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North golfers under pressure


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Being good has its curse.

When you look around the area for the highest expectations, one team stands above all others, hands down.

Welcome to the 2014 season of Columbus North golf. Under pressure, 24-7.

Sure, the Columbus East football team is a perennial power and won a state championship. But did everyone expect them to win?

Probably not.

Columbus North’s boys soccer team has had a great run, including a state championship in 2012. Still, though, a state title is more of an unexpected pleasure than win-or-bust goal.

The Bull Dogs golfers, on the other hand, most likely will be judged on their ability to unseat Westfield as the state champion in June when the state tournament is run at the Legends Golf Club.

Unfair, yes. It is just the way it is.

Perhaps this particular North team, which lost seniors Jake Coffey and Ian Smith from last year’s team, has one advantage over a year ago. The team is ranked No. 2 in the state behind Westfield.

The rankings this season likely will have an ebb and flow to them, with Carmel looking awful tough as well. North had a lock on the No. 1 spot last year until Westfield rallied past second-place North during the final holes of the state tournament to post a two-shot victory.

Westfield only lost one golfer from the starting lineup that won the state tourney. It’s safe to say North is no longer the odds-on favorite.

Still, all eyes will be on North’s top golfers, such as Christian Fairbanks (scholarship to Indiana) and Michael VanDeventer (scholarship to Ball State). Their ability to go low, along with the development of the new guys in the lineup, most likely will determine the team’s fate.

Unfair, yes. It is just the way it is.

Golf is such a fickle sport, often not rewarding a player’s improvement. Take VanDeventer, for example. He hits the ball farther than ever. His short game has been sharpened. He has practiced thousands of putts.

Yet in his freshman season he placed fifth individually in the state tournament. In his junior year, he was seventh. How can that be?

A putt can hit a spike mark or a ball takes a bad bounce into a hazard. It can rain, or the wind can blow 30 mph on the most important day of the season.

Then there’s the other guy.

North broke the previous state tournament record by 10 shots last season. Ten shots. The Bull Dogs still lost by two.

In the past three seasons North has had three sectional titles and three regional championships. It has finished second in the state tournament in two of the three seasons.

I am sure if you asked the Bull Dogs, it’s not enough.

It should be, but North has set its bar incredibly high.

What’s this all mean for local golf fans?

It’s a great opportunity to check out some incredibly talented kids.

High school golf is a different kind of sport for fans because it’s not like you claim a spot in the bleachers and plop down. To really see it, you need to walk around quite a bit.

Here’s the deal, though. Most of the time, it is free. If the weather is nice, it can be like a walk along the People Trail, only with some talented kids hitting golf balls in the background.

If you want to check it out, Columbus North plays in the Spring Preview at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Legends in Franklin. The Bull Dogs’ next home match is at 4 p.m. May 5 against Bloomington North.

You never know, you might just be watching a kid who someday is playing tour golf on television.

And if a North golfer lands on the tour, he will have one factor in his favor.

He will have faced, and most often overcome, pressure.

Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at jheater@therepublic.com or 379-5632.

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