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North grabs elusive state golf title

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After six holes of play on Wednesday, Columbus North’s hopes of a state golf championship were sinking away like they had landed in a muddy sand trap.

The Bull Dogs were a combined 10 over par, and the team had dropped out of first place early in the tournament’s second day after taking a three-stroke lead in Tuesday’s opening round at the 78th Boys Golf State Finals at The Legends.

Considering that North had let its first-round lead slip away each of the previous three years, it could have been disheartening.

Then in a spectacular 12 holes of play, everything changed.

With seniors Michael VanDeventer and Christian Fairbanks sharing medalist honors, Columbus North crushed the 15-team field, winning the title by 11 shots over runner-up Westfield, last year’s champion.

From the No. 7 hole forward, the Bull Dogs conquered the course and the tricky winds in a combined 6 under par. It was the first state boys golf championship for the city since Columbus High School won in 1934.

“We were in trouble after that start,” said North coach Doug Bieker. “Man, I can’t say enough about these guys. They fought hard.

“To watch them fall behind, then battle back ... these are some great, young men, full of character.”

All five North starters — VanDeventer, Fairbanks, Ian Coffey, Nick Waskom and Zack Lee — are seniors. It was Coffey, though, who got things rolling.

He birdied Nos. 7 and 8 and barely missed a birdie putt on No. 9.

“That really got us back in it,” Bieker said. “That stuff spreads around the course.”

Coffey finished his round at 76, and Waskom righted his ship and carded a 75. The team race was quickly put to rest, then it was just a matter of whether VanDeventer or Fairbanks would win the individual title.

After both burned the edge of the cup on birdie attempts at No. 18, they finished the 36 holes of play deadlocked at 141, which was 3 under par.

Indiana High School Athletic Association golf commissioner Chris Kaufman asked VanDeventer and Fairbanks if they wanted to share the award or have a playoff.

“It was an easy decision,” said VanDeventer, who shot 71 on Wednesday. “We’re co-medalists. I couldn’t think of a better way to medal. Christian and I have played together for so long.”

Fairbanks, a player of few words, was choked up emotionally after VanDeventer putted out on No. 18 to compete the team victory.

“I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way,” he said of sharing the medalist honors. “There are just a lot of emotions going through me right now. A lot of it has to do with how hard this team has worked.”

VanDeventer and Fairbanks were both varsity starters all four years and experienced their share of joy and pain during tournament time.

“I am so proud of all of us,” VanDeventer said. “Especially after what has happened to us the last three years. There definitely is some relief right now.”

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