During the Greensburg Sectional earlier this month, coaches from Columbus East and Columbus North were gathered between the 15th green and the 16th tee at Greensburg Country Club.
East senior Austin Proffitt came striding up to a ball that sat not much more than 100 yards from the pin at the par-5 15th.
“Could Austin get it there in one?” asked one.
“Yeah,” another answered.
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Not too many high school players can hit a golf ball as far as Proffitt can — and nobody in the area had a better season. After winning individual titles at the Hoosier Hills Conference championships and at the Greensburg Sectional, and helping the Olympians their sectional team title, Proffitt caps his career with one more distinction — he’s The Republic’s Boys Golfer of the Year.
Proffitt’s ability to hammer the ball belies his easygoing demeanor off the course. When asked to reflect upon his final season, he didn’t talk first about any of his individual accolades. Rather, everything was tied into the team.
“It was everything I could have asked for,” Proffitt said of his senior campaign. “I wish we could have had someone go to state, no matter who — anyone on our team could have went. I wish one of us could have went, but sectionals and doing well in conference were our main two goals, and we did that.”
East’s success in those events was tied largely to Proffitt’s play.
At the HHC championships, he shot a 74 to win the individual crown by one stroke and lead the Olympians to a second-place finish.
At the sectional, he torched Greensburg Country Club for a 3-under-par 67, four shots better than anyone else in the field. As a result, the Olympians were able to edge rival Columbus North by three strokes to win back-to-back titles for the first time.
Proffitt finished the season with an 18-hole average of 76.6.
The senior said that one of his biggest strengths has been developing the ability to keep the game in perspective and avoid the emotional ups and downs that can come with — and exacerbate — erratic play.
“My mentality has changed over the years, just realizing it’s not everything,” Proffitt explained. “You’re going to go home, you’re going to go to bed and you’re going to live throughout the rest of your life. It’s just golf.”
Though Proffitt has been able to keep his competitive fires in check, he’s not quite ready to pack his clubs away. He’ll take his talents to the University of St. Francis in Fort Wayne, where he’ll compete for a spot in the lineup.
He’s hopeful that he’ll have another chance to experience the same team dynamic that made his high school career, and particularly his final season, so enjoyable.
“Camaraderie-wise, this year we bonded really well,” Proffitt said. “We had team bonding nights that we did that were fun. It’s been different from past years, but my four years here at East, there’s always a family aspect.”
After college, Proffitt will be on his own — and while he’s not sure he’ll have much of an itch to play competitively four years from now, he does know he’ll never walk away from golf completely.
When you’re this good, why would you?
“I just enjoy the game, and I just want to play it for the rest of my life,” he said.
Derek Alexander, Columbus East: The junior averaged 79.2 strokes per 18 holes and was the medalist at the Jennings County tournament.
Austin Proffitt, Columbus East: The senior closed his career by winning individual and team sectional championships as well as an HHC individual title.
Thomas Ruch, Columbus East: The junior posted an 18-hole average of 80.6 to help the Olympians repeat as sectional champions.
Jake Simmons, Jennings County: The senior averaged a team-best 40.2 strokes per nine holes to lead the Panthers to a regional berth.
Drew Smith, Columbus North: As a freshman, Smith averaged 81 strokes per 18 holes for the state-ranked Bull Dogs.
Bryce Turner, Columbus North: The junior led the Bull Dogs this season with an 18-hole stroke average of 78.4 and was the individual sectional runner-up.
Parker VanNess, Brown County: The freshman paced the Eagles in scoring while leading the team to a regional appearance.
Brown County: Aubrey Seaman; Columbus North: Spencer Fairbanks, Jared Imlay, Henry Kiel, Matt Vorndran; Hauser: Justin Compton; Jennings County: Ian Donnell.