After 40 years, Herb Page and Kent State show no signs of slowing down

Kent State Athletics

After 40 years, Herb Page and Kent State show no signs of slowing down

College

After 40 years, Herb Page and Kent State show no signs of slowing down

Editor’s Note: This story appeared in the June 2018 issue of Golfweek.

STILLWATER, Okla. – Herb Page isn’t here to be called a mid-major.

Kent State’s head coach notes with pride that his group has staying power.

“I play a major schedule, we’re a major college golf (program),” said Page, who also serves as Kent State’s director of golf. “We’ve done this for 30 years.”

That’s continued this week at Karsten Creek. Some 34 years after finishing 24th at the NCAA Championship with just two scholarships (due to MAC restrictions on men’s golf), the Golden Flashes have stood toe to toe with the top teams at nationals.

The northern, non-Power Five school has no issue competing with the top southern golf programs, reaching the NCAA Championship 17 times in Page’s 40-year tenure as men’s head coach.

He’s helped produce Ben Curtis, Mackenzie Hughes, Corey Conners and John Hahn.

“The whole philosophy for 40 years is just get the best players we can that want to come to Kent State,” Page said. “We can teach them, coach them and make them better.”

It took some time to build, though. Page, 67, was approached about the head coaching position in 1978, and the former Kent State golfer had a passion to play and teach golf, so he accepted.

The first few years were rocky, but he soon learned the importance of recruiting. Trying to track down southern kids would mostly be a fruitless effort, so Page turned to his native Canada. He went to Canadian junior events and joked he had the whole country to himself, as it seemed he was the only coach recruiting there.

That changed when he began finding gems up north. And the local kids didn’t slip by either.

Page recalled that while recruiting Curtis, a Kent, Ohio kid, he planned to scout him in the later stages of an AJGA event. By the time Page landed, Curtis had missed the cut and Ohio State head coach Jim Brown had been there walking with him since the practice round.

“Rookie move there,” Page said, smiling.

Curtis still chose Kent State. He later captured the 2003 British Open.
Page has shown the ability to get the best out of his players.

“His attention to detail is just immaculate,” senior Ian Holt said. “And the way he thinks his way through each hole, it’s second to none.”

Herb Page soaks in the 2018 NCAA Championship at Karsten Creek Golf Club.

The program has gained support. Page is tasked with fundraising, and over the years he has helped build around $1.7 million in endowments for the program. Fundraising efforts in 2007 led to the creation of the Ferrara & Page Golf Training and Learning Center, which Holt considers one of the best golf facilities in the country.

Page’s boundless energy likely has been his greatest asset. In August 2016 he underwent a quintuple bypass and had associate head coach Jon Mills fill in for a short time (Curtis also stepped in as a volunteer assistant). By October, Page was back in action.

The next season he proved his energy hadn’t waned. When the team went to play laser tag during a rained-out round, Page put his full spirit into the effort.

“The first thing they said is no running, and what does he do? He just takes off running,” Holt said, laughing.

Retirement does loom for Page at some point. Holt has wondered about it himself.

“I was asking Ben Curtis about it, and I guess (Herb’s) been saying only two more years for the last 10 years,” Holt said.

Page keeps a circle of a half-dozen confidantes and informed them he didn’t want to stay past his prime, so when it came time to go, they should tell him. Kent State, which has won nine of the last 10 MAC titles and made NCAA regionals all but three of the last 29 years, finished fifth in the MAC in 2015 and failed to make the postseason.

The circle gave Page the call that it was time to move on.

“I was like, ‘You sons of (expletive), it ain’t time,’ “ Page said, laughing.

He has a capable potential successor in Mills on staff. But Page, who will coach the Internationals in the Palmer Cup this summer, has a long-term contract and no retirement plan, noting he could pack it up next week or five years from now.

One thing’s clear: His desire to better players hasn’t dipped.

“I have a passion,” Page said. “I tell people, if you have my energy and my passion, you can do pretty good.”

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