Will Kurtz has never been one to lack self-assurance.

He has been particularly coolheaded when he visits places that include well-trimmed grass, lots of trees, a little bit of sand and perhaps a body of water or two.

However, when he became part of the college scene, the 2017 Hudson graduate soon realized he could no longer claim ownership of a certain lovely outdoor marvel he once conquered regularly.

Believe it or not, Kurtz, a former state champion, felt uneasy on a golf course for the first time in his life.

It had nothing to do with the layout of the courses. His ability to hit, chip and putt didn’t suddenly forsake him either.

No, Kurtz encountered something he had never faced in his previous life when he made his way to the links.

A number of players were better than he was. Some of them were considerably better.

And that list included some young men who sported the same colors and logo the 20-year-old southpaw wore.

"It was definitely overwhelming to see how good everybody was," Kurtz said. "I realized I was on the bottom of the list."

Pardon Kurtz for being alarmed.

Something like this isn’t supposed to happen to a highly talented virtuoso who is working on his economics’ degree.

After all, Kurtz had won numerous tournaments, including the biggest and baddest one of all.

The three-time state qualifier captured the 2015 Division I title in Columbus. He followed that ground-breaking accomplishment with a bronze medal a year later.

But things are different now.

These days, Kurtz is playing for a team that traditionally contends for conference championships.

And that same squad has been ranked among the nation’s best for what seems like an eternity despite its relatively small size.

Kurtz is a rising junior on the Kent State University men’s golf team, which has 20 appearances in the championship round of a rather prestigious event.

That would be the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championships.

"I remember telling my parents how different it was from high school," Kurtz said. "We play some of the same schools as the biggest schools in the country. We play some of the best teams."

Maybe the moment was far too big for the overwhelmed Hudson native. A certain golfing wizard, on the other hand, considers such rumors poppycock.

"He has all of the shots," said Herb Page, who recently retired as the Golden Flashes men’s head coach and director of golf. "He’s one of the best putters I’ve ever recruited. He’s a really good player. He could be a great player. He just needs to believe in himself."

The task to instill confidence in his gifted pupil now falls on the lap of Jon Mills, a Canadian professional golfer who replaced Page as the team’s head coach.

Mills, a 2002 Kent State graduate, had been the team’s associate head coach since 2016.

So far, the Flashes’ new leader likes what he sees.

"When Will shows confidence in the way he wants to hit it, there’s nothing stopping him," Mills said. "He needs to learn that he can still shoot a good score when he’s not hitting the ball well."

Kurtz got his much-needed shot in the arm at a tournament that was relatively close to home last fall.

He claimed his first collegiate title when he won the Tom Tontimonia Invitational at Lakewood Country Club.

Kurtz shot a 7-over-par 206 to win the event by four strokes. The invitational was an individual competition that featured two other Kent State players.

The rest of the team participated in a tournament at another location.

"I wasn’t even in the lineup at the time," Kurtz said. "I was in the lineup after that."

Kurtz’s surge continued at the Mid-American Conference Championships in late April.

He placed third after shooting an even-par 144 during the Flashes’ first-place tie with Eastern Michigan. It was Kent State’s 26th career MAC title and 11th in its last 12 seasons.

"I made a huge jump from my freshman year to my sophomore year," Kurtz said. "I’m hoping to do the same thing this year."

Kurtz could use another confidence boost or three when he rejoins the Flashes in the fall.

He’s still figuring out how life works when you make a dramatic shift from movie star to factory worker in, well, a flash.

"With our program, we get kids here who are elite in a certain area," Mills said. "Some of them are used to being the guy. When you come to Kent, you have 10 guys who are in that same situation. It’s tough to tell how they will react."

Mills believes his left-handed short-game savant will react well to the situation. And that could lead to some prestige down the road.

"I think he will qualify for NCAAs," Mills said. "Why not? He has always been a solid putter. The short game is the best part of his game. If you chip the ball well, it doesn’t matter how well you hit it."

Kurtz will be pushed hard to keep up. He’ll have to compete against some of the best players in the nation to accomplish his goals.

And the abundance of major-conference opponents are just part of this arduous journey.

Kurtz also will have to minimize his strokes against a certain group of players he knows quite well.

Let’s just say their uniforms feature the same navy blue and gold colors Kurtz wears.

"I played with [Kent State graduates] Ian Holt and Chase Johnson, who are obviously very good," he said. "I knew I could hang with them. If I play well, I can hang with anybody."

Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, faceto@recordpub.com or @FrankAceto_RPC.