Clark watches, waits on his turn
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- As Jonathan Clark watched the practice rounds Tuesday at The Greenbrier Classic, he took in a bit of everything the state's marquee professional event had to offer.
Sure, there was golf, but Clark gets to see that every day as the general manager of Sleepy Hollow Golf Club in Hurricane.
This was more about family, and it went well beyond having his daughter Cassidy and his father Dennis by his side for the practice round.
Clark also got to watch his good friend and fellow West Virginian Pat Carter take part in a round with PGA Tour pros Charles Howell III and Wes Short Jr.
"It's nice for them to see what the real players can do and what a PGA event is like while getting to meet some of these guys," Clark said.
The family feel of golf came full circle for Clark, who has connections to both professional golfers on the course with Carter.
Howell has become the headliner of the Toyota Special Olympics West Virginia Golf Classic, which is hosted by Clark and Sleepy Hollow Golf Club.
Meanwhile, Clark and Short played together on the Hooters Tour several years ago and renewed acquaintances this week.
"He and I spent about an hour and a half or two hours at dinner last night just sitting there talking," Clark said. "We hadn't seen each other in about eight years. It's just fun to look back and that's the beauty of this game. The relationships you make over the years, they just stay."
Short, who has overcome neck and back injuries and thyroid cancer to return to play, went into more detail about those connections and how he and Clark grew through the game.
"Probably the most fun I ever had in my life was that Hooters Tour," Short said. "You don't make no money and we traveled four or five people to a room to save money, but we did everything together. It was a lot of fun. Out here, it's a bit different. You can make a whole lot more money and it becomes business."
On the front-9, Short stopped to speak with the Clark family and share one story that has remained in their minds for nearly 15 years.
In 1998, Clark and Short were in an event in Wilmington, N.C., and that particular trip provided plenty of memories.
"We were fishing behind our condo and he caught a bass," Short recalled. "He probably had it five or six feet from the shore and you just hear this sound. This gator got on that bass he had and starts going away. His face was like 'What happened?'"
It wasn't their only memory of the trip, however.
During the second round of the tournament Short struggled out of the gate, but caught fire on the back-9 to make a push toward the cut.
The final hole on the course was a par-5 and he had nailed a terrific drive.
"I thought I needed to eagle to make the cut," Short said. "I had a nice drive and I hit a 2-iron that never left the flag. There were 10 people around the green and none of them clapped. I didn't see a ball and I thought I went long. I walked past the hole and got a couple steps by and a guy said 'Hey, it went in.' I ended up making the cut by a shot."
Clark said that family-style aspect is the most intriguing portion of The Greenbrier Classic.
"They were at the pool all day yesterday and it's just nice to be at a place where you can relax," Clark said. "You see that with the tour pros, too. You go to the pool and see the big names out there relaxing. That's what this place is all about -- just being able to have time to enjoy this atmosphere."
Clark said his goal is to one day enjoy the same role that Carter did on Tuesday and be preparing for the tournament instead of watching it from outside the ropes.
"I'd love to play in this," Clark said. "That would be great. That's why I did all I could do to get in (to the qualifier) there Monday.
"It'd be a dream to get up here and play in this baby and play somewhere near home."