Nazareth junior Matt Clark has all the skills to be one of the top golfers in the state, according to his coaches.
The Westchester resident can hit his driver over 300 yards from the tee, reach par-5’s in two and knows how to work the ball with a draw or a fade. The only hiccup is course management.
“He can golf as well as any golfer that I’ve had over the last 20 years, but it’s all about putting everything together at the right time,” Nazareth coach Michael Morris said. “As a high school golfer, one of the things you need to know is your limitation. If you have a bogey you can’t think you need to birdie the next hole when it might not be birdie-able. If you start forcing your game, that bogey leads to another bogey.”
That’s what happened last year when Clark didn’t qualify for state after missing the cut at sectionals. Teammate Andrew Dobis barely made it to the 2A meet with an 83 — the last qualifying score — but he went on to take 10th at Weibring Golf Club in Normal.
“I definitely wanted to qualify for state but when things started to go a little bad I tried to press,” Clark said. “I didn’t let it come to me and that’s why I performed so poorly.”
Coming up short and then watching his teammate shine downstate serves as motivation for Clark.
“I definitely know I could have done what Andrew did last year,” Clark said. “It was great to see him do so well at state and put it together and that definitely motivated me for this season.”
Clark put in the time during winter and his non-stop effort to improve continued in the spring and summer. He worked with Biv Wadden, a pro at Links and Tees in Addison, and the improvement has been impressive.
“There were some course management issues that we discussed,” Wadden said. “At his advanced level, it’s hard to practice course management if you can’t comfortably move the ball left and right, fading and drawing, and that was a problem for him.
“But we’ve worked very hard over the last two months and he’s become very accomplished at moving the ball now. When he puts it all together he’s going to be one of the top players in the state of Illinois.”
Clark tied teammate Matt Mara for the Roadrunners’ medalist honors (81) and 14th overall at the East Suburban Catholic Meet Oct. 2 at Old Oak.
It was a tough day for Clark, who was averaging around 75 earlier in the season. He is ready to move forward and hoped to make some noise at Tuesday’s scheduled 2A Montini Regional. Qualifiers advance to the Nazareth Sectional, Monday at Broken Arrow.
“I want to make it to state and do as well as I can,” Clark said. “If I win, that would be awesome or if I finish top 10, that’s great. But I don’t want to make an expectation for myself. I just want the goal of making it to state and doing well.
“I definitely like the pressure. I want to carry my team and help them get better. If it comes down to me having to perform, I’ll thrive on that.”