After putting together a stellar sophomore season on the golf course, things didn’t go as well for Spencer Fairbanks this spring.
But the Columbus North incoming-senior showed signs of returning to his better days on the links in Saturday’s opening round of the Columbus City Tournament. He fired a career-best 3-under-par 69 at Greenbelt to lead the field of 67 golfers.
“I’ve just been practicing a lot here and there and feeling a lot better about my swing,” Fairbanks said. “I was hitting it pretty straight, and my putter got going early, so I was feeling pretty good about it. I was making a lot of putts.”
Fairbanks, who was a state qualifier as a sophomore, teed off in the second foursome early in the morning. He finished with seven birdies and four bogeys.
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Fairbanks was quick to credit his caddie, classmate Nathan VanDeventer.
“He helped out a lot,” Fairbanks said. “Hopefully, Nate can come back and help me out (the rest of the tournament). He saved me on a ton of holes today.”
Defending champion Jake Coffey would be tied with Fairbanks if not for a four-shot penalty at the beginning of his round. Coffey chipped in for birdie on first hole, but then discovered while playing the second hole that he had 15 clubs in his bag, one more than the maximum allowed.
Coffey, a North graduate who will be a senior at Indiana Wesleyan, has been interning in Lafayette and practicing at Purdue University this summer. He left a practice club — a PSP iron — in his bag and forgot to remove it.
“It was just disappointing playing with that club in my bag,” Jake Coffey said. “I fought back, so I was happy. I knew there were plenty of birdies out here, so I told myself, ‘Just stay in it mentally, and good things will happen.’”
The penalty is two shots per hole, with a maximum of four. After discovering the mistake, Coffey called the penalty on himself.
Undaunted, Coffey recovered to shoot 73.
“It was definitely a good day out there,” Coffey said. “This is the best shape Greenbelt’s ever been in, I feel like, so it was good to see that.”
Coffey’s brother, Ian, is one shot off the lead after a 2-under 70. Darren Hinton also carded a 70 — thanks to a 32 on the second nine — and is tied with Ian Coffey for second.
Ian Coffey, who will be a junior at St. Francis, drove the green and eagled No. 10. Golfers played the black (back) tees on the front nine and the gold tees (the next set forward) on the second nine.
“I can’t really complain about anything,” Ian Coffey said. “I missed a couple short putts, but I’m excited to play Harrison (Lake today).”
Austin Proffitt, a recent Columbus East graduate, is tied for fourth at 71, along with Matt Herron and Jim Turner. Turner played in the final group of the day.
Proffitt is headed to St. Francis, where he will be a teammate of Ian Coffey.
“It was exciting,” Ian Coffey said. “It was fun to see how he plays. He’s a great player, and we’re looking forward to having him.”
Jim Wright also is in the mix after an even-par 72. Tied with Jake Coffey at 73 are Eric Grider and David Lacey.
The second round begins at 7:30 p.m. today at Harrison Lake. Golfers will be then be flighted for the final round, which will be July 17 at Otter Creek.
The women’s tournament gets underway Saturday at Harrison Lake and will conclude alongside the men July 17 at Otter Creek.