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Austin Peay State University Men’s Golf coach Kirk Kayden: Driving the Governors to greatness

 

Clarksville Sports NetworkClarksville, TN – Every golfer knows that to play your best golf, you must hit fairways and greens. If you miss either of them, then you can’t score. The game is easier to play when you’re not in a hazard. Not that it’s an easy game to begin with.

Austin Peay golf coach Kirk Kayden has kept his team out of the hazard and in the best position to win since his arrival in 2004. He does more than just drive the van.

(golf clap)

APSU Golf Team - Memphis Intercollegiate Champions. Courtesy: Austin Peay Sports Information)

APSU Golf Team – Memphis Intercollegiate Champions. Courtesy: Austin Peay Sports Information)

Kayden was an outstanding prep golfer, winning the Division III Ohio High School Golf Championship and voted the Ohio High School Golfer of the Year for outstanding play and sportsmanship. He played college golf at Toledo, winning the Ohio Collegiate Classic as a junior.

He became interested in coaching when he was asked to run the high school golf program at Central Columbia High School, while working as an assistant golf professional and substitute teacher. After spending a year at Central Columbia, he was selected to start a golf program at Terra Community College. In the first year of the Terra program, the team advanced to the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Regional Tournament and finished the season ranked fifth nationally in Division III.

Kirk KaydenIn 2001, Kayden was hired to become Penn State’s assistant golf coach by Greg Nye, the former head coach at Bowling Green who had recruited Kayden out of high school.

Good move.

(golf clap)

Kayden was hired as the APSU men’s golf coach in July of 2004. He took over a program that had won three consecutive OVC Championships, (2001-2003). He replaced Mark LaRue who had accepted the head coaching job at Missouri.

“Ok Kirk. Good luck. Here’s the keys to the van.”

What Kayden has managed to accomplish in nine years is nothing short of spectacular.

(golf clap)

In 2009, the Govs set a record for the lowest 18 hole team score after setting records for the 36 and 54 hole team scores in the 2006-2007 season. I remember when that happened, and interviewed Kayden at the time, and he just said, “the guys played pretty good.”

Ya think?

On the individual side, Kayden has lead the Govs to the four lowest 18 hole rounds in school history, eight of the 10 lowest 36 hole rounds and 12 of the 14 lowest individual 54 hole records, setting 80 individual records.

His golfers have earned a total of 13 All-OVC honors, including two OVC Freshman of the Year selections (Erik Barnes, and Grant Leaver), while Barnes also was named OVC Player of the Year in 2009.

Luke Sherrod was a first-team All-OVC pick and was named All-Newcomer, while Clarksville’s own Brian Balthrop and Sherrod were each named OVC All-Tournament as part of the Govs 2009 OVC title.

Which brings us to this year’s edition of the APSU golf team. While Kayden would never let on that he’s probably got one of the best squads since he’s been here, you’ve got to figure he’s a little bit “giddy” inside thinking of the possibilities.

These guys are good.

(golf clap)

Let’s review some of the highlights of this 2012-2013 season

  • Cardinal Intercollegiate – 5th
  • Bearcat Invitational – 1st
  • Hilltopper Invitational – 3rd
  • F&M Bank Intercollegiate – 1st
  • Harmony Preserve Intercollegiate – 1st
  • Carter Plantation Intercollegiate – 2nd
  • Memphis Intercollegiate – 1st
  • ASU Intercollegiate – 1st
  • Mizzou Intercollegiate – 2nd

They’e got 5 wins in 9 starts. They’ve beaten programs that are nationally ranked. The collegiate golf world has taken notice of Austin Peay. When the Govs show up at a tournament, everybody knows who they are.

“You Da Man!”

(golf clap)

APSU-Dustin Korte - Champion Mizzou Intercollegiate. (Courtesy: Austin Peay Sports Information)

APSU-Dustin Korte – Champion Mizzou Intercollegiate. (Courtesy: Austin Peay Sports Information)

And here’s the kicker. This team has only one senior, Dustin Korte, and some very talented underclassmen. They lose only one member of this team to graduation. I would feel a little “giddy” too if I were Kayden.

I caught up with Coach Kayden before the team went to Missouri, where they finished second and Dustin Korte was medalist. We talked about this team, this season, and the expectations they’ve put on themselves. In his normal, not too excited sounding way, I could tell Kirk Kayden was feeling good about this team.

“These guys make my job easier” Kayden said. “With five tournament wins this year, this could be the best team I’ve ever had at Austin Peay. They’re so competitive. They not only want to beat each other, but they want to beat anybody they tee it up against” he said.

“My main job is keeping this team focused day in and day out. Golf is one shot at a time. One tournament at a time. I try to keep them focused on that. I tell them, don’t worry about the last shot, or the last tournament. Think about the next shot, then the next tournament. One at a time.”

About the goals this team has set for this year;

“We’ve set our sites on winning the OVC Tournament and getting into the NCAA. It’s a goal we set at the beginning of the season. Losing the OVC the way we did last year left a bad taste in our mouth, and I think we’ve carried a chip on our shoulder all year long. I think my guys feel like they have something to prove after missing out on the NCAA last year” said Kayden.

It’s highly unlikely that Austin Peay would get an invitation to the NCAA Tournament without winning the OVC tournament, but it’s possible, based on their strength of schedule and the number of tournament wins they’ve had. They’ve beaten some highly ranked teams along the way.

Ohio Valley Conference - OVCWe’re kind of on the bubble” said Kayden. “We need to just take care of business, win the OVC Tournament, and assure ourselves of a trip to the NCAA. Winning the OVC Tournament is our number one goal. It’s super important” he said.

Managing so much talent isn’t easy. As a coach, you have to know your players. Put the best team on the course. It’s not always about who plays best in practice, it’s about who’s tournament tough. Who can perform under pressure. Who’s more consistent. Sometimes if a golfer doesn’t play well during qualifying, you go with him anyway, because he plays better under tournament conditions. He loves the pressure. A coach has to trust his “gut.”

Kayden knows his guys. Week after week he puts the best team on the course that will give Austin Peay the best chance to win the tournament and looking at this year’s results, I would have to say he knows what he’s doing.

(golf clap)

So as Austin Peay prepares for the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, the expectations are high, and so is their confidence. When the Govs step up to the first tee, they’ll have a bulls-eye squarely on their back. Murray State and Jacksonville State will likely challenge them for the title, but this team has proven that they’re not afraid of even the darkest night.

And they’re not intimidated.

So my advice to the rest of the OVC is to bring your “A” game, because the guy driving our van is feeling a little “giddy.”

“YOU DA MAN!”

(golf clap)


About Hank Bonecutter

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