Kent State wins MAC Men's Championship by 20 shots to regain conference title

Kent State won its seventh MAC title in eight years thanks to Saturday's victory.

Kent State wins MAC Men's Championship by 20 shots to regain conference title

Men

Kent State wins MAC Men's Championship by 20 shots to regain conference title

After a year hiatus, Kent State is the Mid-American Conference champion again.

The No. 49 Golden Flashes fired a final-round 4-over 288 on Saturday, ending the 72-hole MAC Championship 20 shots ahead of the field. For the week, Kent State posted 16 over, with Eastern Michigan posting a runner-up showing at 36 over.

After a disappointing fifth-place finish at last year’s conference tournament, the MAC dominators are back.

Kent State captured six consecutive MAC titles before last year’s showing, which makes the latest win the seventh in the last eight years at the conference championship. The Golden Flashes own 23 MAC titles overall.

The charge over three days at Highland Meadows Golf Club (in Sylvania, Ohio) was led by Ian Holt. The sophomore posted a remarkably consistent four rounds, piecing together scores of 73, 72, 70 and 72 on his way to a 3-over total and a tie for second. Chase Johnson (T-5, 4 over), Bjarki Petursson (T-7, 5 over), Gisli Sveinbergsson (13th, 11 over) and Josh Whalen (T-31, 21 over) composed the rest of the Golden Flashes lineup.

“We played smart and Kent State depth was really on display this week,” said Herb Page, Kent State’s head coach and named the 2016 MAC Coach of the Year.  “I know it’s cliché to say…but it really was a team effort … This week was a culmination of the improvement we’ve shown this spring.”

The individual medalist crown went to Akron’s George Baylis, who comfortably captured the title. The sophomore closed the week with a stunning final 54 holes. Baylis was 5 over and tied for 22nd through 18, but moved up to T-11 after a second-round 72 and followed up in the third round Friday with the day’s only sub-70 round (68). That put him just four back, but an even lower score (67) on Saturday pushed him over the top. Yet again the day’s only sub-70 round, the clean 67 (just one bogey) boosted Baylis to 1 under and from four back to four clear of the field.

“I’m excited for George becoming our first MAC Champion,” said David Trainor, Akron’s head coach. “He played great this week, especially down the stretch.”

The win was Baylis’ first of his college career and aided him in earning First-Team All-MAC honors.

Holt wasn’t alone in the group closest to Baylis. Northern Illinois’ Joo-Young Lee fell from a two-shot 54-hole lead to a tie for second after four back-nine bogeys removed his shot at winning. Eastern Michigan’s Kyle Rodes, on the other hand, closed out his finishing 70 with an eagle to rise into a share of runner up.

Despite Baylis’ win, Akron never threatened for the title, as the Zips finished in fifth at 48 over, 32 shots back. Eastern Michigan kept up with Kent State through 36 holes, trailing the Golden Flashes by just four at the halfway mark. But the third round moved that margin to 15 and it only grew in the end. Aside from Rodes, the Eagles also boasted Brett White (T-7, 5 over) in the top 10.

Defending champion Miami (Ohio), led by Brian Ohr (T-5, 4 over) and Patrick Flavin (11th, 9 over), placed third at 40 over. Lee and the remainder of the Northern Illinois squad came in fourth one shot behind that.

Holt earned First-Team All-MAC honors after the event. Johnson also garnered the First-Team All-MAC accolade, along with MAC Player of the Year. Sveinbergsson got second-team honors and MAC Freshman of the Year.

Kent State earned its second win of the year Saturday. The MAC Championship win earns the Golden Flashes an automatic NCAA Regional berth. Kent State returns to the NCAA postseason after failing to make it in 2014-15, the first time the team had not reached regionals since 2006-07. The team last advanced to the NCAA Championship in 2012-13.

– Information from Kent State and Akron Athletics was used in this report

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