By Kyle Daubs
Qualifying for the girls golf sectional is great, but Callan Haldorsen wanted it all.
Despite being able to pull off a golf season, the IHSA won’t conduct a state tournament due to COVID-19 restrictions. Even though the Mattoon High School senior would still have to qualify, after placing second at the Class 2A Decatur Regional, there’s some real thought that Haldorsen would have made it.
“It’s very upsetting that I will never be able to actually experience making it to state, but I’m glad that at least we’re going to be able to have a sectional,” said Haldorsen.
Last Wednesday, Haldorsen fired an 81 to take second overall to move on to today’s IHSA Sectional at the University of Illinois course in Savoy.
All courses are different, but Haldorsen would technically have entered the sectional with the fifth-best individual score, which would have been good enough to qualify for the state tournament.
Then again, even if all the courses were all the same, she still believes she could have made it.
“I really have confidence in myself and that I would be able to make it to state this year if we had one,” said Haldorsen. “I have put so much hard work into getting where I am today and with how I’ve been playing this season, I think it would’ve been very possible to make it to state.”
Haldorsen overcame early struggles in the regional tournament, posting a triple-bogey on a 487-yard par-5 towards the beginning of the match.
“First tee, she started off with an uncharacteristic tee shot, but she didn’t let it shake her,” said coach Natalie Ambuehl. “She stayed true to her game and stayed in the hunt to advance. I didn’t see her for a bit but kept up on the app, and knew she was playing pretty solid.”
She followed that with two birdies on holes No. 8 and No. 9 to end the front nine even with eventual regional individual champion Laci Novesel of Quincy.
“Regionals was probably the toughest round I’ve ever played mentally,” said Haldorsen. “I didn’t start off very well and then in the middle of the round, I started finding my groove. I had a few bad holes that really hurt my score. I honestly didn’t even think I was going to place at regionals.”
As the senior captain did all season, she remained calm, which appears to be a common theme for all the years she has golfed.
“On her 12th hole, she got into some trouble and took a triple, but in true calm and collected Callan style, she was not shaken, played solid through 16, then finished strong with back to back birdies,” said Ambuehl. “She is a heck of a player and has worked very hard.”
Novesel eventually pulled away to finish four strokes ahead of Haldorsen, but five pars on the back nine led her to runner-up status.
“I ended with two birdies, which put me back into the running,” said Haldorsen. “With how I was playing, I was not expecting to place second, so I was pretty excited.”
In a rebuilding year, the Lady Wave placed sixth out of eight teams with a fairly young squad. However, Haldorsen places a lot of credit with her teammates.
“Honestly, my love for the game has motivated me the most,” said Haldorsen. “I am very passionate about this sport and that makes me push myself in order to be the best that I can be. I also had the greatest teammates this season, who constantly encouraged me. Having their support at every match really pushed me. It was the fact that they truly believed in me and cheered me on every day that helped me.”
Being just one of two returning golfers with experience, there was already a weight of being a leader on top of her own personal goals. However, her coach knew she could trust her with that task.
“She has been a true leader and has set a new pace for the younger players,” said Ambuehl. “She stays after practice and plays almost everyday, and that trend is being followed by the underclassmen. She inspires others to not only be better golfers, but better people. I am sad we only have one more match together. If there were a state series, I think she would have a real fair shot. I am so proud of her. She is truly a fine young lady on and off the course.”
As Haldorsen heads into her final match today as a golfer in high school, she will be playing for an artificial state berth.
“I’m very proud of how this year turned out,” said Haldorsen. “I put in all the practice and work in order to succeed, so what more could I ask for? Not every tournament turned out exactly how I wouldn’t like it, but that’s just how the game of golf works.”