This season was by any measure a success.
As Eric Bruns saw it, that became the case when Cathedral High School’s girls golf team completed the season – and its matches. The results that came in those matches?
That made the success even greater.
The Irish, who began the season as the least-experienced team in Bruns’ three seasons as head coach, improved as the season continued. They finished second at the City Tournament, then turned in a dominant victory for yet another sectional title.
“It was a good performance overall – particularly with the performance we put together in the sectional,” Bruns said.
The Irish, like many Indiana high school teams in the fall of 2020, dealt with the realities of COVID-19. Several players missed time, but Bruns said the lineup remained mostly intact.
“We had our issues with it where it popped up occasionally,” Bruns said. “We had one or two girls on the team who had to step aside and isolate for the 10-to-14 days until we got results. We contact traced and dealt with that a couple of times. We didn’t lose girls who were consistent varsity performers, but it did keep some of the girls out who were trying to get into the lineup.
“Like everybody else, you couldn’t avoid it. It was there.”
The Irish were led by a pair of seniors, Katie Shin and Caroline Buhner. Shin transferred to Cathedral late in the 2019 season, and Bruns said Shin and Buhner made each other better throughout their senior seasons.
“They really kind of pushed each other all year, which was great,” Bruns said.
The Irish also got key performances from:
*Junior Olivia Shilder, who played in all varsity matches as a sophomore and improved in 2020. “She really developed the mental side of her game as the season went on,” Bruns said. “She has all the physical tools in terms of swing and ability, but she put together the mental game and played with more confidence as the season went on. To see her finally truly put it all together was great.”
*Freshman Tillie Browning, who moved into the Top 5 immediately and stayed there throughout the season. “She was super-consistent for us,” Bruns said. “She was just a solid performer for us all year and we’re looking forward to how she develops going forward.”
*Sophomore Allison Haug, who emerged from a group of players to play in the No. 5 spot through the last few weeks of the season.
The Irish won the Section 15 tournament at Maple Creek Golf Club with a score of 349, well ahead of runner-up Heritage Christian at 375. The sectional title was the program’s 18th sectional title and the ninth in 10 seasons.
Shin won the individual title for Cathedral with a score of 82, with Buhner finishing as the runner-up with a score of 84. Shidler shot a 91 at the sectional with Browning shooting 92 and Haug shooting 115.
The Irish’s season then ended with an 11th-place finish at the Region 3 tournament at Edgewood, with Cathedral shooting an 382 and first-place Noblesville shooting 314. Shidler shot a 90 at the regional followed by Browning and Shin at 97, Buhner shooting 98 and Haug shooting 113.
“We had the chance to get out [of the regional],” Bruns said. “We put ourselves in that position. We didn’t end up doing it, but that’s OK.”
A highlight moment came late in the season when the top four – Shin, Shidler, Browning and Buhner – all shot in the 40s in a nine-hole match against Lawrence North and Warren Central.
“It was fun seeing them putting it together,” Bruns said. “Seeing that happen, for all of them was kind of the confidence they needed of, ‘Hey, we can do this.’ You could see it. They came into the sectional dialed in and ready to go.”
The Irish finished second in the 2020 City Tournament, posting a season-low 342 to finish four strokes behind City Champion Heritage Christian. Shin shot an 82, Buhner shot an 86 and Browning shot an 81 with all three earning All-City honors.
“I really thought we had a real chance as a team to advance out of the regional,” Bruns said. “The conditions that day were really tough. The temperature had dropped that morning. It was a constant 20 mph wind and sometimes gusting higher. It made it hard.
“We put some additional pressure on ourselves and you just can’t play that way. Still, we did OK.”
And as the Irish move to the future, Bruns said the program has grown and continues to do so, with 20 players in the program this season after seven-to-eight in Bruns’ first season of 2018.
“We have built the program back up numberswise,” Bruns said. “We had a couple more that expressed interest, but we just couldn’t physically handle taking anymore players on. We’re getting some depth and up some players, and that’s nice.”