Fairbanks shoots 77 at state finals

CARMEL — Spencer Fairbanks would have loved to have had his teammates playing alongside him, but the Columbus North sophomore withstood the pressures of being in his first IHSAA Boys Golf State Finals.

Fairbanks, an individual qualifier, carded a 5-over-par 77 in Tuesday’s opening round at Prairie View Golf Club. The sophomore is tied for 32nd going into today’s final round, nine shots behind leader Spencer Klimek of Columbia City.

North, the defending state champion as a team, did not qualify for this year’s finals, having lost all five starters to graduation. But according to Bull Dogs coach Doug Bieker, Fairbanks kind of came out of nowhere to make it.

“It isn’t very easy,” Bieker said. “You just don’t know. He hasn’t been here before except to watch, and you don’t know how he’s going to react. Spencer admitted to being nervous, but he settled down nicely and played a solid last 13 holes, so he’s in a good position for what we’re shooting for.

“Eight weeks ago Spencer wasn’t even in our top five and didn’t even play in the first tournament of the year,” the coach added. “For him to have come all this way, it’s a testimony to his work ethic and his focus throughout the year.”

Fairbanks admitted nerves were part of his early-round routine.

“I was a little nervous to tell you the truth at the beginning, but this is a great experience,” he said.

Reminded of the rich golf tradition at North and his brother, Christian, who was a co-medalist in last year’s state finals, Fairbanks said he really doesn’t try to think of that.

“But it does play a big role in my preparation and overall game,” Spencer Fairbanks said. “I was hitting my driver and irons pretty well all day. But my wedge shots weren’t as good as I would have liked them to be. And my putting, I still have to work on.

“Right now, it’s pretty much of mental game for me,” he said. “I don’t really think about the technical side of things. I just go out there and do my best.”

Fairbanks, who teed off on No. 10 shortly before 9 a.m., was right on schedule with a pace he likes to keep.

“After about my fourth or fifth hole I felt a lot more comfortable and started playing a lot better,” he said. “The guys I played with were pretty light-spirited, and that helped relax things a little. I’m going to get back out there and work on my putting and wedge game and be ready for (today).”

Fairbanks tees off at 8:18 a.m. today.