By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Playing Karsten Creek is nothing new to Wyndham Clark.
The high school senior from Greenwood Villiage, Colo., has participated in The PING Invitational — a stop on the American Junior Golf Association tour — at Karsten Creek for three years now.
Come next fall, Clark will be calling Karsten Creek home as a member of the Oklahoma State men’s golf team.
“This is my third year playing this tournament and it’s one of my favorites. I love this golf course — it’s really tough,” Clark said. “It really challenges your game, shows you what you need to work on and what you’re good at. So it’s really fun to be out here, and then the fact that I’m going to be playing here in college makes this even more special. It makes me want to be here even more. I really don’t want to go back to high school, I just want to stay here.”
It’s been a mixed bag the first two days of the tournament at his soon-to-be home course. On Saturday, Clark shot a 3-under 69 in windy conditions as the only golfer to break par in the opening round. He then struggled to an 8-over 80 on Sunday and fell back to a tie for third at 5-over — six strokes behind the leader.
“I always do well in wind. ... I just look at the wind as a lot more fun because you can hit different shots and hit under the wind, play with the wind and you can just do so much more. So it kind of brought my creative side up,” said Clark, who has also been working on a new golf swing. “That was one of the reasons I wanted to come here because of how tough the conditions are. You don’t just play in perfect Arizona weather all the time. And I think that’s why they produce just great players here.”
Much like his weekend, his journey to choosing Oklahoma State as his collegiate home wasn’t always smooth.
The soon-to-be Cowboy said the recruiting process for potential college golfers was a little more daunting than for football or basketball players.
“Golf’s one of the more intimidating processes because in golf you’ll have eight or nine coaches standing right behind you on each shot and they’re not saying anything,” said Clark, who is only verbally committed to OSU but said it’s a 100 percent committment. “So it’s kind of intimidating because you’re thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, look who’s watching me.’ It’s tough because they see every shot and they watch you for those nine holes — or how many ever they watch you play — and they see your scores. So they get to know you’re game before they come and talk to you.”
But the soon-to-be Cowboy said OSU coach Mike McGraw took a unique approach — off the golf course — when pursuing the Colorado native. Clark said instead of text messages, emails or typed letters, McGraw went the way of hand-written snail mail.
“He wrote a lot of hand-written letters, which is very personal. That hit me hard — that he really cares to write hand-written letters instead of just sending tons of emails,” Clark said. “That was just a lot more personal. And then we talked a lot on the phone and he’s just the nicest guy.”
Eventually, Clark’s top two college choices came down to a pair of Big 12 foes — OSU and Texas. Clark admitted he was a huge Texas Longhorn fan growing up, which weighed on his decision.
“I grew up a Longhorn. My whole family — my grandparents went to UT, by dad was going to go to UT but ended up going to Arizona — so I just grew up a Longhorn,” Clark said. “I loved Austin at first, but it came down to I eventually didn’t love it as much.”
However, when it came to deciding between the two universities, he went away from his childhood team and followed where he felt he could become a better golfer.
He added that the burnt orange in his bedroom has slowly been getting replaced by OSU orange.
“I haven’t changed the whole room yet, but I definitely have a lot more orange than I have burnt orange,” the OSU commit said. “I got rid of all those ugly shirts.”
Clark admitted he wasn’t sold on joining the OSU program at the beginning because he wasn’t entirely impressed with the city of Stillwater.
“For a while, I actually wasn’t very interested in OSU to be honest,” Clark said. “I had heard about OSU and how good they were and when I came here (for a visit) I thought it was just going to be the best thing ever — the whole package. And I was a little bummed out with Stillwater, to be honest. But I don’t know what I was thinking — I was stupid, I was young.”
But for the big city boy — Greenwood Village is a suburb of Denver — the small-town atmosphere eventually became an ideal place to improve on his golf game.
“I did a visit with coach and saw all the practice facilities and that’s when I kind of realized it’s not just a small town and I started really liking it,” Clark said. “... I really am looking forward to coming out here. The big city isn’t all what it’s cracked up to be. I just can’t wait to come out here because it will be a little bit more quiet and I will be able to focus on my game more.”
Clark, who recently won a state high school golf championship this fall, will be back at Karsten Creek today for the final round of The PING Invite and said he will soon begin his amateur season.
“I’m really excited for next spring and summer and coming into the school year here because I really feel that my game is going to be the best it’s ever been and just going to get better and better,” Clark said.