, New York, three men’s golf alumni look to follow in his footsteps as a major champion.
Canadians Mackenzie Hughes, Corey Conners, and Taylor Pendrith are all competing in the 120th U.S. Open this weekend.
Coach Jon Mills is excited to see the three former Flashes represent the program at this historic major championship. He also knows the feeling of teeing off in the U.S. Open, having played in three himself.
“You got three guys that all played on the same team. It’s the biggest event of the year,” Mills said. “I know what it’s like having played at Oakmont, Torrey Pines, and Congressional.”
The former Flashes took a picture together during the practice rounds this week, with Kent State head covers on their clubs.
2014 graduate Corey Conners earned a spot in the field at Winged Foot by securing a 2019 tour championship birth. Hughes, a 2012 graduate, had a sixth place finish in the 2020 Memorial in Dublin, Ohio.
“Corey is a great driver of the golf ball,” Mills said. “The U.S. Open is an event where you want to pet the fairway. These guys deserve to be on this level. Pendrith is in his first U.S. Open, but he has been incredible on Korn Ferry.”
Pendrith is sixth on the Korn Ferry Tour, which is the PGA developmental circuit.
As far as giving these three guidance going into their first round, Mills feels it’s best to just let them do their thing.
“It let them go play. I made one cut of the three U.S. Opens I played. It’s a different experience. The best thing you can do is not bug them,” he said.
The U.S. Open this year will look very different from those Mills participated in, with a lack of spectators.
“When you’re standing on the first tee and there’s 20,000 people, without them it just feels like a round of golf. You also see fans around other parts of the course and it’s weird,” he said.
Mills remembers where he was when Ben Curtis won the Open in 2003. He was in Alberta, Canada watching Curtis’ final holes in a pro shop.
“Those relationships our golf teams develop lasts a lifetime,” he said. “Change bends life but it’s great to be around that and to be honest I felt like I could do that after Ben Curtis did it.”
Mackenzie Hughes and Correy Conners were both paired in round one as well as round two. (fill in the first and second round results to end).
Hughes and Conners had both been cut by Sunday, but Pendrith is currently tied for 25th and is 10-over-par total.
Dante Centofanti is a sports reporter. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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