Kent State senior Corey Conners kicked his spring slate off in what could be the best way possible: winning the Jones Cup Invitational in a playoff on Feb. 2.
The victory may be the best of Conners’ career to date, but he hopes for bigger and better things as he finishes up his final year of collegiate golf at Kent State.
Conners spoke with Golfweek about the win, his plans for the season and the possibility of representing his native Canada in the Olympics:
1. What happened on the playoff hole at the Jones Cup?
“I was obviously excited to be playing for the playoff hole. Unfortunately, I made bogey on 18, but 18 was playing so hard the final day, I wasn’t too disappointed about it. The playoff was back to hole No. 1, which is much easier than the 18th. I didn’t know much about the guy I was playing against, Austin (Connelly), but I was excited. I tried to compose myself and stick to my routine. That was the game plan. He teed off first and hit a tee shot left that bounced in a pond. He was able to drop in the fairway, but it made things a little easier for me. I hit a 3-wood off the tee. I had the 3-wood out from the beginning, it was definitely the club for me. There was a bunker about 280 yards away so I wanted to stay in front of that. … I had 93 yards, one of my favorite yardages. It was a little three-quarter, knock down sand wedge. The pin position was tough to get to, but because of the low trajectory it didn’t have a lot of backspin. It just hopped and stopped 6 or 7 feet above the hole. He ended up missing his par attempt so I had two putts for the win from the short distance. I hit a nice one but it slid past the hole. So I was able to tap in for par. It felt pretty sweet to win.”
2. What was the atmosphere of the tournament with some of the best college golfers in the world?
“That has to be near the top or at the top of wins (for me) with the field that was there. There was a lot of elite players so you definitely have to play some good golf to win there. The course was very difficult. The atmosphere was awesome. We get treated unbelievably there.”
3. What are your expectations for this college season and how does this win affect your confidence?
“It definitely gives me a lot of confidence going forward. I’m real excited to get the season under way and get some more victories. We play a pretty tough schedule on some great golf courses. I’m just going to keep doing my thing. My game feels great. I’m real excited for my team, we’ve all worked really hard in the offseason here so we’re all itching to get going.”
4. What is your practice regimen like when the weather gets crazy in the winter?
“We have an unbelievable indoor practice facility. … It’s awesome. There’s a lot of emphasis on the short game, with a big putting green and a lot of chipping areas. You can work on a lot of different shots. And that was one of my major focuses during the offseason – working on my chipping and putting to save a lot of shots.”
5. As a native Canadian, do you have hopes of representing your country in the Olympics in 2016?
“It’s definitely a goal. I think about it, but I don’t put any additional pressure on myself. I’m just trying to keep playing well and see what happens. It would be tough for me to make the Canadian team with all the guys on the PGA Tour, like Graham DeLaet who’s in the top 50 in the world. His chances are pretty good of being on the team. It would be unbelievable to be on that team. I’ve been watching the Winter Olympics recently and just the pride that the people have playing for their country is awesome.”