Ronnie Clark showing how journeys in golf last a lifetime

Scot’s success at 63 and genuine excitement about what game still means to him is telling

By the time this correspondent spoke to him on Sunday night, Ronnie Clark had consumed a couple of refreshments. And why not? The Erskine golfer, after all, had just won the French Senior Men’s Open in a play-off, coming out on top in an ultra-competitive event on “Augusta-like greens” at Seignosse Golf.

As observers of the Scottish amateur game will know, Clark has been a good player for a long time but, a bit like Kiwi Steven Alker in professional golf, his biggest successes have come in the senior ranks, having also won both the Scottish and English Seniors’ Opens in recent years. “Honestly, I’m on cloud nine,” he said of his latest title triumph. “Listen, I’m 63. I’m on the back nine. But wow!”

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It really was terrific to hear a tone of genuine excitement in his voice and, though I know some people who are a tad cynical about the seniors’ game, the likes of Clark are showing exactly why golf is second to none in terms of longevity, either from playing the sport purely for fun or wanting to feel that competitive edge.

Erskine's Ronnie Clark pictured in action during last year's US Senior Amateur at Martis Camp golf course in Truckee, California. Picture: USGAErskine's Ronnie Clark pictured in action during last year's US Senior Amateur at Martis Camp golf course in Truckee, California. Picture: USGA
Erskine's Ronnie Clark pictured in action during last year's US Senior Amateur at Martis Camp golf course in Truckee, California. Picture: USGA

Yes, of course, Scottie Scheffler and Nelly Korda are doing a superb job right now in terms of being brilliant ambassadors for the game, not only because they’re almost looking unstoppable in producing some breathtaking golf but also because they both come across as good human beings and I, for one, believe Scheffler is growing as far as speaking to the media is concerned so don’t buy into this “oh, he’s boring” nonsense.

It’s at grass-roots level, though, that the real difference is made as far as the overall health of the game is concerned and seeing what golf still provides for someone like Clark came on the back of a few other things that caught my eye recently.

Scottish Golf’s latest newsletter to member clubs, for instance, revealed that the governing body’s participation team was braced for a total of 147 GolfSixes Leagues to get underway around the country, 20 of which are new to that programme. Through that, 1500 juniors will “engage in golf” this year and that will hopefully be a launchpad for future Scottish stars.

The USGA announcing that the entries for this year’s US Open at Pinehurst included both a 12-year-old - Beck Patrick from Houston - and a 74-year-old in Keith Crimp from Ellensburg in Washington was also something that highlighted what a special sport this is, though you do wonder if 12 is too young for someone to be exposed to even local qualifying for a major.

That said, 15-year-old Miles Russell has just made history as the youngest player to make a cut on the Korn Ferry Tour in the US and then went on to finish in the top 25, so we shouldn’t be surprised really by anything youngsters are capable of producing in the game these days and long may that continue because feats that like that are definitely inspirational to future generations.

Then, of course, there’s Lottie Woad, the young English player who created history just over a fortnight ago as the first non-American to win the Augusta National Women’s Amateur then took a first major appearance in her stride as she finished just outside the top 20 as the aforementioned Korda made it five wins in a row by landing The Chevron Championship in Texas on Sunday. What a tremendous boost Woad’s given the game in Great Britain and Ireland and here’s hoping that is recognised in a proper manner later in the year.

There can be denying that promising young amateurs are in too much of a hurry these days to make the switch to professional golf, so credit to Gordon Sargent, the current World Amateur Golf Ranking men’s No 1, for bucking that trend by announcing last week that he’s returning to Vanderbilt University in Nashville for his senior season. As anyone who clapped eyes on him at last year’s Walker Cup in St Andrews would tell you, Sargent is a superstar in the making, another Ludvig Aberg, and is eligible to accept PGA Tour membership in June but that opportunity has been put on the back burner for 12 months.

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“It kind of seemed like one of those decisions where with how competitive college golf is, you're kind of prepping for the PGA Tour in college and I feel like having another year definitely would not hurt,” the 20-year-old told and there are lots of players around the world who should be looking at the value of a full college or university term, whether that’s over in the US or in Scotland, going forward.

Speaking to Global Golf Post as she attended the Helen Holm Scottish Women’s Open at Troon over the weekend, Great Britain & Ireland Curtis Cup captain Catriona Matthew said she believes too many young girls are turning professional these days without necessarily being good enough to make that move. “The youngsters seem to think as one in believing that the next step on the latter after going to college in the US or here is to turn professional when the truth is that having the word ‘professional’ attached to your name isn’t going to make you a better golfer overnight,” said the major winner and nine-time Solheim Cup player.

By no means if golf perfect and certainly not right now due to it clearly having major issues as far as armchair viewers concerned, but let’s keep introducing those youngsters to the sport and, in doing so, allow people to go on journeys in the game that, as Clark will happily testify, do indeed last a lifetime.

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