When Erinn Sutton played high school golf at Columbus North, coach Scott Seavers talked to her about the benefits of playing in college.
Sutton took the advice to heart and hasn’t had any regrets. Now a senior, she’s wrapping up a solid career at Indiana State.
“The atmosphere of our team is great, and I have a really good coach that helps me with my swing,” Sutton said. “We work a lot more on our mental game and how to prepare ourself after college golf, how we’re going to present ourselves after college. I think that playing golf in college has prepared me for life after golf.”
A host of other golfers from Columbus are hoping for the same thing. Sutton is one of 10 golfers — eight boys and two girls — from Columbus East or North who are playing at the collegiate level.
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“Indiana has a good junior golf program, and it encourages kids to start off at a young age and stay in the game,” Sutton said. “I think North and East both have great golf programs, and our coaches encourage us. My coach at North (Scott Seavers) was always encouraging me to play in college, so that was one of my goals.”
Sutton has seen her averages get progressively better since she arrived in Terre Haute, going from 85.1 as a freshman to 83.5 as a sophomore to 79.2 last year, when she led the Sycamores to the team title in their first-ever home invitational. So far this year, she’s led ISU with a tie for sixth place with a 36-hole 155 in the Cal State-San Marcos Invitational.
This spring, Sutton faces another challenge — student-teaching. The special education major volunteers in a kindergarten classroom from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays before going to practice.
“It’s been a challenge trying to find a balance between an unpaid job and practice and going to meets,” Sutton said.
Sutton plans to finish her student-teaching and help with the golf team in the fall and graduate in December. Before that, she hopes to lead the Sycamores, who lost by one shot to Wichita State last season, to the Missouri Valley Conference title.
“The whole year, that’s what we’re working on, to show that we can be in the running and be one of the top teams,” Sutton said. “That gives us confidence going into conference next month.”
A future pro?
North coach Doug Bieker said he wouldn’t be surprised if Coleman Glick follows in the footsteps of former Bull Dog Tyler Duncan and turns pro after this season.
Glick, a senior at Division II Tusculum College in Tennessee, isn’t so certain.
“I’m still unsure,” he said. “The important thing with turning pro is, ‘Do you have the money to pay for the tournaments?’ It’s thousands and thousands of dollars.”
After averaging 75.75 as a freshman, Glick posted a 78.13 average as a sophomore and a 76.27 last season. He carded a 154 for 36 holes as an individual in his only tournament this spring and is working to get back into the Pioneers’ top five.
“I struggled a little bit early in the spring, but for the most part, my teammates are playing better,” Glick said. “You don’t want to root against your teammates to not win. You want them to do as well as they can.”
Glick, who has a business management major and a potential minor in biology, is on track to graduate in May.
“I’ve had fun here,” he said. “College is a blast, and playing a sport makes it that much more fun.”
One day at a time
One of the perks of playing in the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) is the national tournament is held in Panama City, Florida, and the players stay in a condo on the beach.
Drew Day, a senior from East, has had a chance to enjoy that experience as part of Bethel College teams the past couple of years. In October, his 3-under-par 69 was the best score in the entire field in the second day of the NCCAA National Championships.
“I’d say (the college career has) gone pretty well for the most part,” Day said. “I’ve had decent individual success, and our team has had success, as well. Hopefully, we’ll be good this spring with a lot of experience back.”
Day plans to graduate in May with a degree in business administration and a minor in sports management. He is aiming for a career in athletic administration.
Day said he thinks the quality of the Otter Creek and Harrison Lake Country Club courses in Columbus allows young golfers to get a taste of what playing in college might be like.
“I’d say Columbus has a pretty high commitment to golf at the high school level,” Day said. “Then, the fact that we have nice practice facilities as well, with the North kids playing at Harrison during the season and then coming out to Otter over the summer. Otter is a great place for players to play and transition to the college game, as well.”
A slow recovery
The start to Caroline Smith’s college career couldn’t have been much more unpleasant.
