USF Newsmaker: Grant Whybark

You may have heard of University of St. Francis golfer Grant Whybark.

On May 6, Whybark experienced the proverbial “15-minutes of fame” for his intentional out-of-bounds drive that gave an opponent the opportunity to compete at Nationals. The move, which drew a wide range of support and some criticism, made national news garnering attention from media outlets like GolfWeek, ESPN and Yahoo! Sports as well as firing up countless bloggers, tweeters and Facebookers.

Whybark, a sophomore from Morris, Ill. made the now infamous shot on a playoff hole against Olivet Nazarene’s Seth Doran, a friend and graduating senior who never had the opportunity to tee off at Nationals during his college career. The shot came after Whybark already had qualified for the national competition with his team. Whybark initially thought that Doran would have an automatic birth to Nationals since he had already secured a spot, but he learned otherwise. Then with the support of his team, he made sure Doran would win the playoff hole.

After the tournament, a teammate’s dad and Whybark’s boss both sent messages to GolfWeek relaying Whybark’s selfless act. A reporter called a few days later for comment. “I just explained it to him, but didn’t hear anything else,” he said. “Shortly after that article was published my mom called me and said family called her saying they saw it on Yahoo. From there, it was everywhere.

“My phone died three times that day. The longest I was off the phone was 15 minutes that day.” But the “coolest” call came midday when ESPN called asking him to appear via satellite on its Sports Center show that evening. Whybark, along with two teammates, drove to a studio in Chicago. “I was really nervous,” he said of the interview. But, no one would have known since Whybark appeared calm and spoke articulately during the segment. The show also included Doran via satellite. During the interview, Doran said he would have done the same thing for Whybark if the roles had been reversed.

“It made me feel a lot better when he said that,” Whybark said, noting that the some of the critics were harsh. “Criticism comes with the territory,” he said. “A lot of the critics are die-hard sports fans. I’m extremely competitive, but there’s more to life than winning or losing.” As fast as the media attention came, it left. Whybark said he was left with a bevy of voicemails and more than 160 friend requests on Facebook. Among all the numerous calls and emails received at USF was a casting director, looking to cast Whybark as a young golfer in an upcoming movie.

Nearly a week after his media tour, Whybark said he had not yet returned her call. “That’s probably the strangest call,” he said. “I’m not an actor.”

Note: The men’s golf team finished the 2010 NAIA National Championships in 21st place, up eight spots from last year’s finish at the tournament.