Everything at the 78th Boys Golf State Finals had been decided Wednesday except the Fred Keesling Mental Attitude Award winner, which goes to a kid who plays like Arnold Palmer and acts like Mother Teresa.
For those not receiving a team or individual medal, that piece of hardware keeps people around for the closing ceremonies.
Not much drama was left to be had at The Legends Golf Club as Columbus North was hogging the major awards. Bull Dog seniors Michael VanDeventer and Christian Fairbanks shared the individual championship, and all the team championship medals were heading back to Columbus as well.
The Keesling plaque was a chance for some other team to crash the party.
Then came the winner ... VanDeventer.
One adult toward the back of the crowd had seen enough of this Bull Dog worship festival. He muttered the mother lode of all expletives and headed toward the parking lot.
It’s not often that 3 a.m. bar behavior collides with those wearing Nike golf polos.
In this particular case, one could only imagine that if one of his relatives was up for the award, they must take after a different side of the family.
However, I resisted an urge to follow the gentleman to the parking lot and explain why the IHSAA had made a good decision.
Perhaps this guy wasn’t around a year ago when VanDeventer stood in front of the world and took blame for North’s late woes that passed the team title to Westfield.
Notice I didn’t say meltdown or fold job as the Bull Dogs finished second for the second time in three years. For gosh sakes, they broke the previous team state record by 10 strokes and still lost by two.
Even so, VanDeventer had hit the ball in the lake on No. 18 to take bogey, and that was not acceptable to him. Tears in his eyes, he talked about I, Me, My.
When North won the championship Wednesday, he wanted to talk about Christian Fairbanks, Ian Coffey, Nick Waskom and Zack Lee. Seems like a pretty great attitude to me.
You want good mental attitude? Check out VanDeventer’s performance Wednesday at No. 15, a par 5 that was set up perfectly for him after he dropped his second shot to within 100 yards.
Although the team title was in hand, VanDeventer knew he was competing for an individual championship, and yet he hit a fat, ugly shot into the creek that runs in front of the green. Kind of like you are I would do.
It was a little humiliating, the kind of shot that often leads to another bad one, and another. “I figured that maybe I had just blown my shot,” he said.
Then he hit a pitch to within 12 feet. Then he made the putt for bogey.
To be mad that VanDeventer got the Keesling Award doesn’t make sense. The fact is that most of the golfers on the course probably deserve a mental attitude award. That’s the kind of sport they play.
Take a look at Fairbanks. He had missed a handful of birdie putts Wednesday that would have given him the title. Those missed putts might have scrambled the brain of a kid without a great mental attitude. Fairbanks kept going.
When he came to No. 15 and was 220 yards from the green with the creek in front, he pulled out a 4-iron. Those putting disappointments didn’t stop him from hitting a daring, beautiful shot that left him with an eagle putt.
He proceeded to three-putt, and he kept going. That’s a strong will.
Waskom and Coffey started poor and finished strong. Great attitude.
Lee, who was a big factor in North’s regional title, struggled for two days, but had this to say afterward. “I loved every minute with these guys.”
In the end, Columbus North, led by coach Doug Bieker, persevered through some agonizing near misses when it would have been easy to fold up in a ball and cry. They didn’t make excuses and they did the work when no one was watching.
Do you question that one, Mr. Expletive?
On Tuesday night, long after playing his first round at the state tourney, VanDeventer and his dad, Jeff VanDeventer, were on the greens at Harrison Lake, practicing 12-foot putts.
Michael VanDeventer told his dad that he was going to make a few of those putts Wednesday. He did.
I would imagine that the late Mr. Keesling, the longtime director of the state tournament, would have been proud.
Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 379-5632.