If you’re up on local sports history, you know about all the high school teams that have won state championships.
You know about the Franklin “Wonder Five” and its three boys basketball titles in the early 1920s. You know about Center Grove’s girls hoops championship in 1996. You know about that same school’s five softball titles bridging the 1980s and 2000s. And you definitely know about its historic Class 5A football title in 2008.
You probably also know about Center Grove’s 2000 volleyball championship, and it’s boys tennis titles in 2001 and 2001.
If you’re really a student of county history, you even know about Franklin’s boys cross-country crown in 2000.
But here’s something you might not know as the Center Grove boys golf team launches its bid for a state title at today’s Southport Sectional.
If the top-ranked Trojans win the championship later this month, which they are skilled enough to do, they will not be the first local team to win a team golf championship.
That distinction belongs to Franklin — a magnificent achievement that, in many ways, is almost lost to history. The passage of time is one reason. The nature of the sport is another.
In 1938, at the height of the Great Depression, three years before the U.S. entered into World War II, Franklin became the county’s first — and still only — team golf state champion. The Grizzly Cubs shared the title with South Bend Riley. Both teams shot a 328 at Speedway Golf Course, finishing one stroke ahead of Shortridge.
At the time, high school golf was in its infancy. The state tournament was only seven years old. And the sport didn’t attract nearly the spectator attention as the more popular sports of the era, specifically basketball, baseball and track.
In light of those circumstances, its easy to understand how a state championship won 77 years ago — in a sport that wasn’t nearly as popular as it is today — goes largely unnoticed.
But obscurity doesn’t diminish the accomplishment, one that’s of historical significance for myriad reasons, not the least of which is a connection to the Wonder Five. More on that in a moment.
As mentioned earlier, no other local team has won a team golf champion. Moreover, between 1922, when the Wonder Five won the last of its three straight basketball championships, and 1996, when Center Grove won the last single-class girls basketball title, Franklin’s 1938 golf team stood as the county’s only state champion — a gap of 58 years between championships.
Players on the 1938 team were Robert Anderson, Lennis Murphy, George Murphy, William Dugger and Dan Cravens. Cravens was the No. 1 player. He carded a 76 in the state final and was third among individuals.
And now, the Wonder Five connection.
Robert “Fuzzy” Vandivier is a legendary basketball figure in Indiana. He was a star player on the Wonder Five. He was Franklin’s basketball coach for 18 years. He led the Grizzly Cubs to 16 sectional titles. He guided them to a runner-up finish in the 1939 state finals. He coached the state’s first Mr. Basketball (George Crowe). And he is the only former Johnson County player in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
But the late Vandivier also knew a little — or rather, a lot — about golf.
He was head coach of the 1938 state championship team.
Despite its famous coach, few local residents recall, or ever know about, the “forgotten team.” Even the 1939 Franklin yearbook expended little ink in immortalizing the moment:
“The final event of the summer was that of the State High School Golf Tournament, played on the Speedway Golf Course in Indianapolis. For the first time in the history of Franklin High School the state championship was won by our golf team.
Dan Cravens took third place scoring with a count of 76. Fuzzy Vandivier is the golf coach. We are expecting big things of the golf team this year.”
To date, no local golf team has done anything comparable.
For that reason alone, the forgotten team is well-worth remembering.