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Editor's note: Chuck Grimes, a correspondent for The Republic, followed Columbus North during the second round of the IHSAA Boys Golf State Finals. Here is how the final round unfolded:
Columbus North entered Day 2 of the finals with a two-shot lead. While we waited for the firing and nail-biting to begin, I collected some leftover thoughts to share.
Hauser grad Jon Hoover made it to the finals for the first time as a coach, but unfortunately, his Westfield team finished 11th and did not make the cut.
North’s state appearance was its 38th. Only Lafayette Jeff has more.
Former North coach Bill Schroeder’s comments about the Day 1 wind were right on. Mother Nature took a toll. The cut score (313) as well as North’s leading score (303) were the highest in recent memory.
All five Bull Dogs were focused and managed their games well. Sophomores Michael VanDeventer and Christian Fairbanks were steady. Sophomore Tanner Bennett, junior Jacob Coffey and senior John Arthur were resilient. Bad holes were followed by very good holes. The sum total of outward emotions displayed by this mature group could have been put in a thimble.
Indiana Golf Association Executive Director Mike David was setting up the Legends of Indiana golf course for No. 1 North and nine other teams. David led No. 1-ranked North into the 1982 finals, where the Bull Dogs got blitzed by red-hot Carmel. North finished second and didn’t want to extend its state record of five bridesmaid finishes Wednesday.
With a forecast of negligible wind, I thought Wednesday would be all about hitting greens and making putts. Going head-to-head with second-place Brebeuf and third-place Warsaw, the North quintet could not lose sight of the fact that several other teams also were within striking range. Cautious optimism was running rampant in this writer’s head.
Bennett’s drive on No. 1 was in the air. Here we go again, I thought, five hours of spectator tension has begun. His drive rolled to a stop a foot from jail. But the sophomore made par. His counterparts both made bogey and North was off to a good start.
My weather forecast was proved wrong. The wind started to howl almost immediately on the chilly morning.
A Bull Dog went out of bounds on No. 2, and the inevitable roller coaster ride had begun. A long putt for double-bogey hit the bottom of the hole. Composure and resiliency were at work early.
I’d moved to the natural observatory atop the hill behind No. 2. A poor approach shot was followed by a lengthy par putt that found the bottom of the cup. Composure and the ability to make putts seemed in ample supply, but North’s two-shot lead was gone.
Brebeuf chipped in on the second hole. Can a Bull Dog match it with made putt, I asked myself. Ugh! It was a three-putt instead. A somewhat shaky start for the Dogs was quickly turned into a real shaky situation. Coach Doug Bieker was looking for a positive and couldn’t find one. North may have hoped the stiff breeze would turn into hurricane force.
Hazards were coming into play for the Bull Dogs. If it has to get worse before it can get better, then North was headed in the right direction.
It was quiet. Then the crowd of blue erupted when Bennett holed a birdie putt at No. 6. Golfstat.com had Brebeuf up by three shot. But that doubled moments later when North made a triple-bogey. Evansville Harrison and Jasper slipped around North, but with about 11 holes remaining, it wasn’t over.
North’s crowd was bigger than Tuesday’s, but with much less to cheer about. Judy Jones, whose son Trent played on the runner-up team in 1982, was lending a cheerful hand.
A birdie putt was left on the lip. And the potentially helpful wind died. The calmness was not helped at all on No. 9, where a big-time struggle was under way.
Just when it looked like maybe things had bottomed out for slow-starting North, the bottom may have completely fallen off.
A few in the North throng were heading for the parking lot. Hopefully, I thought, the decision to jump ship would be regretted. But North had just made the turn with a potentially disastrous 164.
An hour passed and no one was bragging, but North had leveled off. Christian Fairbanks was playing well. Michael VanDeventer, John Arthur, Jacob Coffey and Bennett all seemed to be playing much better.
Carmel’s Andrew Havill sunk a long putt on No. 15 and drew a bit of applause from this spectator. His dad, Greg Havill, is an East graduate of the early 1980s and without question one of the better Olympian golfers of all time. Greg has been a club pro at Woodstock Country Club for 24 years.
Evansville Harrison overtook the lead and appeared likely to deny Brebeuf a three-peat.
The Bull Dogs, who seemed destined for the bottom of the second-day heap, had done little wrong for about 90 minutes and were sneaking back up the leaderboard. A berth on the podium for the disappointed locals was looking like a reality.
It was over.
Long faces understandably abound. North finished fourth behind three teams that had sent a total of 11 seniors to the course.
Some relief was provided by the announcement that (sophomore) VanDeventer became a two-time all-state selection and (sophomore) Fairbanks would join him in the elite group.
When the sun rises today, it may be easier to appreciate the fact that this young group of Bull Dogs performed better than 313 of the 317 schools who began the tournament. And they did it with a collective attitude and demeanor for which others must be envious.
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