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Right fit helps young golfers gear up

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If all the golf bags at the Providence Regional on Thursday at Champions Pointe Golf Course were confiscated and sold at auction, Adam Krebs’ bag probably wouldn’t bring a big price.

That’s because Krebs, Columbus East’s talented junior golfer, carries about half the value (an estimated $1,000) in clubs as compared with most of his teammates and competitors.

Don’t feel bad for Krebs. When it came time to get his clubs fitted, he didn’t go to the pro shop. Instead, he just went home.

“My dad (Steve Krebs) is an engineer,” Adam Krebs said. “He fits them to me.”

That certainly helps to keep the price down.

While his teammates might not have someone at home to cater to their golf equipment needs, they all have found a way to stock up on the best brands.

With golf technology changing by leaps and bounds every few years, golfers from both the Columbus East and Columbus North golf teams said no real arms race exists. In general, they felt they all had access to the proper equipment to get the job done (an estimated $2,000 a bag).

They also felt that no one was at any big disadvantage when it came to equipment because the competitors were simply spending more money.

“You’re fine as long as your clubs fit your swing,” said Krebs, who plays Golfsmith Snake Eyes irons.

That being said, no local golfer was carrying around a “knock-off” or imitation-type set of clubs. Every bag was loaded with name brands. It was just a matter of how current the equipment happened to be or at what end of the cost spectrum it landed.

Columbus East coach Tom LaBarbera said that kids learn early in Columbus that they need good equipment if they want to keep up.

“High school golf in Columbus is so competitive, so that’s not really an issue,” LaBarbera said of having name-brand equipment. “That’s more a situation you see at middle school, where it is an introduction to the game.”

LaBarbera said if a high school freshman who didn’t have proper equipment wanted to pick up the game, it would be tough.

“The bottom line is that if they really wanted to play golf, we would make it happen,” LaBarbera said. “We have had a freshman come in who didn’t have adequate equipment, and I have friends who have donated clubs. If there is a hardship situation, we have money available. But I think that is more about lessons than equipment. Somehow, we will find a way to get equipment.”

LaBarbera hopes that his players get quality equipment and then stop thinking about what brand they are swinging.

“I tell my guys all the time, that the most important club is between your ears,” LaBarbera said. “When you go on a course, you have your clubs, your range-finder, your pin-sheet, all the tools. But our brain is the most important thing we need to engage.”

The bigger concern for LaBarbera is whether the clubs — no matter the brand — fit.

Local golf pro Jeff Smith said high school-aged golfers must be aware that their bodies change rapidly at that age, and it can create issues for a player who attempts to play the same clubs all four high school seasons.

“Kids grow so fast that the equipment doesn’t match up,” Smith said. “Equipment does matter. It’s always a part of the conversation. How about the shaft? It is the best one to give you the best flight trajectory? Your irons, are you playing the right weight, flex, lie angle that will give you the best chance for success?”

Smith knows buying clubs can be a significant investment. However, he said the used market allows high school golfers to stay current with the right fit and not go broke.

East sophomore Will Mayhew knew he had to make a change with his irons, and it just so happened that Smith’s daughter, Caroline, wasn’t in love with her new set of TaylorMade SLDR irons. Caroline Smith, who is 18, had played with men’s irons the past three years, and her father thought they would fit Mayhew perfectly.

Mayhew, who is completing his sophomore golf season, said he didn’t care that he is competing with a set of irons that previously was owned by a girl.

“I hit them awesome,” he said. “It was a good deal.”

Mayhew, like most of the area’s other top high school golfers, has a significant investment in his other clubs as well. He hits a TaylorMade R7 driver and a Ping Nome putter.

East’s Austin Proffitt said he understands that clubs need to be fitted properly and that upgrades are needed, but he said there also is value in hitting the same club year after year.

“You get used to hitting them,” said Proffitt, who believes that confidence is a big factor in playing well. “I don’t think you need to change all the time.”

Proffitt, who is a sophomore, bought a new set of Ping Eye 2 irons about two years ago, and he plans to play with that set for a long time. “They felt amazing the first time I hit them, and they are forgiving,” he said.

Like Mayhew, Proffitt hits a TaylorMade R7 driver, but he also uses a TaylorMade 3 wood that he took over from his dad. He uses an Odyssey White Hot putter.

East’s Chris Jurrema strokes an Odyssey White Ice putter and then has all kinds of other name brand equipment in his bag.

“I probably have one of the most mixed bags on our team,” Jurrema said. “I try clubs out and play whatever works best for me.”

Jurrema had Callaway irons and Titleist wedges. He has played the same irons since seventh grade and is happy with them.

“You always see kids with the latest and greatest equipment, but they lose,” Jurrema said. “It’s not always the equipment.”

Olympian Zach Sutton, who is going into the military following high school, has name-brand equipment such as his Ping V2 Raptor driver and his Odyssey White Ice putter, but he probably isn’t going to be buying any more.

“I don’t like spending money on clubs,” he said. “I see people spending thousands of dollars here and there. I don’t know why they just don’t get a lesson.”

Columbus North senior Zack Lee agreed that most of the responsibility for a golfer’s score lies in his own hands, but he noticed a big difference when he purchased a new set of Callaway Apex irons for his senior season. “I think it was more along the lines that I needed a fit,” he said. “It makes a world of difference. It really wasn’t distance, but I had more control once I had clubs that fit the exact length of my body and that were bent to my swing.”

He does appreciate good equipment, though. Lee uses a gold-plated Ben Hogan Bettinardi putter.

North golfers have no shortage of big-name putters. Christian Fairbanks lines up a Titleist Scotty Cameron Kombi putter, one of the hottest clubs on the market.

“It’s just the feel,” Fairbanks said. “I like the alignment.”

North senior Michael VanDeventer likes the feel of his brand new Titleist 913 driver, but he didn’t go buy the club because the Bull Dogs are in the running for a state championship.

“Christian broke my old one,” VanDeventer said. “We were messing around with some flop shots, and Christian didn’t see my bag right behind him. On his follow through, he put a big dent in the head.”

So that’s how to get some new clubs.

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