VALPARAISO | Hitting the links in college was only going to be for recreation after Chesterton product Josh Kalita finished his high school career four years ago.
That all changed when Valparaiso announced a rejuvenated men’s golf program midway through Kalita’s senior season and suddenly plans to attend Indiana University as an everyday student were being put on the back burner.
“When the opportunity to play golf in college came up, I jumped on it,” Kalita said. “I didn’t want to say later in life that I wished I would’ve done it.”
Valparaiso restarted the golf program after a 17-year hiatus in early 2009. Kalita signed with the Crusaders midway through the summer and joined a group of six incoming freshmen that were taking a chance on Valparaiso.
“They were the founding fathers,” Valparaiso coach David Gring said. “These guys have been tremendous for Valparaiso and they really are a group of special guys.”
Kalita and his classmates are now seniors and they will end their careers at the NCAA championships after the Crusaders won the Horizon League tournament last week in Florida. Valparaiso will participate in regional play at the OSU Golf Course in Columbus, Ohio next weekend.
“This is something that we’re very proud of,” Kalita said. “For us to bring home a conference championship, it’s something that we’ve been aiming for. This is hopefully the start of many more trips for Valparaiso to the NCAA.”
Kalita’s role has changed with the team over the years. The Chesterton product registered a top-five finish in Valparaiso’s first event in 2009 and competed in every tournament. Kalita has moved in-and-out of the lineup throughout the last two years and served in a coaching capacity when the Crusaders clinched their NCAA berth last week.
“It was a whole different experience, but for the team and for the program, it was the right decision,” Kalita said. “I thought I could be the most effective in a coaching role and it was still an emotional experience.”
The Crusaders will compete from May 16-18 and then the team will return to campus for commencement on Sunday the 19th. Kalita already has a job lined up as a tournament director with the American Junior Golf Association after graduation, but he isn’t getting ahead of himself with at least one more tournament to play.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us,” Kalita said. “Who knows what will happen in the future. We’re looking forward to this very much.”