JANUARY 6, 1997

 The Edwards Agency

Sports

Local golfer packs clubs, heads for Asian tour

Rob Clark

Rob Clark lashes a snowball with his Big Bertha driver, anxious to be playing with real golf balls in the Far East.
Photo by Andrew Walgamott.

local golfer by Andrew Walgamott
Rob Clark of Bothell left last Saturday to golf on the Asian Tour, a marathon 13-country swing through the Pacific Rim and Asia. It will be his first professional golfing tour. Clark, 25, has been playing golf since eighth grade.
   "I saw my neighbor, Larry Fadden, swinging a club in his back yard when I was 13. Talking with him, I learned the grip, some swings, where to play and practice. My dad had a set of clubs and I learned to play with them. Christmas of 1985, I got my first set of clubs, and my dad took me out for my first nine holes at Wellington Hills Golf Course," said Clark, who is the son of Chuck and JoAnn Clark of Bothell.
   He played for the Woodinville High School golf team for three years and graduated in 1989. With two golf scholarships, he attended Bellevue Community College, where he played one year of golf for the school.
   For the past eight years, Clark has polished his game working at Bear Creek Country Club. The last three-and-a-half years, he has been the resident pro.
   Clark's opportunity to golf in Asia was set in motion thanks to the insight and resources of a man he was instructing.
   "Rob, you have a lot of talent," Clark was told. "Has anyone ever approached you about playing professionally?" Nobody had until then.
   With the man's encouragement, Clark entered a Nike-sponsored tournament at Indian Summer Golf Course in Yelm last September. The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, was Clark's caddy.
   "I had a great front nine, two under par," Clark said of his score on the first nine holes. But the back nine and lack of practice hurt his final score. While other golfers are able to practice their game 40-50 hours a week, at the time Clark was working full time and could only muster eight hours of practice a week.
   Clark is a member of the PGA through an apprenticeship program which took him two-and-a-half years to complete. He had to pass rules and ability tests and also become a pro at a golf course to qualify.
   "It's kind of like a 'degree' you have to have to become a professional golfer," he said. "It was a big step for me."
   After the Nike tournament, Clark's friend suggested he play in the Asian Tour ($250,000 total purse), a good way to build experience and compete with other up-and-coming golfers. Sponsored by the man's employer, Asymetrix, Clark will be teeing off in exotic locations through the middle of May.
   He will be competing with men from around the world, playing courses in Bangkok, Delhi, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Singapore, Tokyo, and South Korea. "It's a dream come true," he said.
   He left Jan. 4th and was happy to get out of the recent spate of snow and rain storms. "The weather was driving me up the wall," he said, unable to practice on the snow-covered golf courses.
   Clark brandishes Callaway Big Bertha irons and an 8-degree titanium driver, and Ping sand and lob wedges. He plays with Slazenger Balata golf balls. Reebok is providing him with clothing and shoes.