With his victory in the RBC Canadian Open and his recent second-place finish in the World Golf Championships HSBC Champions tournament, Tim Clark has been one of the leading lights in South African golf in what has been a largely uneventful 2014 for the country’s top professionals.
The reality is that Clark has long been one of South Africa’s steady performers on the international stage, yet he prefers to stay away from the spotlight and largely lets his game do his talking for him.
His laid back nature also no doubt stems from his upbringing in Umkomaas on the south Coast of KwaZulu-Natal.
Taught the game by his father from the age of three and making his first hole-in-one at the age of eight, Clark honed his game at North Carolina State University and won the 1997 US Amateur Public Links.
He turned professional in 1998 and began playing on what was then known as the Nike Tour, the feeder tour to the PGA Tour. With two wins there he qualified for his PGA Tour card in 2001.
He suffered a wrist injury that cut his 2001 season short, and he played 2002 on a medical exemption.
It was during this time that he returned to South Africa to play in the South African Open that year. Forced to qualify for his national Open, Clark simply put his head down, won the qualifier and then went on to win the SA Open at Durban Country Club on his way to winning the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit that season.
He won the SA Open again in 2005, the same year he also claimed the Scottish Open on the European Tour.
But by far his biggest win to date came in the 2010 Players Championship, where he became only the second golfer in history to make this prestigious tournament his first title on the PGA Tour.
A short hitter who has had to battle injury as well as a disability that means he is unable to supinate his forearms, which requires him to use a long putter, Clark has nevertheless remained a contender at the highest level of the game.
From 2003 through to 2006 he finished third in the PGA Championship, tied third in the US Open and second in the Masters.
He is also respected as a fierce competitor, most notably by the Presidents Cup captains he has played under as a member of three International teams, as well as two South African teams in the World Cup of Golf.
But it’s Clark’s human side that sometimes grabs more attention than his golf. No more so than when he donated his first place cheque for winning the Nelson Mandela Invitational in 2005 to a deaf girl from the Carel du Toit school for the Hearing Impaired in the Western Cape. The money allowed her to have cochlear implant surgery.
“It put into perspective what life is all about – and it's not about all those putts I'm able to put away or miss at the crucial stages of an event, but life in general,” he said.
He is also a man who remembers the people who have been there for him during his career.
When he returned to play in the 2012 Gary Player Invitational, he said, “Anything that Gary Player puts his name to and we as golfers can be involved with is a great honour. My first Gary Player Invitational was about 11 or 12 years ago and it was such a thrill for me. I was just a young pro, and to have had him think of inviting me was a big deal and it meant a lot to me. I almost feel that was like the start of my career. Something like that can inspire young golfers. He’s done so much for this country.”
And in his own humble way, so has Clark.