My Take on Whybark, Doran, and Sportsmanship

As I am sure most golf fans will have heard by now, there was an interesting little development at the recent NAIA qualifier in Chicagoland that has broken out into the national spotlight because of two college golfers: Grant Whybark and Seth Doran.

As Shane Bacon writes in his article, the premise of the "event" is just this: one golfer (who had already qualified for Nationals with his team) is in a playoff with another (who had never made Nationals, and was in his senior year). Golfer A (Whybark) purposely hits his tee shot on the final hole out-of-bounds so Golfer B (Doran) can take a trip to Nationals.

After hearing this story for the first time, I was immediately floored that one collegiate golfer would have the selflessness to think of doing such a thing to help out another player (as it turns out, the golfers are friends). Sportsmanship is not seen very often anymore, and the intentions of a positive outcome were certainly there. Whybark echoes his intentions during a post-round interview:

"We all know Seth very well," Whybark explains, "and he not only is a very good player, but a great person as well. He’s a senior and had never been to nationals. Somehow, it just wasn’t in my heart to try to knock him out.

"I think some people were surprised, but my team knew what I was doing and were supportive of me. I felt Seth deserved to go (to nationals) just as much as I did.

"It was one of those things where I couldn’t feel good taking something from him like this. My goal from the start was to get (to nationals) with my team. I had already done that."

But then I thought a little more about this story, and now I am not so sure if this was the best possible thing to do for Doran.

First and probably least relevant is the fact that the two Chicagoland schools, University of St. Francis and Olivet Nazarene, absolutely hate each other when it comes to most sporting events. While I am sure Whybark was not thinking of this fact when he decided to hit his tee shot, I am almost positive that neither school will take this act in a positive light. The competitive nature between the two schools is just too solid.

Secondly, after hearing this story I did what most writers would do before posting an opinion; I tried to think of a time when I was in a similar situation. Unfortunately for me, I was.

In high school, I was a pitcher for our summer league baseball team and was going up against an all-around better team in the sectional playoffs. During one particularly tough inning, I was getting absolutely shelled by batter after batter until eventually the coach's son came up to the plate. What makes this interesting is the fact that I was related to this player and coach, and before his son stepped into the batters box, the coach whispered something to his son. The batter then proceeded to stand there, bat on his shoulder, as I threw three pitches and struck him out.

It was painfully obvious that the opposing coach told his son, and my relative, to strike out. The other team was already up by a substantial margin, so this one out meant nothing in the grand scheme of the game. Regardless, I felt horrible and insulted that a coach and player felt the need to "show mercy" and put me out of my misery.

Having experienced this before in my life, I can only imagine and presume what Doran might be feeling today. Sure, he now gets to go to Nationals as an individual, but at what cost?

"Swallowing one's pride" is probably the one sporting cliche that bothers me the most nowadays because the underlying message has been lost over time. "Swallowing one's pride" does not translate to offering charity to another athlete in the manner that Whybark did. If anything, Whybark came off as a player who knew he was better than the other golfer and decided to throw a playoff. In other words, he made Doran a charity case.