Honor or not? Golfer prompts debate

Updated: May 6, 2010, 9:08 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

University of St. Francis (Ill.) golfer Grant Whybark has become a national name in light of his decision to intentionally lose a playoff for his conference tournament's individual title and allow an opponent to advance to the national finals.

Whybark, who had already qualified for the NAIA national championship by virtue of his team's victory in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament on April 27, made a double-bogey on the first playoff hole to allow Seth Doran of Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) University to qualify as an individual.

The national title tournament is May 18-21 at TPC at Deere Park in Silvis, Ill., site of the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic.

"I've known Seth for the past couple of years," Whybark said Thursday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "He's earned my respect on the golf course and off of it.

"I talked with my team about it. The whole goal of the conference tournament is to advance to nationals. As soon as I had done that, not a whole lot else made a difference to me. And the kid has earned his spot, as everyone else did in the tournament. That's my position on it."

Whybark emphasized that no other golfer missed a chance to advance to the national tournament because of his action.

"It came down to whoever won the playoff hole," Whybark said. "If I won, Seth didn't get to go. If he won, he got to go. That's where we were at.

"It was Seth or nobody."

Whybark, who was told that the overall individual winner earned a spot in nationals before the playoff with Doran began, hit his tee shot out of bounds on the first playoff hole at Heritage Bluffs Public Golf Club. Doran made par to advance.

"Originally, I thought he was in as well as me," Whybark said. "I thought it was the low medalist outside of the winning team. I made the comment to him on the tee, 'We're both in, right?' That's the first thing I said to him on the tee. And he said, 'I don't know.' And his coach said that, too.

"And we waited for my coach to come down and tell us whether we're both in, or not. And I said, 'That's kind of stupid to even be out here if we're both not in.' And he kind of looked at me and shook his head."

St. Francis advanced as a team to nationals for the second straight year, and Whybark said he and his team believed Doran also deserved to go.

"Seth was elated, I'm sure, to get into the tournament," Whybark said. "Like I said, I feel -- and I feel my team knows it as well as I do -- that he earned the spot fairly.

"He beat me on the hole."

When reminded that Doran won only because Whybark hit his ball out of bounds, Whybark said: "That's not to say he wouldn't have beat me anyway."

The decision prompted plenty of debate on the "Mike & Mike in the Morning" program on ESPN Radio, as well as on a variety of Internet sites. Some believe Whybark's decision was an act of sportsmanship; others believe getting into the national championship tournament because an opponent deliberately lost a match was the wrong way to advance.