CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — On the first shot of the first playoff hole at the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference championship last month, the University of St. Francis’ top golfer hit a shot so bad that you’d have to wonder how he made the playoff in the first place.
Grant Whybark hit it hard right. Dozens and dozens of yards out of bounds at the Heritage Bluffs Public Golf Club in Channahon, Ill.
“When I talked to my teammates they were like, ‘What the heck happened on his tee shot?'” recalled Seth Doran, the Olivet Nazarene golfer who was in the playoff with Whybark on April 27.
It turns out that Whybark threw the hole for Doran, his friend.
Whybark’s bogey and Doran’s birdie meant that Doran will be joining Whybark at the NAIA national tournament May 18. Whybark was already assured of a spot along with his conference-champion team.
“I said, ‘This is stupid to even play this hole if we’re not both in,'” Whybark, a 20-year-old sophomore at St. Francis, said he told Doran. “This is not a big deal to me. We’d already played 36 holes and we were tied dead even.”
Not a big deal? Maybe not for Doran and Whybark, who play golf for small schools on out-of-the-way courses where the galleries consists mostly of family. Olivet Nazarene in Bourbonnais – about 50 miles south of Chicago – has about 4,600 students, and St. Francis – its teams are the Saints – has about 3,300 on its campus in nearby Joliet.
But when Golfweek magazine picked up the story Monday, Whybark’s shot became the subject of thousands of comments online, many of them approving.
Doran, just ahead of a planned interview with ESPN on Thursday, said he spent part of his morning watching – to his surprise – the network’s “Mike and Mike” talk about him. One of the hosts said Whybark’s move should have made him mad.
“He was like, ‘If I was Seth Doran I’d be so mad he did that, and after he hit one out of bounds I would hit one even farther out of bounds and say let’s go!'” Doran said. “I just laughed.”
The 22-year-old married senior will graduate Saturday from Olivet. He’ll put his degree in social work to use almost right away at a child welfare office in nearby Kankakee.
Sports is not the highest priority for Doran, but his coach said that doesn’t mean he isn’t competitive.
Doran and Whybark, who is studying accounting and political science at St. Francis, have become good friends because, as their teams’ top golfers, they’ve spent days and days paired up against each other at tournaments the past two years, Olivet coach Brian Hyma said.
“Golf is a sport where you really can get to know your competitors pretty well; you’re with them four and a half hours, five hours a day,” Hyma said.
Hyma said that after the tournament he briefly congratulated Whybark for a “good, standup move.”
Whybark said he told his teammates what he was up to before he did it, and no one objected.
As it is, the move means Whybark might have one more chance to face the “great guy” he’s gotten to know the past couple of years, this time at the TPC at Deere Run in Silvis, Ill., a regular stop on the PGA tour.
“If it was just anybody, I don’t know if I would have felt the same way about it,” Whybark said. “I don’t know if I would have even thought of it.”