The Kent State women’s golf team heads to its eighth consecutive NCAA Regional on the heels of a dominating performance at the MAC Championship April 25-27 in Indianapolis. The Golden Flashes will be one of 21 teams competing at the Central Regional, which is being held May 8-10 at the University of Texas Golf Club in Austin, Texas.
The Flashes best regional finish in their seven previous trips was a second-place showing in 2003. KSU has earned a trio of NCAA Championship berths ? posting top-eight regional finishes in 2001, 2003 & 2006.
Scouting The Championship
Along with Athens, Ga. and Sacramento, Calif., Austin, Texas is playing host to one of three NCAA Regionals this week. Seeded fifth in the 21-team field, Kent State will be going up against nine other schools that are ranked in at least one of the two national polls, including UCLA, who is second according to Golfweek and third in Golfstat, and Purdue, who is sixth in both polls.
The University of Texas Golf Club will play as a 6,301 yard, par 72 for the 54-hole event. After playing a practice round on Wednesday, the Golden Flashes will go off on the 10th tee at 9:00 a.m. CT in Thursday’s opening round, followed by a 1:20 CT start on Friday. Saturday’s pairings will be determined at the end of the second round, with the teams atop the leaderboard going off beginning at 8:10 a.m.
Last Year At The Central Regional
Kent State came up just shy of advancing to its second straight NCAA Championship, finishing 10th at the NCAA Central Regional which was held at the University of Michigan GC in Ann Arbor, Mich. Tara Delaney and Maddi Swaney both finished tied for 24th at +13 to pace the Flashes, while Kirby Dreher was in 40th two shots further back. USC claimed the team title at 869, edging Georgia by 11 strokes. KSU turned in a 908 to wind up seven shots behind Michigan State for eighth place.
KSU’s NCAA Regional History
Now in the 10th year of the program, the Golden Flashes are appearing in their eighth straight NCAA Regional. Kent State has finished in the top 10 in five of its seven previous trips to regional play, highlighted by a second-place showing in 2003. Here’s a quick look at the Flashes’ past results:
2001 7th 2005 T-11th
2002 9th 2006 T-6th
2003 2nd 2007 10th
Kent State is 13th in the latest GolfStat/Division I national rankings and 15th in the most recent Golfweek poll (see complete list on page 2). The Flashes were 12th in the GolfStat poll that came out the first week of March ? the highest standing in the 10-year history of the program.
Golfweek also has a quartet of Flashes ranked among the nation’s best. Senior Kira Meixner is 37th, while junior Kirby Dreher stands 48th, freshman Martina Gavier is 103rd and senior Tara Delaney is 107th.
The Flashes have finished fifth or better in all 10 tournaments this year, including a trio of wins and a tie for fifth with top-ranked Duke at the prestigious Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic at Georgia March 21-23. The field in Athens included 15 schools in the top 40, four of whom were in the top 10.
Thrice As Nice
Coupled with its victories at the Lady Northern Invitational in the fall and the Lady Buckeye Invitational in the spring, the Flashes’ 10th straight MAC title marked fifth time in school history that Kent State has won three tournaments in the same season. KSU claimed a school record four titles in 2002-03 while also winning a trio of events in 1999-00, 2001-02, 2003-04 and 2005-06.
Recapping Last Week
Kent State won its 10th consecutive Mid-American Conference women’s golf championship with a dominating final round Sunday (April 27) at Brickyard Crossing GC. Junior Kirby Dreher fired a career-low and tournament-record tying 69 to claim her first individual title as the 13-ranked Golden Flashes put together a tournament record eight-under par 280.
“This is such a good team from top to bottom,” KSU head coach Mike Morrow said. “We have five quietly confident players that can go low at any time ? they are truly fun to watch.
“I’m so proud of the fact that we’ve been able to win 10 straight titles. It is a testament to the quality student-athletes that we’ve been able to recruit over the years.”
After two days of windy conditions, the par 72, 6,126 yard Pete Dye layout finally yielded some low scores. In addition to Dreher’s three-under round, senior Tara Delaney and freshman Martina Gavier both posted a 70 (-2), while junior Maddi Swaney came in at one-under par 71.
