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Wyndham Clark’s high school coach takes aim at U.S. Senior Open

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Wyndham Clark’s high school coach takes aim at U.S. Senior Open

Brad Lanning qualifies to compete at SentryWorld in Wisconsin

    Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin

    It’s a good time to be an alumnus of Valor Christian High School.

    Just two weeks after Wyndham Clark earned his first major title at the U.S. Open, his high school coach of two years, Brad Lanning, will make his U.S. Senior Open debut at SentryWorld in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

    It marks a triumphant appearance for Lanning, a member of Stanford’s 1994 championship team – the year before Tiger Woods arrived – who “spent my life trying to qualify for a U.S. Open,” he said Tuesday afternoon in Wisconsin. Lanning has since moved to the state, where he has started a consulting business to help aspiring college golfers through the recruitment process, having previously worked as an assistant pro at acclaimed Sand Valley Golf Course, also in Wisconsin.

    Lanning earned his U.S. Senior Open spot via the qualifying meritocracy, in Wisconsin no less, carding 73 at Stevens Point Country Club – just 3 miles from SentryWorld – and securing one of the site’s two available spots. At the time, the 53-year-old figured he would fall a bit short. But with tough conditions through the day, he was happy to be wrong.

    Now he could give Valor Christian a second USGA title within the month. Although local knowledge will help, he knows he’s up against the likes of Steve Stricker, Padraig Harrington and Bernhard Langer – to name a few.

    Then again, the lesser-known Clark took down names like Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler and Rickie Fowler en route to an emotional triumph at the Los Angeles Country Club. You never know.

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    “I'm so happy for him,” Lanning said Tuesday while reflecting on Clark’s journey. “He is such a good kid. He's had some struggles and he's just worked – he works his tail off, and he did it. It's kind of like all the kids I've coached over my lifetime that have had success. I've never hit a shot for them, but we all have those people in our lives that have been there along the journey that do their little part.

    “Just lucky to be a little piece of his life for a little bit.”

    Clark has openly spoke of the attitude adjustment needed to unlock his full potential – there’s the story of a low point at the 2020 Rocket Mortgage Classic, where he walked off the course amidst a frustrating opening round, at the time citing an injury that was perhaps not substantially inhibiting – and seeing growth from work with sport psychologist Julie Elion and reading books like “The Energy Bus” by Jon Gordon.

    Rather than let the U.S. Open’s inherent challenges derail him, Clark thrived amidst adversity en route to winning his national championship. Lanning was watching, rooting. He noticed growth in his former high school golfer – which he even hopes to apply to his own game, maybe as soon as this week.

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    “I think your strengths can also be inherent weaknesses, and I think I've seen that in my lifetime for myself personally and for a lot of kids that I've coached,” Lanning said.

    “I have said that I tried to get him to calm down … I think what's happened is when I've coached kids like that, it's allowed me to kind of see that in them and help them sort of grow themselves, and at the same time, I'm growing, as well. It's been great to see him mature. Every day, watched the coverage, and he was just a rock.

    “Greatest short game I've ever seen, and the most competitive kid I've ever coached. He was just a rock mentally. There's a lot I can learn from that for this week, so I'm going to try. I'm going to do my best.”

    After Valor Christian, Clark and Lanning's paths continued to crisscross in eclectic ways. During Clark’s college recruitment process, Oregon head coach Casey Martin called Lanning for some insight on the coveted prospect, and the two struck up good conversation. At the time, Lanning was pursuing a master’s degree in counseling at Denver Seminary, with the goal of becoming a guidance counselor at Valor Christian. But Martin offered Lanning an assistant coaching job at Oregon – which he accepted, launching a new path.

    Clark began his college career at Oklahoma State, though, and once Clark transferred to Oregon for his senior season, Lanning had taken a head coaching job at Loyola Marymount University. Then after Clark graduated, Lanning returned to Oregon.

    Their paths may not have matched up during Clark’s college days, but they’ve stayed in touch, including some rounds of golf back in Eugene.

    “We'd tee it up every time he came back, and we just had a great time just kind of talking about how our lives had crisscrossed and how I was there just rooting him on at that point,” Lanning said. “He had turned professional, and I just was there to kind of root him on and see how far he could go.”

    This week, Clark will have the chance to do the same for his coach.

    Kevin Prise is an associate editor for the PGA TOUR. He is on a lifelong quest to break 80 on a course that exceeds 6,000 yards and to see the Buffalo Bills win a Super Bowl. Follow Kevin Prise on Twitter.

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