PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — The most important club in Wyndham Clark’s golf bag is the memory of his late mother, Lise.
Lise Clark — who died of breast cancer at age 54 on Aug. 2, 2013, while Wyndham, now a PGA Tour rookie, was at Oklahoma State — is the 15th club in her son’s bag, the club that saved his professional life.
The deep emotional baggage her death left on her son nearly derailed him from pursuing his dream of playing on the PGA Tour. But in the end, her memory served as the catalyst that propelled Clark onto the Tour.
To this day, Clark, 25, plays every round of golf in honor of his mother, and that’s a powerful force. It nearly led him to his first win in just his 11th career PGA Tour event when he took a one-shot lead into the final round of the Honda Classic three weeks ago.
Clark shot 72 that Sunday and finished tied for seventh. It was a disappointing result, but thanks to his mother he digested it with the proper perspective. The strong result qualified him for this week’s Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.
Clark, playing in his first Players Championship, had a forgettable first round Thursday that ended in a disqualification when he signed for a four on the fourth hole when he actually took a five. He signed for a 7-over 79, which was bad enough, leaving him in 142nd place in the 143-player field.
As bad as that would have been, the DQ made it worse.
It’s a disappointment he’ll take in stride and move on — thanks in large part to his mother’s positive spirit that lives inside of him.
“I play for my mom all the time, and when things get tough out on the course, I think of her and it’s really helped me,’’ Clark told The Post.
Clark recalled his mother’s death “rocking my world’’ when he was a sophomore at Oklahoma State.
“It changed my life,’’ he said. “I felt like I was on top of the world. I was at Oklahoma State playing golf for them and they’re perennially one of the best programs in the country. You never think that something like that is going to happen to you. I wasn’t right for two to three years. I didn’t know how to deal with it.’’
Clark fell into a state of depression, several times came close to quitting golf, eventually sought counseling and, after his third year at OSU, transferred to Oregon to start fresh.
“I had two really tough years after [Lise’s death] at Oklahoma State, which ultimately led to me transferring to Oregon,’’ he said. “That’s kind of where I finally got over the hurdle of my mom’s passing and was able to be normal again and deal with it and be able to talk about her without crying.’’
Clark has followed his mother’s mantra about playing for something bigger after her passing and said her death “shaped my life.’’
“When she got sick, she knew that golf was so important to me and she didn’t want it to consume my life,’’ Clark said. “She didn’t want me to define my identity in golf and she stressed, ‘You need to play for something bigger than yourself. You have a huge platform with your abilities and one day when you’re out on Tour you’re going to be able to touch people’s lives. Think of me when you have those chances.’ ’’
He does. And he will. For as long as he plays. He also will never forget all those times when he wanted to toss his golf clubs into the nearest dumpster but didn’t because of the powerful positive presence of his mother that remains inside of him and drives him.
“I thought about quitting many times,’’ Clark said. “There were multiple times when I did quit. But I knew she would want me to do this so that kept me going. And I’m glad I did. Now I’m out here living my dream.’’
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