Clark reels in low amateur score

At 55, avid fisherman enjoys first big catch in a great while on links

July 01, 2002|By Travis Haney | Travis Haney,SUN STAFF

A stark parallel can be drawn between the golf career of Bob Clark and the 55-year-old's assessment of his favorite thing to do in the world - tuna fishing.

"It's backbreaking," he said of his passion as angler, "but you just keep going back for more and more and more, until you're physically exhausted."

For more than three decades, Clark battled his golf swing and tournament fields on three continents, and he just kept going back. He never won a thing as a professional, coming close only twice - once on the Canadian Tour and once in Australia. Almost magnetically, though, something drew him back to the game.

Yesterday, after all the waiting - and even a few years in the 1980s when he was completely out of the game and working solely as a mortgage broker - he got his first lucrative result since he was a college All-American.

Perhaps lucrative isn't the best term, though, because Clark finished as the low amateur at the U.S. Senior Open.

Regardless, Clark's week at Caves Valley Golf Club was a long time coming.

"This is the greatest honor that I could possibly have," said the Southern California native, who earns exemptions to both the U.S. Senior Amateur and next year's Senior Open as low amateur. "This is a dream come true for me, just to make the cut. I mean, it's awesome."

Clark missed the cut at his only other Senior Open experience, last year in Peabody, Mass. This year, he finished at 15-over 299 (rounds of 78, 70, 74 and 77) for the tournament.

That 1-under 70 on Friday was the reason he made the weekend. Clark birdied holes 10, 11, and 12, saving as many strokes as he could for Caves Valley's daunting finishing holes.

"That's really what I needed, because you need a little padding for the last four holes," he said. "After that stretch, I really knew I had a good chance of getting in."

Even with a final-round 6-over 77, Clark outlasted Paul Simson, who finished 18-over. Simson was the defending U.S. Senior Open low amateur.

"I didn't play very pretty today, but I managed to get in," Clark said. "All you had in your mind was that you've just got to keep in the ballgame. [Simson] shot 70 in the first round, so you know he can do that. It really depended on what he shot today. I certainly let him in with a score like that."

Professionals are eligible for the senior tour at age 50. Amateurs such as Clark can't play in senior events until they're 55.

Clark, who still works as a mortgage broker and owns a real estate agency, has been thinking about this year - when he could compete again - for a while now.

"Listen, I've been sleeping on this for two years. I've actually been preparing for this year for two years," he said. "If you're under 55, it's extremely difficult. From 45 to 55, you're playing with 25-year-olds who are hitting it 125 yards by you. ... It's hard to win in those other levels."

Clark said when he first saw Caves Valley on Monday, he wasn't sure that a respectable finish, much less being low amateur, was in the cards.

"When I stepped out on to the course on Monday, I thought, `This is a monster,' " he said. "It's so long."

Clark's physically demanding week in Baltimore will give way to a Hawaiian vacation for him and his family. Clark said he committed to play in a pro-am at Mauna Kea despite being "golfed out," but he's going to find time for other things while he's on the islands.

"Oh, yeah, you better believe I'm going to go fishing," he said. "Tuna fishing."

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