By KEVIN HARRIS
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
Entering his fifth season as the Providence boys’ golf coach, Ken Allender will lead one of the youngest teams in his Pioneer tenure.
But he also has one of the most talented squads in his career.
Allender hopes that talent will continue to develop this season and result in a return trip to the IHSAA State Finals June 17-18 at The Legends Golf Club in Franklin.
“From a class standpoint, we’re a little younger than in the past,” said Allender, whose team came up short of reaching state last season after making five consecutive trips to Legends from 2008-2012. “Our potential is going to be really, really good. If we can develop, we could get back to state.”
The Pioneers’ top three players should be their foundation. Providence will be led by its No. 1 player, junior Mitchell Allender.
The coach’s son has been to state the past two seasons, qualifying last year as an individual. Mitchell Allender finished 24th at state last season with a two-round score of 147 (3-over-par).
The Pioneers’ other two returning letterwinners are sophomores Kevin Crone and Max Leist. Crone showed his potential several times last season, which included a fourth-place finish in the Providence Sectional at Covered Bridge Golf Club with a 2-over 74.
Coach Allender says a big factor in his team getting back to state is finding a No. 4 golfer who can consistently shoot in the low to mid 70s. He will look to three players to try to be that fourth scorer in seniors Erich Day and Austin Happel and junior Evan Wilson. Freshman Ben Arnson, who is currently injured, could play into the No. 4 mix once he gets healthy.
Coach Allender thinks his team must shoot a team score between 302 and 306 at the Providence Regional on Thursday, June 12 at Champions Pointe Golf Club in Memphis to have a chance to qualify for state. The top three teams at regional will advance to state.
“A lot will depend on our No. 4 golfer,” Ken Allender said. “Our top scorers must go lower than they did in the past. Mitchell and Kevin must get around even-par. If we put up a 306, I’ll take our chances. But I would feel better with a 302 or 303.”
A challenging regular-season schedule should prepare Providence for the postseason.
The 18th-ranked Pioneers will compete in nine 18-hole invitational tournaments with some of them featuring several top-20 teams. Those tournaments include the Fuzzy Zoeller Invitational next Saturday at Champions Pointe, the Legends Spring Preview on Saturday, April 19 and the New Castle Invitational on Saturday, May 24.
Providence’s most important regular-season tourney will be its own tournament, which is the Legends of Providence Invitational on Saturday, May 31 at Champions Pointe.
“It could be one of the best invitationals in the state. We have a lot of college scouts who come to watch our invitational,” Ken Allender said. “We’ve tried to increase the level of competition in our schedule.”
• COACH: Ken Allender, fifth season.
• RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Mitchell Allender, Jr.; Kevin Crone, So.; Max Leist, So.
• KEY NEWCOMERS: Evan Wilson, Jr.; Erich Day, Sr.; Austin Happel, Sr.; Ben Arnson, Fr.
• OUTLOOK: The Pioneers have the potential to earn a berth in the IHSAA State Finals. But they must find a reliable No. 4 golfer to achieve that goal. Providence also looks to give Floyd Central, which has won 11 consecutive sectional titles, a run for its money in the Providence Sectional this season.
• COACH ALLENDER SAYS: “From a class standpoint, we’re a little younger than in the past. Our potential is going to be really, really good. If we can develop, we could get back to state.”
REST OF THE AREA TEAMS
• COACH: Tony Wagoner, eighth season.
• RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Tony Wagoner III, Sr.; TJ Fraley, Sr.; Elijah Franklin, Jr.; Reilly Gray, So.; Kamden Hurst, So.; Niko Frascella, So.
• KEY NEWCOMERS: Carte Hurst, Fr.; Josh Nunn, Fr.
• OUTLOOK: The Braves’ primary goal is to win the Southern Athletic Conference championship for the first time in program history. They definitely have the experience to do that with six returning letterwinners. Coach Wagoner hopes his players can build off shooting their lowest team score of the season at last year’s sectional.
• COACH WAGONER SAYS: “I believe we will be more competitive against other teams this year with Henryville, Silver Creek, North Harrison and Scottsburg being some of our tougher opponents. How well we play in the invitational at Wooded View [Golf Course on Saturday, April 12] and against those teams will be a gauge for us heading into conference and sectional.”
• COACH: Adam Tolliver.
• RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Chris Ison, Sr.; Brady Christman, Jr.; John Watson, So.
• KEY NEWCOMERS: Chris Shanks, Sr.; Brevin Stubbins, So.; Wyatt Payne, Fr.
• OUTLOOK: Tolliver is looking for Ison and Christman to each shoot in the mid 40s or lower in nine-hole matches on a consistent basis. The Pirates’ coach likes the improvement Watson has shown in his game. Former Charlestown standout Jake Atkins has returned to the team as an assistant coach.
• TOLLIVER SAYS: “Right now, we are still struggling with a shot or two per hole that aren’t being hit solid. If we can eliminate these, then all the guys have room to drop quite a few strokes from their rounds. All the guys are good kids so it will be an enjoyable season watching these guys improve their games as we move on.”
• COACH: Scott Schermerhorn, first season.
• RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Charlie Lauffer, Jr.; Brent Potter, Jr.
• KEY NEWCOMERS: Keigan Fetz, Sr.; Cody Brunner, Fr.
• OUTLOOK: Lauffer is the only player back from last season’s team. Potter returns to the Generals this season after sitting out last year. Fetz is a transfer from Charlestown.
• SCHERMERHORN SAYS: “We’re going to go out there and try to have a good time. We hope to get better as the season goes on.”
• COACH: Jason Nelson, second season.
• RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Nick Emmert, So.; Evin Young, Jr.
