By Ryan Cameron
Big12 Campus Correspondent
Entering his sophomore season, Oklahoma State’s Wyndham Clark has already accomplished more than some do during their entire collegiate career.
After redshirting during his first year in Stillwater, Clark entered the Cowboy lineup in 2013-14, earning All-America honors and helping spearhead OSU’s run to the 17th NCAA runner-up finish in program history.
Additionally, the 2014 Big 12 Player of the Year parlayed those successes into a spot this summer on the American squad at the Palmer Cup.
“It was a great year overall, getting second, even thought it wasn’t first. It was still an awesome accomplishment. From where we were two years ago, and even from where I was, that was a success,” Clark said.
Don’t mistake Clark’s satisfaction as a sign of contentment. His freshman season did not reveal the finished product, but rather a building block for what hopes to be the next successful chapter in the program’s rich history.
“Unfortunately, there were some things that I wanted to do individually that I didn’t quite accomplish. It was still a good steppingstone and we have a lot of improvements to make going into this year. I think last year was great momentum and there are a lot of things to motivate me and the team to want to do better this year,” Clark said.
A mainstay in the top 10 on leaderboards throughout the year, Clark strung together seven consecutive events, including three runner-up showings, in which he finished sixth or better. However, his first career victory eluded him, helping fuel the fire.
“It was tough, but my time is going to come. There are a lot of things I am working on with my game and in my game that maybe weren’t quite ready. I am getting closer and closer. I think this year is going to be a really good year,” Clark said.
“Last year, I really learned how important one shot is or how important handling your emotions in a certain situation can affect the outcome. I think I can take a lot of what I learned last year into this year and hopefully it pays off.”
OSU head coach Alan Bratton shares Clark’s optimism and feels it is only a matter of time before the Denver, Colo. native breaks through and reaches the win column.
“I think a lot of that is staying patient and some of the mental things that you can’t see. It is hard to describe to someone. I think he is getting to know himself better in those situations. Whether that is gauging adrenaline or just being comfortable being in contention,” Bratton said.
“As soon as he continues to let the game come to him I think he will start racking up wins.”
Even with high expectations, Clark doesn’t have a particular goal in mind. Instead, his focus remains on the process and honing his game.
“I don’t have any goals. I am just going to try to do the best I can every day. I try to learn and grow through each experience. I just want to try to get better every day and be the best I can in everything I do. If I do that then the other things will take care of themselves,” Clark explained.
Bratton says with Clark’s blend of talent, especially a deft touch around the greens, and work ethic, he will continue to be an integral player in OSU’s chase for its 11th national title.
“His short game is really, really, good. I think he is getting better mentally and with his course management. He is learning to work even more efficiently at home,” Bratton said.
“Hopefully, he will just build on last year and will have more of the same. He is a hard worker. I just want him to keep doing what he is doing.”
As Clark begins his sophomore campaign, he inherits the role of seasoned veteran for the Cowboys due to a roster makeup that features just one senior and one junior. Along with fellow All-American Jordan Niebrugge, it is a role he relishes.
“I think Jordan and I just kind of assumed the position because we are the older guys on the team. We have both have had the experiences that a lot of these guys haven’t. We definitely accept it. I like being in a leadership position as long as I am leading positively. You really have chance to influence people and help them and give back,” Clark said.
“I feel honored that I would even be considered in that spot.”
With his performance as a freshman and the experience he gained in that short time, Bratton’s expectation level is high for Clark.
“He knows what to expect. I expect him to take a leadership role all the way around. He was our leader on the golf course last year and was just a freshman. He and Jordan really need to embrace that role and he has already done that,” Bratton said.
Among the experiences Clark brings to the table are an understanding of the highs and lows that accompany the game of golf.
A two-time high school state champion in Colorado, he posted a pair of second-place finishes at the state tournament as well. Last year’s runner-up finish at the NCAA Championship is also still fresh in Clark’s memory.
“It is pretty brutal being on the other side of winning the national championship or the state championship or anything like that. Watching other people celebrate and the joy they have from that. Knowing that they worked hard and the hard work paid off and they got the championship, seeing that and not feeling that isn’t fun,” Clark said.
The heartache of coming up just short didn’t truly set in until after the fact for Clark and now serves as motivation to come out on the right side of college golf’s grandest event if the opportunity arises again.
“I didn’t watch any of the coverage until two months later. It hurt to watch that and at first it didn’t quite resonate that I was that close to winning a national championship,” Clark said.
“That is something that guys talk about forever, having a ring and going down in history. It didn’t resonate until later that I was that close and you never know if you can have another chance. It definitely motivates me.”