Courtesy of Kent State Sports Information
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. —
The 2012 season was certainly one to remember for the Kent State men’s golf team. The No. 17 ranked Golden Flashes advanced to the match-play portion of the NCAA Championship and secured the highest finish in school by tying for 5th in the nation. In the match-play quarterfinal, Kent State fell by a count of 3-1-1 to No. 2 Alabama.
“What a fabulous year and a very resilient group of young men,” said Director of Golf/Head Coach Herb Page. “We came up a little short in match play, but to get this far is a great accomplishment and I’m very proud of them.”
The drama and excitement of the final day began early in the morning at Riviera Country Club when Kent State outlasted No. 19 Florida State in a one hole sudden death playoff to earn the right to play the Crimson Tide. The Golden Flashes earned the victory by a +2 to +3 score. The big difference for Kent State was sophomore Kyle Kmiecik (Avon, Ohio) who had the only birdie amongst the 10 players. Playing in the first five-some, Kmiecik set up the vital shot with a 5-iron from 199 that nestled in 12 feet from the hole.
“No one can really understand the pressure of the playoff this morning,” said Page. “What a great shot by Kmieck, looking down the 18th at Riviera. It was very memorable, not just for Kyle and his family, but for all of us at Kent State.”
Against Alabama, Kent State fell behind early but kept it close down to the end. In the first pairing junior Kevin Miller (Dover, Ohio) was defeated by Justin Thomas 6 & 5. Kmiecik then fell to Cory Whitsett 5 & 4 in match number two. With match two being controlled by sophomore Corey Conners (Listowel, Ontario) and match one featturing senior Mackenzie Hughes (Dundas, Ontario) even, the decisive third score was going to come down to match three between sophomore Taylor Pendrith (Richmond Hill, Ontario) and Scott Strohmeyer.
Pendrith appeared to be in trouble early after losing holes No. 1, 4, 5, 5 & 9 on the front nine to fall 5-down at the turn. He would rally back however with birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 to get back to 3-down. With the momentum starting to swing back in his favor, Pendrith had opportunities to inch even close on 12 and 13, but both birdie putts just missed and Strohmeyer saved par to keep it at a three hole difference. He made up one hole on No. 15 and looked to be in position for another on the par 3 16th, but Strohmeyer hit a huge par saving putt from 25 feet to stay at 2-up with two holes to play. The duo then halved No. 17 to give Stromeyer a 2 & 1 win and the decisive third match needed for victory.
As Pendrith was finishing up, Conners was continued his stellar play that led to a 4th place finish in stroke play. The No. 2 ranked Canadian Amateur won his match against Bobby Wyatt 4 & 2. Hughes, meanwhile was all square with Hunter Hamrick through 14 holes when the overall outcome was decided.
Kent State previous best finish came in 2008 when the team placed sixth at Purdue’s Kampen Course. The Golden Flashes also placed in the top 10 with a ninth place finish in 2000.
The T-5th showing also puts Kent State among a select group of only four schools that have finished top 20 at the NCAA Championship each of the past three seasons. USC, UCLA and Texas A&M are the other three to have accomplished the feat.
“This will only just add to our expectations and to our rankings and we will keep battling every year until we win the whole thing,” said Page. “We’ve been here for three straight years now and have four of our guys coming back so let’s hope we get back here again next year and go a little deeper.”