College Men

Men's spring preview: MAC

Kent State's Corey Conners
Kent State's Corey Conners ( Courtesy Kent State Athletics )

Monday, January 28, 2013

Kent State’s Corey Conners has accomplished a lot while being a Golden Flash for nearly three years.

He has won two collegiate tournaments, the MAC championship, he was named MAC golfer of the year, and has played in two NCAA Championships, including last year’s match-play portion of the tournament. It was the first time in school history that Kent State had advanced that far.

The only thing left? Winning a national championship.

While the Canadian racked up his second career collegiate victory this fall at the Gopher Invitational - overcoming an eight-stroke deficit heading into the final round - the team won the Jack Nicklaus Invitational and was runner-up at the Inverness Intercollegiate.

The victory at the Jack Nicklaus Invitational was by a four-shot margin over Oklahoma State - all without Conners. He was representing Canada at the World Amateur Team Championship in Turkey.

Other players simply had to step up - including junior Taylor Pendrith (4th at Jack Nicklaus) and senior Kevin Miller (medalist at Inverness). With Miller’s win, the Golden Flashes took home two of the five individual honors at tournaments the team played in this fall.

With his victory at the Gopher, Conners’ finished in the top 5 in his last three starts, including the MAC championship, which he won, and a fourth-place showing at the NCAA Championship (the highest ever for a Kent State golfer). In the four tournaments he played in this fall, Conners finished T-15 or better.

“Overall, I’ve hit the ball really well, but how I keep my game in shape is I work on my short game,” said Conners. “We have a really good indoor short-game practice facility here (in Kent, Ohio), and I really work on that over the winter months.”

Jumping ahead to the spring, Kent State starts the season at the Louisiana Classic in early March and has five other tournaments before the MAC Championship.

“We obviously have to win the MAC again and play well at a regional, but if we make it back to NCAAs, the ultimate goal is to win, but winning a match and finishing in the top 4 in the country would be ideal, too,” said Conners.

• • •

Where it stands now

Top of the class: Kent State

Best player of the fall: Corey Conners, Kent State

• • •

Past champions

2012: Kent State

2011: Kent State

2010: Kent State

2009: Kent State

2008: Eastern Michigan

• • •

Conference capsules

Kent State (Golfweek/Sagarin Ranking: No. 22)

In the fall, the team won the Jack Nicklaus Invitational and finished as the runner-up to the Inverness Intercollegiate. 2012 Mid-American Conference individual medalist and No. 15 in the Golfweek Rankings, Corey Conners won The Gopher Invitational to start the season. Senior Kevin Miller won the Inverness Intercollegiate.

Ball State (No. 27)

Won The Firestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in mid-October, and continued with a runner-up finish at Pinetree Intercollegiate. Junior Tyler Merkel, No. 89 Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, finished second individually at Firestone and third at Pinetree.

Akron (No. 90)

The Zips finished fourth at their last two fall tournaments, The Firestone Invitational and the WKU Kenny Perry Invitational. Charlie Bull, No. 55 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings, won the WKU Kenny Perry Invitational by a shot to collect his first collegiate victory.

Toledo (No. 124)

A so-so first part of the season until the last tournament, the Georgetown Intercollegiate, where the Rockets won the title. Sophomore Chris Selfridge captured his first collegiate title with a career-low 54-hole total.

Eastern Michigan (No. 147)

Finished in the middle of the pack in all five tournaments of the fall. Junior Brian Churchill-Smith had the best finish of the fall with a runner-up at the Georgetown Intercollegiate.

Miami-Ohio (No. 172)

Started off on a good note with a fourth-place finish at the Marshall Intercollegiate. Junior Mark MacDonald had the Red Flashes' best finish, a T-8 at The Firestone Invitational.

Northern Illinois (No. 200)

Seventh-place finish at the John Dallio Memorial. Two Huskies, Griffin Bauman and Shawn Foley, finished in the top 5; Bauman was the runner-up.

Bowling Green (No. 209)

Senior Wes Gates won his first collegiate title at the John Piper Invitational by 12 shots. He was the only player in the field under-par that week.

Ohio University (No. 235)

The Bobcats finished 11th at the Dayton Fall Invitational. Senior Byron Firestone finished as the low player for the Bobcats in two tournaments this fall.

Conference championship

May 3-5, Longaberger Golf Course, Nashport, Ohio

Lance Ringler's prediction

Kent State. Ball State has become a legitimate threat to knock off Kent State this spring, but the Cardinals will be in new territory this spring with a different kind of pressure. Kent State, which is comfortable winning league titles, will be the favorite to win a fifth consecutive MAC title. readers: We value your input and welcome your comments, but please be respectful in this forum.