This U.S. Open contender still hears these powerful 2 words his mother wrote
LOS ANGELES — What could you possibly say today, Lise Clark?
She’d be proud of her son, he tells me alone early Friday afternoon, but he also reminds me that she already was. So, it’d be something more. Bigger. More confident. He’s this way, after all, and it’s easy to see where the swaggy gene comes from.
OK, Wyndham Clark’s got it now.
“Obviously it’s probably something she knew would always happen because she’s very positive and always thinks the best of me, so she’d be like, ‘That’s right where my Wyndham belongs,'” he said. “But I think she’d be more proud of who I am today and what I’ve become as a person.”
Oh, and there’d be a note, too.
But let’s start with Friday. Oh, Lise, you’d love this. In La La Land, Wyndham’s gone all Hollywood on this U.S. Open. He fired a six-under 64 on Thursday at Los Angeles Country Club, which was cool and all, but then he just kept going, which ain’t easy. Teeing off on the back nine, he birdied out of the gate — 320 blast down the shoot on 10, wedge to 6 feet, putt. He birdied 14. He birdied 16. Oh, this was good. A 44-foot bomb, yet Wyndham just flipped up his right hand, as if the putt were a tap-in. He birdied 8. He parred nine, and his 67 strokes on Friday put him at nine under, alone in second place and one back of leader Rickie Fowler.
Afterward, he was feeling it. Drew Stoltz is here. He’s a longtime family friend. On Wyndham’s way to his press conference, Drew slapped Wyndham on the backside and offered this: “Look at you now, dog. Look. At. You. Now.” lndeed. Then Wyndham grabbed the mic. A reporter asked him what his three “mini goals” of the day were, and we were blessed with this: “Yeah, pretty simple. For me it was, ‘Enjoy myself at a beautiful golf course.’ It was ‘Be cocky out there.’ It was ‘Remind myself of the first two.’ Those were honestly my three goals, and I thought if I could do that and keep myself in the best mindset, that the golf would take care of itself.”
Wyndham talked about you, too, Lise. He admitted he was getting emotional. Shoot, he probably wasn’t alone. So let’s fill everyone in. Your story is really wonderful. Wyndham’s mom got him into golf growing up in Denver. She was his driver. She was his ear.
“She was not a golfer, so outside of after getting me into golf, she didn’t do much as far as golf,” Wyndham said in early May at the Wells Fargo Championship, where he won his first PGA Tour event. “She was always my, kind of my rock in my life. Even in junior golf, there’s times when you’re so mad and you feel like you should have done better or you’re embarrassed with how you played, or other sports, she was always there to comfort me.”
Like with notes.
Lise would drop these in his lunch bag and his gym bag and his backpack and his golf bag. Of course, you know how boys can get when they see a classmate with notes from mom, but he survived. She continued to message, though later with texts. The theme was inspirational. To him. For others.
Just two words, too: Play big.
I asked him on Friday what that meant. It’s good.
“Play for something bigger than yourself. You have a platform to either witness or help or be a role model for so many people,” he said. “And I’ve taken that to heart. So when I’m out there playing, I want to do that for her. I want to show everyone the person I am and how much joy I have out there playing and hope I can inspire people to want to be like me and be better than me.”
By now, though, you may have some idea where this is going. Lise died of breast cancer in 2013. It hit hard. Wyndham wanted to quit. “I was at Oklahoma State and I was playing terribly,” Wyndham said at the Wells Fargo. “There’s many times when I stormed off the golf course in qualifying or in tournaments and just drove as fast as I could; I didn’t know where I was going. I just, just the pressure of golf and then not having my mom there and someone that I could call was really tough for me.”
Eventually, Wyndham transferred to Oregon, starred and climbed his way to Friday. Lise knows how. The reason was in one of her final notes. It’s here, where you must watch this. Most often, I’d just quote Wyndham, but his voice tells this beautifully. I’ll wait.
On Friday afternoon, Wyndham’s buddy Drew and I talked about it all.
“You see him honor her with ‘Play Big,’ and he wears the pink and stuff like that,” he said. “And I think it’s a guy who had an extremely close relationship with his mom, as a lot of guys do, and then unfortunately she left too early, but she’s a mainstay on his mind, I believe. And I think when he does play good golf, I think he’ll attribute it to his mom, like you heard him do that after the Wells Fargo and things like that. I know it’s something where he wants to honor her and play well. She’s going to be proud of him whether he shoots 60 or 80, but you know, as a player you want to play well and say, I know my mom’s watching.”
Well … Lise, I think you’d like this, too. After my question, another reporter asked your son about your impact on him, though not just in golf. Here was his answer.
“Yeah, actually, you bring that up …”
Wyndham inhaled. He continued.
“I was walking down yesterday and I kind of was just smiling as I was playing well, and I go, ‘Man, I wish you could be here, mom, because it’s a dream come true to be doing this at the highest level in front of friends and family that are out here.’ So yeah, I wish she could be here,” he said. “But I know she’s proud of me, and she’s made a huge impact on my life. I am who I am today because of her. She was kind of my rock and my always-there supporter. So when things were tough or when things were going great, she was always there to keep me grounded and either bring me up or keep the high going.”
“Yeah, I mean, I’m getting a little choked up. She’s everything, and I miss her, and everything I do out here is a lot for her, so …”
Afterward, as we walked back to the clubhouse, he gave me the quote I started this piece with. I’ll end with another question to him.
What note would she leave for you on Saturday?
“Um, I know what she’d say,” Wyndham started. “She’d say, ‘Play big. Love, Mommy.’ And then she’d kiss it with her red lipstick.
“And yeah, that’s what she always did.”