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Shane Bacon

When losing a golf tournament really makes you a winner

Shane Bacon
Devil Ball Golf

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There are times to be competitive. Moments when all you want to do is humiliate your opponent as you defeat him. It's the nature of sports, and what our internal competition meters usually read.

That, we all know, is how athletes feel most of the time. But, at times, and these are few and far between, we see acts that defy wins and losses. A moment when a girl is brought in on crutches to score a layup to break a record or someone being carried around the field after she twisted her ankle rounding the bases. Opponents coming together to transcend the game.

That is what happened between two collegiate golfers, vying for a spot in the NAIA National Championship.

Grant Whybark (left), a sophomore at the University of St. Francis, had locked up a spot in nationals with his team, which won the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship, but was in a playoff against Olivet Nazarene's Seth Doran (right) for individual honors.

As championships go, both the winning team and winning individual are asked to move on to nationals, so if Whybark won the playoff against Doran, he'd be honoring both spots and Doran wouldn't be asked to move on.

What happened next is the type of stuff movies are made about. Whybark stood over his tee shot on the first playoff hole, looked down the fairway and back at his ball, and hit it 40 yards right of the fairway, out of bounds by a mile. He made double bogey, Doran made par, and Olivet Nazarene had a man in nationals.

What makes it so incredible? Whybark intentionally did it, because he felt Doran had earned a spot in the next round.

"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."

Too many times we read about cheap shots or fights or cheaters, and it is stories like this that make it all seem petty. A golfer simply knew his place, was comfortable with where he was, and thought that a senior, playing in his final tournament as a collegiate golfer, had done enough to earn one more week with the game he loved.

I'm not a big believer in karma, and I'm sure the story won't end the way it should, but if Whybark somehow won nationals, it would make for a really nice screenplay.

Whybark did what most of us would never do, and although he is short a trophy in his case, he earned respect from anyone reading this story.

Nice shot, kiddo.

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