Tim Clark: SA’s next golf great?

13 July 2005

South Africa’s Tim Clark survived seven lead changes in a wild scramble among five players before he managed to pull away for a four-under-par 67 and a two-shot victory in the Barclays Scottish Open at Loch Lomond on Sunday.

The 29-year-old from Umkomaas outperformed three of the world’s big five, including compatriots Ernie Els and Retief Goosen and, considering the strength of the field, accomplished the greatest feat in his professional career.

More importantly, Timothy Henry Clark’s seventh career win catapulted him inside the top 20 in the official world golf rankings and, unlike the wild card invite in 2003, “TC” earned his berth among the world’s best for the 2005 Presidents Cup.

Gaining the recognition he deserves
One hopes that, after his win in the Scottish Open, the gritty South African will gain the recognition he deserves, especially since he did it the only way he knew how – the hard way.

Clark cut his teeth on the South African amateur circuit before setting off for North Carolina State University. In 1996, he was named College Golf All-American National Freshman of the Year, and a year later he won the US Public Links Amateur Championship.

Clark played the Nike Tour in 1999 and Buy.com Tour in 2000, winning the 1999 Fort Smith Classic and the Boise Open.

US PGA Tour qualification
He graduated to the 2001 PGA Tour courtesy of a third-place finish on the Buy.com Tour money list, but was forced to withdraw after a first-round 79 at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am due to a wrist injury.

That injury, resulting in surgery to repair tendon damage, ended a season in which he played just three events. As a result Clark received a major medical extension for 2002.

He returned to action in the 2002 Bells SA Open – where he was passed over for a sponsor’s invitation – taking place in his own backyard, the Durban Country Club. Forced to qualify, Clark not only won the qualifier but also became the first qualifier to win the SA Open.

Second SAA Open win
Three years later, in 2005, he claimed the SAA Open title for a second time, followed by a gruelling 30-hour journey to the US, where he finished runner-up to Phil Mickelson in the 2005 Bob Hope Chrysler, his best PGA Tour finish to date.

Clark added a joint-fourth finish in the 2005 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am to his tally, and shortly after that a share of thirteenth in the 2005 Booz Allen Classic moved him over the US$1-million mark for a third consecutive season.

Thanks to his incredible shot-making, the world took notice as the diminutive Clark outplayed Els, Goosen and Mickelson to finish a spectacular third in the US Open three weeks ago.

Similar to Gary Player
Clark, who reminds one of Gary Player – small in stature but blessed with fierce determination – was the nine-time major winner’s wild card pick in the 2003 President’s Cup.

South African golfers have a proud record in the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond. Els won in 2000 and 2003, Goosen in 2001, and now Clark. That’s four victories in eight years.

And on Sunday when that final putt fell, witty, ambitious and determined Clark pumped his fist in the air. Minutes later, the bagpipes were lauding his victory, along with the 20 000 fans at the 18th hole; a fitting salute to a champion.

Source: Sunshine Tour

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