After graduating from East last spring, Smith became sick with mononucleosis in July and didn’t play golf for about three months. She played in one tournament for Loyola (Chicago) near the end of last fall and shot 168 for 36 holes.
“It was pretty tough, but I’m coming back from it pretty well,” Smith said. “It was just a weird gap not being able to play.”
Smith has played in one tournament this spring, carding a 266 for 54 holes in the Kiawah Island Intercollegiate.
“It wasn’t my best, but it was a pretty good comeback for how sick I have been,” Smith said. “I’m hoping to improve.”
Smith will have a chance to do that in two weeks when she returns to Indiana to play in the Indiana State Spring Invitational. She hopes to make the top five for the MVC Tournament.
“I like my school,” Smith said. “My team is playing well, so it’s fun.”
The Fab Freshmen
Christian Fairbanks and Michael VanDeventer made history last year when they became the first pair to tie for state medalist honors. Along with Nick Waskom and Ian Coffey, they led North to the city’s first boys golf title since Columbus High won in 1934.
This year, those four are playing golf as freshmen in college, and they’re making an impact for their respective teams.
Fairbanks led Indiana University with a 36-hole 147 to tie for 12th in the Sagamore Fall Preview in Noblesville. The next week, he fired an opening-round 3-under 69 and ended up with a 54-hole 223 in the Tavistock Collegiate Invitational in Orlando, Florida.
VanDeventer ranks second in scoring average for Ball State at 74.86. He has a low score of 71 with two top-20 finishes, including a tie for seventh with a 54-hole 217 in The Firestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio.
Waskom led Taylor with a 36-hole 149 to tie for sixth in his second collegiate tournament, the Battle of Blackthorn in South Bend. He also carded a 75 to tie for the team lead in the Arnie’s Intercollegiate Invitational in Ada, Michigan, in the fall.
Coffey finished second on the St. Francis team and 10th overall with a 36-hole 149 in last weekend’s Heritage Hill Collegiate Meet in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. In the fall, he helped lead the Cougars to the Manchester Invitational title.
“They’ve gone to places where they can play right away,” Bieker said. “They want to contribute.”
More former Bull Dogs
Like Day, Coffey’s older brother Jake had a chance to play in the NCCAA National Championships in the fall. Coffey, a sophomore at Indiana Wesleyan, carded a 54-hole 230 to tie for 21st and help the Wildcats to a sixth-place team finish.
Earlier in the fall, Coffey tied for eighth with a 54-hole 227 to lead IWU to a fifth-place team finish in the WolfPack Invitational in Milwaukee.
Another former North golfer, Brandon Knapp, has seen limited action at University of Indianapolis. The senior averaged 81.2 for five rounds as a freshman, 80.0 for 11 rounds as a sophomore and 84.3 for three rounds last year.
This year, Knapp is averaging 81.6 for five rounds. His career has been highlighted by a 74 at the UIndy Brickyard Invitational and a top-20 finish in the Ferris State Invitational, both during his sophomore year.
“It’s certainly fun to watch for me and to watch those kids continue to develop and get better,” Bieker said. “Obviously, what Tyler’s done is great, and these kids have played against him and maybe compare themselves to him.
“I don’t think there’s any magic that I do that make these kids choose to play college golf,” he said. “They want to get better. I think the college coaches know we have a nice program, and the kids will work hard and not just goof off. They are there to play golf.”
Bieker said the North program has been blessed with kids who work hard, and that has carried over into their college careers.
“They’ve raised the level of their game because of that hard work both in the season and out of season,” Bieker said. “Golf is a game where you can get better if you work at it, and we’ve had kids that aren’t afraid of hard work and being the best they can be.”
Ten golfers from Columbus are currently playing college golf:
Ian Coffey;North;St. Francis;Fr.
Jake Coffey;North;Indiana Wesleyan;Soph.
Caroline Smith;East;Loyola (Chicago);Fr.
Erinn Sutton;North;Indiana State;Sr.
Michael VanDeventer;North;Ball State;Fr.