Illinois College's Wilson Neill was presented with the NCAA Sportsmanship Award on November 26th by the Athletic Director at Northwestern University and Chair of the NCAA Committee on Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct, Fred Smith. Neill earned the honor after withdrawing from a golf tournament co-hosted by Knox College and Monmouth College on April 26-27 after inadvertently benefitting from an incorrect ruling.
Watch the video presentation of the Neill receiving the award.
"My actions that day simply reflected my respect for the game of golf and its rules," Neill said. "I always try to play the game the way it was meant to be played, whether in a tournament or in practice with my team. I believe that sportsmanship is about doing the right thing, regardless of whether it is required or convenient.
"My withdrawal from the tournament that day was definitely not required, but I knew that it was the right thing to do, so it had to be done. I hope through this award, people can see the good that can come from doing the right thing."
After searching unsuccessfully for a tee shot during the second round of the tournament, Neill returned to the tee to hit what he considered a provisional ball. After hitting the second tee shot, Neill found his original tee shot. He then picked up his provisional ball and played out his original tee shot. Neill discussed the play with the others playing in his group, all of whom agreed Neill could play his original tee shot. Neill later explained the situation to Illinois College men's golf coach Ray DeFrisco, who brought the matter to the attention of tournament officials. Tournament officials ruled the play legal, but after further checking, Neill and DeFrisco learned it was an incorrect ruling, as once a player returns to the tee box after searching for a ball, the original tee shot is no longer playable.
Despite tournament officials' insistence that the play was ruled legal and would be allowed to stand, Neill withdrew from the tournament.
"This game is built on integrity and our senior captain displayed exactly that during the tournament," DeFrisco said. "Wilson is a very deserving candidate for this award."
Neill is a native of Lebanon, Illinois, and a graduate of Lebanon High School.