With all the shots struck Wednesday and the elusive state championship in the bag, Columbus North seniors Michael VanDeventer and Christian Fairbanks were given a final character test behind the No. 18 green.
Thirty-six holes of grinding play across The Legends Golf Club had produced a tie at the top of the individual standings in the 78th Boys Golf State Finals.
VanDeventer and Fairbanks both had shot a two-day total of 141 in leading the Bull Dogs to the city’s first boys golf state championship since Columbus High School won the 1934 title.
And in the midst of North’s celebration, Indiana High School Athletic Association golf commissioner Chris Kaufman made a historic decision.
He decided to ask VanDeventer and Fairbanks if they wanted to head to the No. 10 tee to begin a playoff or share the title.
It would have been the third time since the state golf tournament began in 1932 that teammates had been involved in a playoff. The last time was 1950.
As VanDeventer said, “It was an easy decision.”
He looked at his friend and smiled, and Fairbanks smiled back.
The state golf tournament had its first individual co-champions.
“These kids love each other,” said Columbus North coach Doug Bieker, who a day earlier predicted that the two might, indeed, finish
in a first-place tie. “They didn’t want anything to take away from this day.”
Bieker also predicted that the rest of his team, made up of five seniors, would come up big, and he was right again.
Nick Waskom shot a 75 and covered the final 11 holes in 2-under par. Ian Coffey finished at 76 and played the final 12 holes at even par.
North’s depth blew the rest of the field away. Senior Zack Lee completed North’s scoring with a round of 89 (the team’s low four scores count toward the team total).
The Bull Dogs shot a two-day total of 591, which was 11 shots better than second-place Westfield. Hamilton Southeastern, which came into the tournament as the state’s No. 1-ranked team, finished third at 603.
“This is such a great feeling,” Coffey said. “I’m just glad I could keep it together, and I’m glad I have teammates who can go that low.”
Waskom knew that Fairbanks and VanDeventer were holding up their ends, but he was afraid he might be letting the team down after going five over in the first five holes.
“I tried not to get caught up in the moment,” he said. “I just kept playing golf. I kept pushing and believing. I knew I was a better player.”
By the time Waskom and Coffey finished their rounds, the title was a lock, even with Fairbanks and VanDeventer still on the course.
“There are no words to describe how this feels,” Waskom said. “This was countless hours of work. We came so close to this so many times. To finally get it is amazing.”
Columbus North had held the first day lead in each of the last three seasons. The Bull Dogs finished second in 2011 and 2013 and fourth in 2012. The dream was starting to turn into a nightmare.
But it was a different walk up the No. 18 fairway on Wednesday for VanDeventer and Fairbanks, who played on each of the past four North teams.
A year ago, they suffered the pain of letting a state team championship slip away in the final holes.
Not this time.
“Coach Bieker on No. 16 said to just hit the middle of the greens,” said Fairbanks, who shot a 70 on Wednesday to go along with the 71 he shot on Tuesday. “I got relaxed at that point.”
VanDeventer, in the final foursome of the day, one group behind Fairbanks, knew the main prize was secured as well. He shot 71 on Wednesday to go with his earlier 70.
“My score was only one shot better than last year,” VanDeventer said. “But (winning as a team) makes all the difference in the world.”
Bieker, working his 19th season, had said all season that he had a special group.
“I’ve told them on the bus the last three or four weeks that when they play their best golf, no one can beat them,” Bieker said.
Bieker repeated that feeling after Monday’s practice round, for all to hear. “We’re coming to win,” he said.
Considering North’s immediate past, with three failed attempts, it might have been wise to stay silent. But Bieker continued to believe.
He thought North would win. And as he said on Wednesday, standing in front of his championship players, at a place aptly called The Legends ... “We did.”