This was a special group.
That has been evident about the members of Cathedral High School’s boys golf team for a while, and Irish golf coach Patrick Fagan said that remained true during the 2018 season.
The Irish were a strong team in 2018, with one of the best players in program history – senior Austin Vukovits – leading a talented, cohesive group that ranked among the best teams in the state of Indiana throughout much of the regular season.
“You don’t know how sorry I’ll be to see this group go,” Fagan said late in the season. “They get along and there’s no jealousies between players. If someone has a bad round, they’re rooting for the other guys. They’re really fun to coach.”
The Irish made the Indiana High School Athletic Association State Finals in 2017, returning all five players from that team in ‘18. That group included Vukovits, a leader within the program the past three seasons.
Vukovits, a two-time All-State selection who will play collegiately at Mississippi State, won Cathedral’s Dezelan Outstanding Male Student Athlete Award for 2018. He also was a two-time Indiana High School Golf Coaches Association All-State selection, with a likely third such honor as a senior.
“I don’t know that we’ve had an athlete who has taken a bigger role as far as trying to bring everybody else on the team under his wing, and doing things the right way,” Fagan said. “Whether it’s winter work, or extra work, or in the weight room, or talking to people before matches about their thought process … he’s the whole package.
Fagan added with a laugh, “It’s sort of depressing to think about not having him next year, but he’s taken over the leadership since his sophomore year.”
The Irish, despite dealing with adversity, had a solid early season in April and early May as they prepared for the postseason. They finished fourth at the Highland Invitational in March and finished third in the April 28 16-team Ulen Invitational with Vukovits medaling with a 74.
The Irish then won the City Tournament at South Grove on May 3 with a team 290, with Vukovits – who finished seventh at the state tournament as a junior – medaling with a 68 and senior Danny Paris shooting 72, junior Luke Mattingly shooting 73, senior Chris Murphy shooting 77 and sophomore Braden Estes shooting 78.
It was the Irish’s fourth consecutive city title.
The Irish appeared to go stronger as the postseason drew nearer, finishing tied for sixth at the May 5 State Tournament Preview, then placing sixth at the May 8 Crooked Stick Invitational. In addition to beating Brownsburg on Senior Day, they also won the May 12 Angola Invitational and finished fourth in the May 19 Muncie Central Invitational.
The Irish spent much of the season ranked in the IHSGCA poll, entering mid-May ranked No. 9, and the team was far from just the Southeastern Conference-bound Vukovits.
Vukovits averaged 73 through mid-May and Paris – a third-year varsity player – was averaging a 78 at that time.
“He and Austin combined are just rock-solid in terms of senior leadership,” Fagan said, adding of Paris, “He’s a guy you could always count on.”
Mattingly was averaging 79 at that time, continuing what Fagan called “amazing strides” after beginning as a full-time golfer as a freshman.
“It’s going to fun to see how good he’ll be next year,” Fagan said.
Estes was averaging 82.5 through mid-May. Sophomore David Cooke, a key member of the ’17 team who was projected to be one of the Irish’s top three or four players, struggled with a back injury during much of the 2018 season.
“That hurt us,” Fagan said. “You count four scores and five [golfers per team] play in major tournaments. We haven’t had that score, but we’ve had other guys step up.”
Fagan said while Vukovits, Paris, Murphy and other seniors in the program will be missed the future remains bright for Irish golf.
“This has been a good strong period, and we have some pretty good players in the pipeline,” Fagan said.
Editor’s note: Because of printer deadlines, the postseason results of the Cathedral boys golf team were unavailable at press time. For information on the Irish’s postseason boys golf results for 2018, please visit gocathedral.com.