NAIA Scandal Forces Fans To Answer Tough Questions

Ken FossAnalyst IMay 7, 2010

Photo courtesy Golfweek.com via St. Francis/Olivet Nazarene

Golf, for as long as it's been in the minds of mainstream sports fans, has been advertised as the gentlemen's game. While tennis has since cut deeply into that territory, the fact remains no opposition is as cordial as that which takes place on the links worldwide. 

And with good reason considering the seriousness the players take the inane nature of some of the more mind-numbing rules which inhabit the dark recesses of these different rulebooks.

With that said, golfers seem to know every one of them and are always willing to call them on themselves at any point, as they know, to a man, the person next to them would do the same.

It's admirable, and it's one of the truly endearing things about the sport of golf, especially in today's hyperbolic sports climate where everything is a never ending pursuit of excellence or an exercise in the harshiest lessons of true capitalism.

That's not what we're going to talk about today, however.

Four days ago Golfweek.com published a seemingly typical fluff piece entitled "Sportsmanship at its finest" detailing Grant Whybark's (left), a sophomore at St. Francis University in Joliet, Ill., decision to hammer a tee-shot out of play, essentially handing Seth Doran(right) of Olivet Nazarene, a free pass to nationals.

You see the winning team and individual from the conference championships advanced to the NAIA national championship May 18-21 at TPC at Deere Run in Silvis, Ill. St. Francis captured the team title in the 36-hole event, meaning Whybark and his four teammates already had their tickets.

“We all know Seth very well,” Whybark said, “ 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.”

“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.”

What Whybark didn't know, maybe wasn't told, or didn't care to know was that there are in fact a finite number of overall slots in-play. So, by shanking his tee-shot and throwing the match he could have removed a whole team from the event because the individual AQ (automatic qualifier) slots take precedent over the team slots.

So by publicly shanking his tee-shot, he could have knocked five players out of Nationals, to accommodate the one he couldn't bring himself to eliminate.

Many in the golfing press wrote the story off as nothing of importance, simply another example of the incredible sportsmanship displayed in the gentlemen's game. While on the other end, the mainstream coverage of the story has been hamfisted, and amateurish at best. 

All that aside however, that doomsday scenario didn't happen, and you could argue all's well, that ends well. Whybark sends someone, who I'm sure is a good person, to have an experience he'll likely not have had otherwise.

The questions still linger, was the sacrificing of the integrity of the TPC at Deere Run, taking the risk of elimination of five other more deserving individuals really worth it? Or do the ends justify the means in the sports world?

Let's just say I'm hoping this never happens again.


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