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June 10, 2013

H.S. BOYS' GOLF: Coach’s son making return trip to finals

Providence’s Mitchell Allender enjoys playing under his father

MEMPHIS — The Providence boys’ golf team came up short of extending its streak of five consecutive IHSAA State Finals appearances at the Providence Regional last Thursday at Champions Pointe Golf Club.

But one of the Pioneers’ best golfers found a way to get back to state at regional as an individual.

Providence sophomore Mitchell Allender fired a 74 — his season-low score — last Thursday to get one of the top five individual regional spots on non-advancing teams to qualify for the state finals, which begins today and concludes Wednesday at The Legends Golf Club in Franklin.

Providence coach Ken Allender credits Mitchell’s work ethic for getting him back to state, especially after Mitchell suffered a fractured hand last summer.

“He’s probably improved four, maybe five shots this season,” said Ken Allender, whose son started playing golf at age 9. “The thing with him is that he broke his hand in June last year and didn’t get back to play any summer golf. So when he came back out in the spring and he was able to start swinging the club, he really had to work hard to find his composure and find his rhythm again.

“He works hard. He’s on the [driving] range all the time after practice. He’s that type of kid — he really works hard at anything he’s doing.”

Ken Allender knows Mitchell Allender’s game better than anyone because he is the Pioneer golfer’s father. The elder Allender says coaching his son has its ups and downs, but their relationship has remained solid through the years.

“We have a great relationship. We’ve always been able to keep that father-son relationship away from the coach-player relationship,” Ken Allender said. “The hardest thing for me is to go out there and watch him play and if he makes a mistake or if he gets into [trouble] and he can’t get out of it, I can’t run to him and help him.

“It’s rewarding [to coach his son]. But at the same time, it’s very, very stressful. He seems to handle it better than I do.”

Following last Thursday’s regional at Champions Pointe, News and Tribune sports writer Kevin Harris talked with Mitchell Allender to talk about going back to the state finals, playing for his father and other items.


• QUESTION: How does it feel to be going back to the state finals?

• MITCHELL ALLENDER: “It feels good actually, especially since I’m a sophomore. It makes me feel like I’m doing good, and I hope to get better down the road.”

• Q: On the other hand, your entire team did not advance out of regional. How disappointed are you that your teammates will not be out on the course playing alongside you at the state finals?

• ALLENDER: “It is kind of upsetting since we have three seniors that I’ve known for a long time. We played our best — we just didn’t get out.”

• Q: How tough was the competition at regional, especially since the regional field expanded to 18 teams this year? Was the regional tougher this year than last year?

• ALLENDER: “It was definitely tougher this year than it was last year, especially since we had Columbus North, which is the best team in the state, then Jasper is really good, as well as Floyd [Central]. [The field] has definitely improved from last year. There are a lot more seniors in the regional this year than there was last year.”

• Q: What areas of your game have you worked on the most this season?

• ALLENDER: “Putting and short game. I got a new putter since I wasn’t putting well with my other one, and I’ve been putting a lot better. The short game is a very big key [in his game].”

• Q: Do you like playing at The Legends Golf Club? Is it a good course for you?

• ALLENDER: “It’s an all right course. Last year, I didn’t do as well as I would’ve liked. I think if I just keep playing like I have been, I can do fine up there.”

• Q: What do you think are the keys to shoot a low score at Legends?

• ALLENDER: “The short game. The greens are hard to hit. They don’t grab as well as they do [at Champions]. Just getting up and down [for par] is going to be key out there.”

• Q: What are your goals for the state finals?

• ALLENDER: “I would like to come out and finish as one of the top 10 individuals. But then again, I would like to shoot my lowest round of the season and just play with confidence and play a lot better than I have been.”

• Q: What did you basically learn from playing in the state finals last year?

• ALLENDER: “It’s a completely different environment. It just helped me to know that I need to keep my focus and just keep calm, even when you have a bad hole. Anything can happen up there.”

• Q: I understand you broke your hand last summer. How much did that set you back as far as getting ready for this season?

• ALLENDER: “It set me back quite a bit. I didn’t get to play in very many tournaments last summer. I really didn’t get to do much of anything since it was my right hand. But I just had to work really hard at it and get back at it.”

• Q: How much have you enjoyed having your dad as your high school coach?

• ALLENDER: “I enjoy it. It has its ups and downs. But since he’s taught me golf my whole life — I mean I’ve learned everything from him — it just kind of means a lot for him to be my coach.”

• Q: What are the main things he has taught you about the game of golf?

• ALLENDER: “He’s taught me everything about my swing and everything from the mental game to the physical game. He’s taught me all the key aspects of the short game and the long game. He always knows how to give me a thought about my swing that will get me through and start getting me to hit the ball better.”

• Q: Do you want to play golf in college?

• ALLENDER: “Yes, I would love to play in college.”

• Q: What is it about the college game that intrigues you?

• ALLENDER: “It’s better competition and it’s a higher [level]. I feel like it would be fun, and I think I would enjoy it.”

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