This was disappointing. Without question.
Coach Patrick Fagan and the Cathedral High School boys golf team know there are bigger issues than the 2020 season. Still, within the context of high school sports and what they mean, Fagan said the pain members of 2020 Irish golf felt in March was real.
“We would have had a chance to win the state championship,” Fagan said.
Irish boys golf, like all Indiana high school spring sports, had its 2020 season canceled by regulations addressing Covid-19. Fagan said the Irish had yet to have tryouts when sporting events around the nation on all levels began being postponed in mid-March.
All high school Indiana spring sports were canceled in early April.
Still, Fagan said the team that was to have returned in 2020 was as talented as any in recent program history – and had a real chance for one of the best seasons in program history.
“This team would be the best team I’d coached since I’ve been at Cathedral,” Fagan said. “Preseason we were ranked sixth [in the Indiana High School Golf Coaches Association rankings] and I think we should have been in the Top 3. I’m not usually a braggard about our teams, but I can tell what I think was going to happen and I think we were going to have a good shot to win the state. But we won’t get that shot.”
The Irish closed 2019 with a strong postseason finish, shooting the state’s lowest score – and the lowest sectional score in school history – in that round before narrowly missing advancing from the following week’s regional tournament.
The 2020 Irish were expected to be keyed by a strong, four-member senior class and a sophomore who – like many of the seniors – had a chance to finish among the best individual golfers in the state.
“In Indiana, if you finish in the Top 10 in the state individually you make All-State,” Fagan said. “All four of them would have had a chance to make All-State. This was our year.”
The Irish’s senior class was:
*Ayden Alerding. “Every year, he would come back and say, ‘Coach, I’m going to get better,’’’ Fagan said. “And he did. He would have found a way to play in some matches. He would have been in our Top 7, Top 8. We’re going to miss him.”
*Carter Caito. “He just started getting better and better every year,” Fagan said. “After his freshman year, his swing coach came to me and said, ‘One more year of lessons and he’ll be ready to help your varsity the last two years.’ He has basically improved three shots a year every year for nine holes, which is six for 18 holes. He just kept getting better and better. It would have been really, really fun to see how good he could have been this year. I definitely think he would have been fighting for All-State honors.”
*David Cooke, a four-year player and a huge player throughout his career for the Irish. He averaged 39.8 for nine holes as a junior. “He played in the state tournament his freshman and sophomore year, and he played No. 2 all last season and would have been No. 1 or 2 all this season,” Fagan said. “I have no doubt that David would have played in the state again this year had the virus not hit.”
*Braden Estes, a four-year letterman. He also played in the state tournament as a freshman and sophomore before not playing in the postseason as a junior. “But last summer, this past fall and this past winter, he worked his rear off and I have no doubt he was going to be back to where he had been prior and playing really, really well for us,” Fagan said of Estes, who will attend North Central College in Naperville, Ill. “We will miss him in so many ways.” Estes has a 4.33 grade point average and would have been a strong candidate for Academic All-State honors.
*Caleb Land. He transferred from Scecina after his freshman year, played varsity throughout his junior season – and improved his score by 3.5 shots over nine holes to become a major contributor on the sectional and city champions. “He’s another guy who would have had a chance to vie for All-State,” Fagan said. “As with the other seniors, Caleb would have been able to show to everyone how good he had become. I think this past off-season his work ethic and maturity grew and he was going to become a very good player.”
The Irish also had two strong sophomores, meaning they would have had strong depth throughout the season as the postseason approached.
While the postseason never happened, and while Fagan called that “extremely disappointing,” he said the team kept the disappointment in the proper perspective.
“It would have been so much fun,” Fagan said. “But being safe and healthy is so important. I have tried to tell them what they meant to this program. I don’t try to brag about our team and let our play do the talking. But they were that good. It’s just really frustrating and disappointing to have been pointing for this for two or three years and to get denied. I feel bad for the people who didn’t get to play in the tournament. It’s just extremely disappointing.”