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North golfer commits to IU

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Melissa Fairbanks probably didn’t know quite what to think.

She would check on her toddler son, Christian, during his nap, only to find golf balls in each hand.

He was either headed toward becoming the next Rory McIlroy or a driving range attendant.

It appears that Melissa, and her husband, John, have their answer.

Christian Fairbanks, a junior at Columbus North High School, has given his oral commitment to Indiana University to play on a partial golf scholarship.

“John and I had been golfers our whole lives,” Melissa said. “When he was 2, he got his first set of plastic golf clubs. I remember seeing him swing those clubs.”

As Christian moved into junior high school, it became obvious that golf was going to take him some special places.

“In seventh grade, he was on the golf team at Central,” she said. “John and I were standing and watching at the par-3 course. Christian had just won some tournament. John asked the coach, Brian Singer, what he thought about Christian. He said, ‘Christian has one of the best swings I’ve ever seen.’”

In the past two seasons, Christian has helped the North golf team to second- and fourth-place finishes at the state tournament. He will be part of the powerful lineup this season that will be one of the favorites to win the state title.

“I really feel blessed to be part of Christian’s life as a coach,” North coach Doug Bieker said. “It’s great now that he knows where he is going. He can focus on golf and school. This is a huge deal for him.”

As he plays this season, he won’t have to worry about his future.

“I am very excited,” said Christian, who was swayed to Indiana over Mississippi, Michigan, Liberty and Purdue because of Hoosiers head coach Mike Mayer and assistant coach Brian McCants. “Their team is their family. I felt like part of their family.”

He will be a family member who can play some great golf. He tied for 12th last season in the state finals. He won the 2012 Indiana Age-Group championship at Swan Lake Resort in Plymouth.

“I’m kind of a level-headed golfer who has fun with it,” Christian said. “Coming down the stretch, if I am a shot behind, I like to take risks.

“I would say I am mechanical, and all around, I don’t have a major strength.”

He said putting is an area that he looks to improve. “Those 15-footers for birdie,” he said.

“I think Christian needs to get longer off the tee,” Bieker said. “He is above most players, but he needs to gain strength and be in the gym. There are a lot of good golfers out there, kids who work hard who are going to distinguish themselves quickly. He needs to continue to work hard.

“He also has to limit his mistakes and play the percentages more than he does. He drives the ball well, and he takes every stroke seriously. That isn’t easy for 16-year-old kids to do.”

One thing is certain: Christian has other things going for him.

“We never have told him to do just one thing,” Melissa said. “He is finishing his Eagle Scout project, and he has played the piano for 10 years. We talk to him a lot about balance. If you are a gentleman on the course, you will be a gentleman at business.”

Christian will study business at Indiana, but he said eventually he might pursue a career as a lawyer.

Say good-bye to seniors

Columbus East’s final girls basketball home game is at 7:30 p.m. today. It will be the final home game for Olympians senior Mikala Lomax, who will be honored.

Hanna Ballard plays her final home game for Columbus North on Saturday.

“Yeah, it’s going to be sad,” she said. “I’ve made a lot of close friends. But I’m ready to go on.”

Her teammate, Ali Patberg, said she hopes people attend the game to honor Ballard.

“I love Hanna,” Patberg said. “She plays so hard. I hope people come to support her. She deserves it.”

Stakes higher for wrestlers

Sectional wrestling tournaments will be Saturday. Jennings County will host Columbus North, Columbus East, Brown County, Seymour, Greensburg, Madison, Scottsburg, Southwestern (Hanover) and Switzerland County. Wrestling begins at 8 a.m. The finals are expected to be contested in the midafternoon.

The top four place winners in each weight class advance to the regional meet.

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