BY KERRY EGGERS/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/Ninth on Web.com Tour, Wyndham Clark will play at Pumpkin Ridge
The good ones don't set their sights low.Wyndham Clark is a good one.
Clark ranks ninth on the Web.com Tour money list this season with $185,600 in earnings and is guaranteed to finish as one of the tour's top-25 money-winners, which means he has earned his PGA Tour card for the 2019 season.
The former Oregon golfer, who will compete in the WinCo Foods Portland Open Aug. 16-19 at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Course, doesn't want to settle for that.
"My goal is that No. 1 spot (on the Web.com regular-season money list)," Clark says.
That's because the top Web.com money-winner earns exempt status on the PGA Tour, which allows him entry into most events on the premier circuit in professional golf.
"(Getting No. 1) really helps your first year out on (the PGA) tour," Clark says from Omaha, Nebraska, where he is playing in the Pinnacle Bank Championship this week. "I'm going to try my best to get up there (to No. 1 on the list). I need to finish at least in the top 10, which also helps your status for the (PGA) tour."
Tour officials have figured that players with at least $170,000 in Web.com earnings already have qualified for their PGA Tour card.
"It's pretty awesome, a dream come true," says Clark, a Denver native now making Las Vegas his home. "I've always wanted to be on the PGA Tour. It is amazing it has only taken one year (playing professionally) to do it. It's surreal. I'll be playing every week (on the PGA Tour) starting with the Safeway Open (at Napa, California, in October)."
Clark, 24, wasn't sure how quickly he would be able to work his way up the ladder after completing his college eligibility with a year at Oregon following a transfer from Oklahoma State. He was the Pac-12 individual champion — Oregon's first conference medalist since Brent Murray in 1978 — in helping the Ducks to their first outright conference championship since 1959.
The 6-foot, 170-pound Coloradan then played a big part in Oregon's runner-up finish at the NCAA Championships. Clark was the only Duck to win his match against the Sooners at Rich Harvest Farms Course in Sugar Grove, Illinois.
"It was a good year all-around," Clark says. "I played great, and I enjoyed my experience with the team and Casey (Martin, the head coach) and (then-assistant coach) John Ellis. Everything Oregon had to offer was fantastic. It was a refreshing year for me."
After turning pro in June, Clark gained sponsor's exemptions to play in five PGA Tour events.
He missed the cut in four of them but tied for 51st in the Quicken Loans National at Potomac, Maryland in July, cashing $16,933.
Clark has played in three PGA Tour events this season, missing the cut twice but tying for 17th at 7-under-par 281 in the Sanderson Farms Championship at Jackson, Mississippi, last October.
"I played awesome the first two days," Clark says. "On Saturday, I was in third place when I went double-double on (holes) 16 and 17. That really hurt. It could have been a career-changing week."
Clark qualified for full status on the Web.com Tour this year by finishing in the top 45 (tied for 23rd, shooting 16-under 272) at Q-school in December. He had a slow start on the secondary tour this year. Clark missed the cut in four of the first six tournaments, though he was tied for fourth at 13-under 275 in the second event, the Bahamas Great Abaco Classic.
"I was making mistakes and too many bogeys," he says. "It was frustrating."
Clark has had better success since then. He was second in the United Leasing and Finance Championship at Newburgh, Indiana, in late April, third at the Knoxville Open in early May and tied for fifth in the Lincoln Land Championship in Springfield, Illinois, at 20-under 264, in late June.
"It's been up and down, but overall it's been good," he said. "I got my (PGA Tour) card. That was the first goal. I've learned a lot about myself and my game. I've gotten into a pretty good groove of understanding what pro golf is and what I have to offer. I've gotten more consistent and grown as a player."
A year ago, Martin said Clark would be top five in driving distance on the PGA Tour — with his game then, as a college senior. Today, Clark stands eighth in the category among Web.com Tour players at 320 yards per drive. What does it feel like to hit a ball 300 yards that consistently?
"It's what I've been doing for a long time," he says with a chuckle. "It feels normal to me. It is a great weapon to have, to be able to hit it like that."
Clark is also fourth on the Web.com Tour in putting average (1.7), fifth in birdie average (4.48) and seventh in sand-save percentage.
"My short game has always been really good," Clark says. "Putting has been my biggest strength. (The short game) is something I've worked on a lot. I'm always practicing bunker shots and short-game shots. It can save you a lot of strokes."
Clark is looking forward to playing in the WinCo Foods Portland Open in a month.
"I love Portland, and I love getting back to Oregon," he says. "It's like a second or third home for me. I have tons of friends there, and my sister (Kaitlin Nordby) lives in Portland. Good memories there all around. I'm excited."
Clark has never played Pumpkin Ridge.
"I've heard a lot about it," he says. "I'll get some inside information from some of my buddies and (ex-Oregon) teammates, and I might go out there early to play a few rounds and get comfortable with the course."