When the 2013 high school boys’ golf season started, the Providence Pioneers looked to one player for leadership after their No. 1 golfer, current IUPUI freshman Bryce Very, graduated.
That player was the Pioneers’ most experienced golfer, Cory Cahalan.
The senior has been in Providence’s starting lineup in its last two trips to the IHSAA State Finals at The Legends Golf Club in Franklin. Cahalan is leading a squad this year with two other seniors in Robert Waiz and Max Hupp, sophomore Mitchell Allender and freshmen Kevin Crone and Max Leist.
“I knew I had to step up as a leader,” Cahalan said. “But we’re a pretty mature team. We have two other seniors on the team and Mitchell, our sophomore who played as a freshman last year, has been playing in tournaments and he knows the atmosphere. Stepping up as a leader was something I really needed to do, and I’m still working on it.”
Providence coach Ken Allender has liked the way Cahalan has led the Pioneers so far this season.
“He’s been a leader all along,“ Allender said. “He’s gotten the kids out [to the golf course] on days that we didn’t even have practice. He’s one of the last ones to leave every night, as he is out hitting balls.”
One way Cahalan has shown leadership this season is to organize times when he and his teammates can put in some extra practice on their games. It is something that Cahalan has carried over from being the starting point guard on the Providence boys’ basketball team this year when the players stayed after practice to do some extra shooting and work on other parts of their game.
“We try to get everyone out [to the course] early before practice to get going and get loosened up a little bit. That’s one thing I try to do is get everyone out here and focused,” Cahalan said. “Coach [Allender] has been talking about when we’re practicing to separate from each other so we’re not goofing around too much. The guys on the team know when we can have fun and when we need to take things seriously.”
All the work the Pioneers have put in and Cahalan stepping up his leadership responsibilities are for one purpose — to extend Providence’s streak of consecutive state finals appearances. The Pioneers have qualified for the last five state finals.
Cahalan struggled the first time he played at state as a sophomore in 2011, firing an 85 in the first round. He dropped his opening-round score significantly at last year’s state finals with a 1-over-par 73, qualifying him for the final round. Cahalan finished 14th in the individual standings for the tournament after shooting a final-round 79.
“It’s a great environment and it’s fun to play in it,” said Cahalan, whose nine-hole average score this year is 42.5. “I learned a lot from my experience in my sophomore year. I didn’t play too well. I knew I could play well at that course, and I proved that to myself last year in the state finals. It was fun to do that. If we make it back, then I would like to beat last year’s score that I shot.”
Returning to state is one of a few goals that Cahalan and the Pioneers want to accomplish by the end of this season. Providence wants to repeat as Southern Indiana Open champions on May 11 at Hidden Creek Golf Club. The Pioneers also want to score lower than archrival and perennial power Floyd Central and win their first sectional title since 1998. Providence will host the sectional on Monday, June 3 at Covered Bridge Golf Club.
“It’s been awhile since Floyd Central has lost our sectional, so it would be fun to beat them my senior year,” Cahalan said. “I’ve personally never beat them in an 18-hole tournament, so that would be a good accomplishment. We want to win a sectional title and make it back to state.”
Cahalan did not have the smoothest of starts to the 2013 campaign. He fired an 87 in the season-opening Fuzzy Zoeller Invitational on March 30 at Covered Bridge, but on April 20 in the Legends Spring Preview at The Legends Golf Club, Cahalan appeared to be getting his season pointed in the right direction with a 76.
“He’s started out a little bit slow, but he’s coming around now,“ Ken Allender said. “His swing is really timing-oriented. He’s been working hard. His timing is starting to come around and he played a good round at [The Legends]. I think he’ll be there.”
Cahalan did not have much time to work on his game in the winter because of his responsibilities with the Pioneers’ basketball team. But he denies his concentration on basketball during the offseason is the reason he has had a rough beginning to the golf season.
“For me personally throughout high school, every season I seem to get off to a slow start,“ Cahalan said. “I think it’s just because I’m not used to the tournament atmosphere. I think it’s hard for me to just stay focused during the first few tournaments throughout the whole tournament and take every shot seriously. Once I get into a routine and figure everything out and get back to normal, then it comes natural.”
When Cahalan had some time to work on his game during the winter, he focused on one thing - putting.
“I really struggled with my short game and putting was one thing I needed to improve on,” Cahalan said. “You can basically putt anywhere, so I just putted around my house.”
Cahalan will continue his golf career during the next academic year at Marian University, an NAIA school in Indianapolis. Cahalan gave several reasons why he wants to be a Knight.
“The coach [John Shelton] is a great guy. He really seems like he cares about everyone and all the players,” Cahalan said. “I went up there and checked out some of the facilities. The facilities are really nice. They practice on some of the top golf courses in Indianapolis. I like their schedule. They travel a lot, so it will be nice to get away.”
Coach Allender thinks Cahalan has made a wise decision in his college choice.
“I think their particular situation, with them losing a lot of seniors this year, is going to be an opportunity for him to play right off the bat,” the Providence mentor said. “I think it will be a good program for him. They’ve got a good tournament schedule and a good postseason schedule. It’s a very good fit.”
Cahalan has been learning about the Marian program from former Providence golf standout, Knights’ senior Trey Pfund. In his collegiate career, Pfund has won the Crossroads League (formerly the Mid-Central College Conference) tournament twice and has been named conference Player of the Year two times.
Cahalan says he has always looked up to Pfund.
“I talk to him all the time actually. Whenever I was in grade school and he was in high school, I would come out and watch him play in tournaments,” Cahalan said. “It’s nice to follow in someone’s footsteps and his footsteps are great to follow in. He’s had a great career and it would be nice to do some of the things that he’s gotten to do and accomplish some of the things he’s accomplished. He’s going to help me out over the summer and give me some advice about what to expect.”