High school boys golf in Indiana has a built-in safety valve these days, where one member of a team’s score can be ejected.
Five boys play, four scores count. The fifth score just isn’t that important.
Columbus North claimed the Conference Indiana Tournament championship at Bloomington Country Club after finishing in a 309-309 deadlock with Bloomington South.
When a tie occurs, the determining factor is each team’s No. 5 player. That meant an 82 for Columbus North, and an 83 for Bloomington South.
Whether the Bull Dogs’ Nick Waskom or Kyung Kim gets credit for being the No. 5 golfer (both shot 82) doesn’t matter. What does matter is neither threw in the towel in what had become a very difficult day.
“A couple of years ago, I remember seeing North lose a tournament when they went to the fifth guy,” said Kim, a junior who has been in and out of the varsity lineup this season. “Absolutely the fifth guy can count.”
So when Kim was struggling early, he didn’t take the attitude that his score would be thrown out. He did whatever he could to post a score that would help the team.
“You never know,” Kim said. “You make a couple of birdies ... Today was the kind of round where I just hung in there.”
When North struggled early as a team, coach Doug Bieker made sure he told his players that every shot might count.
“I thought it was going to be close,” said Bieker, who led North to a conference title for the eighth time in his 19 years as head coach. “The way we were playing, I thought we were going to shoot around 310. All you can do is try to keep your players engaged.
“Every stroke counts, and we know that better than anyone.”
North lost the state championship last season by two shots in the final holes. Every stroke matters.
“This is an experienced team,” said Bieker, who sent out four seniors and Kim. “We’ve been there before.
“Through five or six holes, we were struggling. But I was proud of how we fought back.”
One guy who had a particularly tough fight was North’s Michael VanDeventer, who finished in a tie for third with teammate Christian Fairbanks at two-over 74. VanDeventer was five-over through 10 holes, then shot three-
under the rest of the way.
He birdied Nos. 11, 12, 14 and 18 to save his round.
“The greens were very fast,” VanDeventer said. “We played here on Wednesday and they weren’t cut and it was raining, so you can imagine how slow they were. If you left the ball on the wrong side of the hole today, you had no chance of making it.”
VanDeventer left the ball on the wrong side of the No. 5 green. He arrived at the green in regulation, then five-putted for triple bogey 7.
“If he had six-putted, we would have lost,” Bieker said with a laugh.
Fairbanks had a two-birdie, four-bogey round that didn’t have the roller-coaster thrills of VanDeventer’s day. He called it a “boring” round.
Ian Coffey shot 79 to complete North’s scoring. Coffey’s round left him tied for eighth. Coffey, Fairbanks and VanDeventer all earned all-conference honors by finishing in the top 10.
It was North’s second Conference Indiana title in a row and third in the last four years.
“The conference tournament is a big deal, and we’re also trying to get better each week,” Bieker said. “Our guys know that we need to get better.”