Lessons from the fairway

Stories about sportsmanship and generosity are often accompanied by questions of on-field integrity. Who can forget Bret Favre intentionally being sacked in a Packers game against the New York Giants, so that Michael Strahan could break the NFL sack record?

A few years ago there was a wonderful story about a local high school cross country ski team that scheduled a quick meet, so that a skier on another team, who’d been out of state when other meets were held, could qualify for the state high school cross country competition. A nice gesture, indeed, that was followed by criticism that the skier didn’t really earn her way onto the team.

There’s a golf story like these out of Chicago today, courtesy of Yahoo Sports.

Grant Whybark, 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 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.

A commenter raises the usual concern:

I am all for giving someone a leg up especially if it is for someone at a disadvantage. However, I don’t think you should shank it and let someone get a win. I have been an athlete my whole life and would feel cheated if someone just gave me a “win”. This is what being competitive is all about. I think it is a great story, but just not how I would want to take a victory.

What is the balance, by this definition, between being a competitive sportsman, and being a darned fine human being?

(h/t: Sean Collins)

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