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Fresh Start
Michael Bamberger
June 25, 2001
Clark Dennis nearly won the '94 Open. He was a different man at this one
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June 25, 2001

Fresh Start

Clark Dennis nearly won the '94 Open. He was a different man at this one

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"We just do," Clark answered. They live in a five-bedroom house, 5,000 square feet, with a pool in the back, two trucks in the driveway, a Little League field 15 minutes away. Will's team, the Yankees of the West Side Lions Little League, went 9-3. Clark was the dugout assistant.

At Southern Hills last Thursday, Clark followed his birdie with a bogey, then another after that, then a double. "Clark hates to start with a birdie," Miss Daisy said, inventing theories to explain poor results, as mothers do. "He thinks it brings him bad luck." He shot 79 for the opening round. Most of the problem was with his driving—he was trying to hit fades into the hook wind. Of the 66 golfers who completed their rounds in the high winds that day, only six shot higher scores.

Dennis returned to Southern Hills for Friday's second round, grinding his way around the lethal track, clinging to his dream of going low, making the cut, having a good weekend, making a good check. The day was gorgeous, but his game wasn't. He shot 77 and missed the cut by 10 strokes.

Minter had it partially correct. The Open at Southern Hills would have been the most important tournament in Dennis's golfing life—if he had played well. When he didn't, the tournament didn't mean a thing. When Clark got back to the hotel, he went swimming with his boy and played catch with him. He didn't look like a pro golfer who had just shot a 156. He looked like a happy man.

"When you've been through what we've been through, your priorities change," Dennis says. "In '94, at Oakmont, I thought I needed to win tournaments to be a contented man. Now I realize that I am a contented man. But I still need golf."

That's why he knows his game will come back. Not in a day, not in a week, but it will come back. Whether it does or does not, he also knows this: It's not a matter of life or death.

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