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Bethany College golf team to miss 3 meets after racy photo

August 25, 2011

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— Bethany College golf team members were awaiting word Wednesday on whether nearly half of their fall season would be wiped out because a nude photo of the team went viral on the Internet.

Edward Leonard III, president of the small, private central Kansas college, announced Monday the team would not be allowed to compete in its first three meets in September. There are only seven meets, including the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament, on the Swedes' fall schedule.

Norrie Steyn, a junior co-captain from South Africa, said team members had fun doing the impromptu shoot, which features 14 team members standing side-by-side, completely nude other than shorts around their ankles and strategically placed golf clubs hiding their genitalia.

Steyn told The Associated Press on Wednesday the photo was taken after the official team shot was finished and the coaches were gone. The team got the idea from a 2004 UCLA photo that featured team members naked except for buckets of golf balls each player used to shield their privates.

"We never had the intention of hurting the college or what the college stands for," Steyn said. "It was fun. We had a great time doing it."

Leonard was not amused. On Monday he announced the three-meet penalty and said the school hopes the players can learn from their mistake.

"These students made what they though was a harmless decision, but there are ramifications of their actions," Leonard said in an emailed statement. "Their names are out there on the Internet with this photo indefinitely. They also affected Bethany College when they captioned their photo as the Swedes golf team. Even though this photo does not align with Bethany's values, we hope we can turn this situation into one that can educate the players and our other students about the responsibilities they have and how carefully they should consider their decisions."

Golf coach Jon Daniels, who has been a coach at Bethany since 1981 and head of the golf team since 1993, said he found out about the photo in an email, and he knew it wasn't going to be good.

Daniels was upbeat and taking the whole episode in stride Wednesday, noting he was getting messages from all over the world, some of them from former players who ribbed him about the photos. The story even aired on the Golf Channel.

"We're traditionally a top 25 team in the country, we have a 3.2 grade-point average as a team, we do community service work, and it always goes unnoticed," Daniels said. "Then this thing comes up. It's unbelievable. It's a learning experience for an old guy who's learning the power of Facebook."

The Lindsborg photographer who shot both the official and unofficial team pictures declined to comment Wednesday.

The players expected a ruling on their appeal of the three-meet suspension Wednesday afternoon. Normally they would appeal to the athletic director, but since that is Daniels, the appeal will go to Leonard.

Daniels said the tournaments — Sept. 12 and 13 in Springfield, Mo., and the Central Christian meet in McPherson, and the Oklahoma Baptist meet Sept. 19 in Shawnee, Okla. — would have been warm-ups for the fall Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament.

"The only thing it might do, we're missing two warm-up tournaments before the only designated conference tournament in the fall," Daniels said. "We're a good enough team that we ought to be able to overcome that. But we'd like to have some tournaments under our belt."

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