• OUTLOOK: The Musketeers lack numbers as Nelson is trying to convince more kids to come out for the team. He said three freshmen might join his squad. If Nelson adds more players to his players, he will rely on Emmert and Young to provide them leadership.
• NELSON SAYS: “Evin and Nick are pretty solid players. We’re just trying to learn the game and learn how to compete.”
• COACH: Mike Cason, 14th season.
• RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Jack Sparrow, Sr.; Connor Welch, Sr.; Eric Lamm, Jr.; Clayton Crum, Jr.; Billy Sleight, Jr.; Logan Minzenberger, Jr.; David Shepard, So.
• OUTLOOK: The expectations remain the same for the Highlanders. Their goals are to win the Hoosier Hills Conference, the Providence Sectional and the Providence Regional and make a serious run at the state championship. Sparrow, Welch and Lamm provide Floyd Central lots of experience. But Cason says the production from the bottom part of his lineup will be critical this season. As always, the Highlanders will play a difficult schedule that will take them all over the state to face several ranked teams.
• CASON SAYS: “By the end of the season, I think we’ll be really good. Our three experienced guys got better over the summer. They have improved tremendously. Finding reliable fourth, fifth and sixth guys are going to be the key to our season.”
• COACH: Robin Embry, 15th season.
• RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Luke Davidson, So.; Charlie Lefebvre, Jr.; Mason Edwards, So.
• KEY NEWCOMERS: Cole Grimm, So.; Collin Scott, Fr.
• OUTLOOK: Embry thinks his top three golfers are pretty solid in Davidson, Lefebvre and Edwards. The question for the Hornets is who will step up to be a sound fourth golfer. Embry says Borden is the favorite to win the SAC.
• EMBRY SAYS: “The three players who are returning are greatly improved. I think we have three solid scores. We’ve just got to come up with a fourth.”
• COACH: Dusty Corum, third season.
• RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Dillon Willis, Sr.; Blaze Damron, Sr.; Nick Rasdon, Jr.; Jake Melin, So.; Andrew Baldwin, Jr.; Evan Craig, Jr.; Zack Brinkley, So.
• KEY NEWCOMERS: Jordan Blackwell, So.
• OUTLOOK: The Red Devils expect to be more competitive this season with several veteran players back. But Corum says his players still have some room for improvement. The third-year coach thinks his team can finish in the middle of the pack at the HHC meet.
• CORUM SAYS: “Basically with the returning players we’ve got, we’re going to be more competitive. As for the rest of the players, we’ve got them for the future years. This will be a building year for us.”
• COACH: Rick Belcher, 10th season.
• RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Addisson Greenwell, So..; Jonny Smith, Sr.; Bret Walts, Sr.; Kunal Bhanushali, Jr.
• KEY NEWCOMERS: Cameron Walter, So.; Ethan Hunter, So.
• OUTLOOK: The Bulldogs look to return to the Providence Regional after not qualifying for it the past couple of seasons. Belcher has high expectations for his four returning lettermen, who he expects to lead New Albany back to regional. Belcher thinks Madison, Bedford North Lawrence and Columbus East each have a shot of contending with Floyd Central for the HHC championship.
• BELCHER SAYS: “I’m going to expect a lot from those top four players. I think they are pumped up, but we have to see what happens.”
• COACH: Bret James, second season.
• RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Matthew Wilson, Jr.; Collin Schindler, Jr.; Caleb Griffith, Jr.; Dakota Dieterlen, Sr.
• KEY NEWCOMERS: Seth Holloway, Fr.; Andrew Wilson, So.; Aaron Powell, So.; John Barger, So.; Isaac Smith; Michael Curry, Jr.; Allen Crews, Fr.
• OUTLOOK: Matthew Wilson is the leader of the Mustangs, who is comprised primarily of inexperienced players. James plans on playing Schindler at the No. 2 spot. Dieterlen played on the team his freshman year, but did not play as a sophomore or junior.
• JAMES SAYS: “Matt Wilson has some potential to be a nice little golfer. We have a bunch of kids on the golf team that want to play and want to learn. We’ve got good hard-working kids.”
• COACH: Kaleb Lay, first season.
• RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Brett Kastetler, Sr.; Jeremiah Wilkinson, Sr.; Ben Hill, Jr.; Torin Jenkins, Jr.; Luke Thompson, Jr.
• KEY NEWCOMERS: Max Vogen, Fr.; Evan Popp, Jr.
• OUTLOOK: Kastetler qualified for the Providence Regional last year after firing an 81 at the Madison Sectional. Kastetler has his sights set on returning to regional this year. Lay, a Silver Creek graduate, thinks Vogen and Wilkinson have a chance of making it out of sectional this season.
• LAY SAYS: “I’m expecting our No. 1 to do well and build on last year’s sectional. Our goal is to eventually make it out of the sectional as a team.”
• COACH: Joe Ledbetter, 23rd season.
• RETURNING LETTERWINNERS: Sam Garr, Jr.; Ryan Baker, So.; Cody Zimmerman, So.; Cam Carder, Jr.; Dylan Dean, Jr.
• KEY NEWCOMERS: Phil Polston, Sr.
• OUTLOOK: Garr, who helped the Dragons’ boys’ basketball team win the Class 3A North Harrison Sectional last month, advanced to last season’s Providence Regional by shooting 76 at the sectional. He hopes to duplicate that feat this season. Ledbetter expects the Dragons to compete against Corydon Central and Scottsburg for this season’s Mid-Southern Conference title.
• LEDBETTER SAYS: “[Garr] is done with basketball now, so he can concentrate on golf. I don’t know how we stack up in the conference. Our sectional is still tough.”