- 1 of 1 Photos | View More Photos
The Kent State men's golf team left no doubt that it belongs with the nation's elite by finishing second at the Washington Regional, earning a spot in the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2013.
The No. 12 Golden Flashes shot a final round 2-over-par 286 on Wednesday to secure its runner-up finish at Aldarra Golf Club in Sammamish, Wash., finishing at 3-over 865 for three rounds. The Flashes actually led the event late, but No. 1 USC finished strong to claim the regional crown at 3-under 859.
"We had some breathing room, and we tried to win it. It is what it is," said veteran KSU coach Herb Page. "I couldn't be more pleased with this group. They started the year off with some pretty high expectations, and this is just another goal that we've accomplished. There's still a couple more to go."
Junior Ian Holt, a former Stow High School star who opened the tournament with a quadruple bogey eight on Monday, shot 31 on the back nine to complete a final round 4-under 67 that left him in a tie for second individually at 4-under.
"Unbelievable, a great story," said Page of Holt. "In the pouring rain (Tuesday) night he had another great round going and (double-bogeyed) 18. Ian made a bunch of birdies today, eagled No. 11. He showed some incredible toughness this week."
Sophomore Bjarki Petursson shot a final-round 72 to finish tied for 11th at even-par 213. Senior Josh Whalen was steady all week, shooting 70-72-72 to claim a tie for 13th place at 1-over par 214.
Sophomore Gisli Sveinbergsson closed with a 75 and wound up in a tie for 29th at 8-over 221, while junior Chase Johnson also shot 75 on Wednesday and finished 40th at 11-over 224.
The Flashes entered the final round in third place, seven strokes out of first and six back of the Trojans, but actually took a two-stroke lead over USC on the final nine.
"We hung in there, didn't start great today, then all of a sudden our guys went absolutely crazy. We had two birdies on 10, an eagle on 11, a couple more birdies, another eagle on 12. It was like, are you kidding me? I looked up at the scoreboard and saw we had the lead," said Page. "Then we made a couple mistakes coming in, and USC is No. 1 in the country for a reason. But we know we can play with them. Our guys know that."
Kent State made 39 birdies, two eagles and a hole in one in the final two rounds of the tournament.
"(Tuesday) was a long day, a lot of rain. Today was chilly, but it didn't rain a drop for the first day since we've been here," said Page. "The course was wet, and they moved every tee back, the pins were tough. This was a championship golf course, and at times we demolished it and then it got us back. But we never gave up. This group has a great bounce-back to them. It's fun to see, fun to watch, fun to coach."
Kent State's men's and women's golf teams have both qualified for the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2010, and join Pepperdine are the only non "Power 5" teams in the country with both golf programs headed to Nationals.
"I just hope people understand how hard it is to get into the NCAA Championships in golf," said Page. "I know we've made some runs and been to a lot of them, but it's a sport that's dominated by the west coast, the SEC and the ACC. I just think people should be very proud of Kent State University and what these young men have accomplished. It amazes me. And we're not finished."
The NCAA Championships will take place May 26-31 at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois. The final three days of the championship will be televised live by the Golf Channel.