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With the wind whipping down the 18th fairway Tuesday in the opening round of the IHSAA Boys Golf State Finals, Columbus North’s Michael VanDeventer crushed his tee shot.

With a 3 wood.

It was a year ago in the final round of the state championship at The Legends when VanDeventer hit his driver into the lake that hugs the right side of the 18th fairway. North lost the title by two shots.

“I’m not hitting driver there,” said VanDeventer, who obviously benefited from that experience.

One of five seniors in North’s lineup, VanDeventer hit his approach on the 18th green, took two putts for par and walked away with a round of 70 that tied him for first place with Dylan Meyer of Evansville Central.

The Bull Dogs’ Christian Fairbanks added a sparkling 71 that left him in third place all alone.

Those two rounds paced a 299 team score that gave Columbus North a three-shot lead over second-place Carmel and a four-shot advantage over third-place Hamilton Southeastern going into today’s final round.

“I hit it very well, but I didn’t make anything,” said VanDeventer, whose lone bogey came at the par 3 No. 16 hole. “Hopefully they will fall for me (in today’s final round).

“I’ve given myself a chance.”

Fairbanks also gave himself a chance at an individual title. “I started well and made some putts early,” said Fairbanks, who is coming off a regional individual championship. “I made one mental mistake, on No. 5, when I got too aggressive with my wedge.”

He took a double bogey on that hole and played the other 17 at 3-under.

“The wind was tough out there, so I am proud of how we battled,” said North coach Doug Bieker. “That was 20 miles per hour at times, a two-club wind. I think it is going to be the same way tomorrow.”

Many in the 100-golfer field struggled. Ian Coffey shot 77, Nick Waskom carded an 81 and Zack Lee had an 85 to complete North’s scoring.

“I thought it was a grind because of the wind,” Coffey said. “It came down to a lot of three- to four-foot putts. I was making most of them.”

Coffey might have been in the individual running if not for an 8 he took on the par-4 No. 4 hole.

“I hit it into the water on my second shot and then over the green on the next shot,” he said. “It was just a mess. I shot one-over on the other 17 holes.

“But I think our team is in good shape. I think we are looking at backing this up with another good day.”

Waskom was disappointed his round kept the Bull Dogs from being farther ahead. “Personally, I have to play better,” he said. “I feel a little bummed because I know I can shoot better. I just have to be confident and trust in the club I pick.”

Bieker is confident that Lee and Waskom will shoot better rounds today, which would give Columbus North a big chance to win its first state championship. Columbus High School won its only state golf championship in 1934.

“All five of our guys are capable of shooting low scores, but certainly we do look to Christian and Michael,” Bieker said. “Gosh, we’ve got two guys in the top three. I hope those two are in an individual playoff (for the championship).”

No matter what those two do, North won’t win a team championship if its other three golfers struggle. “Those three guys need to step up,” Bieker said of Coffey, Waskom and Lee.

“But no matter what happens, this team has left an indelible mark on Columbus North and on Indiana golf.”

Today’s action begins at 8 a.m. and North’s first group tees off at 9:21 a.m. VanDeventer goes off with the final group at 9:57 a.m.

Five teams are within seven shots of North’s lead. Bishop Dwenger and Pendleton Heights both carded 305s and defending champion Westfield was at 306.

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