Dreher finished the 72-hole event at three-over par 291, three strokes clear of Delaney. Senior Kira Meixner, who was named the 2008 MAC Player of the Year, finished third at 298, while Swaney was a shot further back in a tie for fourth. Gavier, who garnered MAC Freshman of the Year accolades, rounded out the KSU contingent tied for seventh at 304.
In addition, Morrow earned his eighth MAC Coach of the Year honor.
“I tried not to think about it [leading after three rounds],” Dreher said. “I was nice to get off to a good start, but I knew I still had to play solid on the back. We had an amazing day as a team, which really says a lot about how great coach Morrow is.”
The Flashes finished at 1,117, easily out-distancing runner-up Eastern Michigan, who came in at 1,228. Meanwhile, Toledo was in third place at 1,232.
Talk About Depth
Four different players have led the Flashes in their 10 tournaments this year, including a quartet of golfers in KSU’s past four events. Senior Kira Meixner has paced KSU five times while junior Kirby Dreher has done so on three occasions. Dreher’s victory at the MAC Championship means that 60 percent of the Flashes’ line-up has earned medalist honors at the conference tournament, as Meixner won in 2007 and Tara Delaney the year before.
Pair On Record-Setting Pace
Kira Meixner and Kirby Dreher are both on pace to finish in the top 10 in the Kent State annals for season scoring average. Meixner leads the way this year at 74.52, while Dreher follows closely behind at 74.77. Meanwhile, Tara Delaney, who set the season scoring mark of 74.34 in 2005-06, is also KSU’s career leader at 75.20 ? just ahead of two-time All-American Martina Gillen (75.43).
Don’t Cry For Me Argentina
Only a freshman, Martina Gavier has been a solid contributor for the Flashes from day one. The Cordoba, Argentina, native’s impressive performance includes five top 10 finishes and a 75.9 scoring average. At the prestigious Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic, Gavier finished in a tie for ninth to lead KSU.
Kent State boasts a line-up covering four countries and a pair of hemispheres. Kira Meixner and Kirby Dreher hail from Canada, Tara Delaney is from Ireland, Martina Gavier from Argentina and Maddi Swaney from boring old Marietta, Ohio. Delaney received a pleasant surprise the day after KSU won the MAC title when her sister, Karen ? a member of the Flashes’ golf team from 2003-07 ? showed up for an impromptu visit from Ireland.
Head coach Mike Morrow has been there from the inception of the Kent State women’s program in 1998. The first Golden Flash to earn All-America honors on the men’s team (honorable mention, 1973), Morrow has led KSU to 25 tournament victories in 10 years, including 10 straight MAC titles. In addition, the Flashes have made eight straight NCAA regional appearances, advancing to the NCAA Championship in 2001, 2003 and 2006.
“Duke”ing It Out
On Wednesday (April 30), Duke head coach Dan Brooks announced that current Kent State assistant Jan Dowling would be joining the Blue Devils staff effective June 1. A 2008 inductee into the KSU Varsity “K” Hall of Fame, Dowling leaves Kent after two successful seasons as an assistant coach. She was a four-time All-MAC performer during her playing career and a two-time medalist at the MAC Championship. The MAC Golfer of the Year in 2000, she shares the school record with 25 career top 10 finishes and is second with five victories.
Meixner Top Canadian Amateur
Kira Meixner was named the top female amateur golfer in Canada in December after topping the final National Order of Merit standings for 2007, as compiled by the Royal Canadian Golf Association (RCGA).
Meixner, who is also a three-time NGCA All-Scholar Team honoree, punctuated a tremendous 2007 campaign with a victory at the British Columbia Ladies Amateur Championship and runner-up finish at the Mexican Ladies Amateur.
She finished sixth at the Royale National Women’s Amateur Championship, tied for ninth at the CN Canadian Women’s Tour event at the Vancouver Golf Club and advanced to the third round of match play at both the US and British Ladies Amateur Championships. Meixner, who also competed in the 2007 CN Canadian Women’s Open, was named to the RCGA National Women’s Amateur Team for the third consecutive year.
The top eight teams and two individuals from each of the three regional sites will advance to the NCAA Championship May 20-23 at the University of New Mexico Championship Golf Course in Albuquerque, N.M.