Even against winds blowing up to 30 miles-per-hour, the Kent State men’s golf team secured its fifth consecutive Mid-American Conference championship this weekend in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
“It’s tough to tell a college kid that they have to be patient, especially when they’re out there and everyone’s struggling,” coach Jon Mills said. “But I wanted our guys to go out there and give everything they had for one more round.”
This was Mills’ first conference title as the Kent State head coach and the team’s 27th MAC title win in program history.
“It was an exciting week,” Mills said. “Everyone coming in, us included, looked a little defeated, but we were still in a good spot leading (after the first day).”
The Flashes, ranked 42nd in the country by Golfweek, finished with a score of 46-over-par 910, beating Northern Illinois University by 13 strokes and Ball State University by 17 strokes.
Sophomore Chris Vandette won the tournament by one stroke, with a total score of 10-over-par 226.
“It was awesome to watch Chris get his first college win,” Mills said. “He had played so much better this spring, and you could tell the confidence was growing. To me, it just felt like a matter of time until he had something like that happen.”
Junior Julien Paltrinieri finished fifth overall at 12-over 228. Senior Josh Gilkison finished 10th at 16-over 232 and junior Jared Wilson tied for eighth 15-over 231. Sophomore Cade Breitenstine tied for 15th with a score of 19-over 235.
“From a team perspective, everyone contributed,” Mills said. “Each day someone different stepped up.”
Breitenstine, who was the MAC’s only nationally ranked golfer at No. 52, was named 2021 MAC Golfer of the Year. Mills received the Kermit Blosser Coach of the Year Award and Paltrinieri and Vandette were named to the All-Tournament Team.
“Cade [Breitenstine] has been so dependable for us,” Mills said. “He has played so well this spring."
“Coach of the Year is really cool to have," Mills said of his own award. "But it’s because of the players. The players go out there and play good golf and the coaches get rewarded. It’s the team that’s behind all that.”
The team will head to the NCAA Regionals May 17-19.
“We’re going to be prepared,” Mills said. “Our goal wasn’t just to get to regionals. We will be working hard to get past that and get to nationals to compete for a championship.”
The selection show for regionals will be on Wednesday at 2 p.m. on the Golf Channel.
Pilar Lewis is a sports reporter. Contact her at email@example.com.