Running the final fairway at Quail Hollow on Sunday, in a clear win, Wyndham Clark made a conscious effort to absorb all the sights and sounds around him. Moments later, the American scored to claim the Wells Fargo Championship and her first PGA Tour title.
“You can only win your first tournament once,” Clark muses, but it’s a victory that plays out in his imagination time and time again.
“This is unreal, I’ve been dreaming of this since I was maybe six years old,” Clark told reporters in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Since I’ve been on the PGA Tour, you always fantasize about it, and I’ve done it so many times this year that I’ve found myself daydreaming about winning.
“Doing it on the golf course against this competition is better than I could have ever imagined.”
Way to victory was also a dream, as Clark was sent at 19-under to seal a four stroke victory over compatriot Xander Schauffele, ranked 75 places above him at No. 5 in the world. It marked the second-lowest score in terms of par in the history of the event, second only to 21-under Rory McIlroy in 2015, according to the PGA Tour.
McIlroy, making his first start since missing The Masters, finished 31st on a star-studded course featuring six players from the world’s top 10.
A final innings three under 68 sealed the 29-year-old Clark’s fourth straight round in the 60s, a closer lineup after a resounding 63 on Saturday gave him a two stroke lead over Schauffele heading into the closing rounds.
Turning professional in 2017, Clark is five years old and 133 PGA Tour starts without a win. After finishing sixth at the Corales Puntacana Championships in the Dominican Republic in March, the American was starting to think she might never taste victory.
“I know it sounds crazy because I’ve only been here five years but I’ve had a lot of opportunities where I’ve been within two or three shots either going into the back nine or starting on Sunday and I always seem to lose. short, and not only that, but it seemed like I was falling back into position,” Clark admits.
“There were a lot of texts and calls and times when I was so frustrated with people in my camp where I didn’t think I would ever win and I was like, ‘Let’s stop talking about it,’ because I didn’t want to. think about it. I said maybe it’s just not in the cards for me.
“So being in the position this time around, I was like, ‘Yeah, we know what not to do.’”
That lesson was immediately put to the test on Sunday, as Clark opened with a bogey and held on to a one-over approaching the eighth tee. However, a subsequent birdie, followed by four more in the first six of the last nine, sent him home.
As he finished his closing bogey, Clark seemed overcome with emotion. After hugging the caddy and Schauffele, he seemed to be holding back tears while saluting the spectators who had gathered in the 18th minute.
Victory secured Clark a whopping $3.6 million in prize money – beating his previous best fee of $485,000 – and sealed his ticket to the 151st Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in July. It also saw his world ranking jump 49 places to No. 31.
It fulfilled a dream that almost never came true. When 19-year-old Clark was establishing himself as a gifted player at Oklahoma State University, his mother died of breast cancer.
Clark lost his “rock” and seriously considered leaving the sport entirely.
“I played really bad,” Clark recalls. “A lot of times when I come off the golf course in qualifying or a tournament and go as fast as I can, I don’t know where I’m going.
“The pressure of golf and then not having my mom there and someone I can call was really hard on me. Then professionally, I’ve had a few moments like that where you just, you miss a few cuts in a row or you feel like your game was good and you don’t get much out of it and you just think about doing it [walking away].
“Max Homa has a great quote: ‘Every golfer is one stroke away from thinking they can win the Masters or one stroke away from stopping golf.’ That’s a really good quote because it’s the truth. I’m glad I stayed and are here now.