Should you follow a GPS that takes you from Willow Park to another Texas locale 60 miles up the road, Carrollton, then navigates you toward Vienna, Austria – a continent and 5,500 miles away – all in the space of a week, you are likely dealing with a seriously disjointed app.
Unless you’re Clark Dennis, in which case it all makes perfect sense. Apologies for the interruption, kind sir. Carry on – only beware of the jet lag.
“No worries,” said Dennis, contacted via WhatsApp as he rode a shuttle bus from the airport to a Vienna hotel. “I’m so used to being jet-lagged.”
Good thing, because Dennis this coming Saturday will finish playing his third and final round of the Riegler & Partner Legends in Murhof, Austria, then fly all day Sunday to return to the Dallas area so he can tee it up Monday the 22nd in a U.S. Open Final Qualifier at Northwood Club and Bent Tree CC.
Beautiful game, this golf. Even more so when it’s firmly entrenched in the life of a deeply committed competitor such as Clark Dennis who feels blessed to have had the week he just had. And just what kind of week did he just have? Glad you asked, because it might have been historic.
“I’m not sure anyone’s ever done that, be medalist in two totally different qualifiers in back-to-back days,” said Dennis. “But it was fun.”
The 66 he recorded at Squaw Creek GC in Willow Park got Dennis through a U.S. Open local qualifier. The 66 he posted the next day at Indian Creek GC in Carrollton got him a spot in the U.S. Senior Open June 29-July 2.
As for the trip to Vienna, that was owed to both his career (he is one of the leading competitors on the Legends Tour in Europe) and to his character (the event will be used as a memorial to pay tribute to the late English touring professional Barry Lane, who died of cancer on the last day of 2022).
“Barry was a dear friend to me and so many,” said Dennis. “I felt like I needed to be here.”
That Dennis felt he needed to be at a May 9 U.S. Open local qualifier in the first place is another chapter for the book that should be written but as of yet hasn’t – “Golf: It Cannot Be Explained.” He’s 57, for goodness sakes, and hasn’t played in this championship since 2001.
“But it was just going to be a warm-up for the next day,” he laughed, explaining that the U.S. Senior Open qualifier was May 10. “I needed to play some golf.”
No, he didn’t have any expectations at Squaw Creek. So, shooting 66 is “playing some golf.” But backing it up the next day – where Dennis did have expectations! – with another 66 is putting some historical context around your name. Try and find someone in Dennis’ line of work who has accomplished such a quiniela.
Then again, should you know Dennis and the story of his on-and-off pro golf career and the heartache that sidetracked it for a while, well, you’d probably agree that last week was a just reward for the passion and perseverance he has administered to his craft. It also confirms what Will Dennis told us about his father a month ago when we crossed paths in Hilton Head Island, S.C., “that he’s still got plenty of game.”
Yes, the golf path has crisscrossed in such a way that twice in the last months we’ve had reason to write a golf story about the Dennis lads. First it was Will Dennis, the oldest of three boys born to Clark and Vickie Dennis. Now out on the PGA Tour as a caddie for a lifelong friend and rookie member Sam Stevens, Will was featured in “Power Fades” April 19 – https://bit.ly/3O91YxT – and took time to reminisce about his father’s career.
For six seasons (1990-91, 1994-95, 1998-99) Clark Dennis had full membership on the PGA Tour, only he had to step away from playing in 2000 when Vickie suffered a grand mal seizure after giving birth to her youngest, Philip. Never did Clark Dennis get back on Tour, but the long recovery for Vickie galvanized the family in a beautiful, faithful way.
“We had each other and we had our faith,” said Will.
In those years when Clark Dennis kept his pro golf career afloat by playing in tournaments such as the Texas State Open, Will caddied for him as a young teenager. “He’s a golf nerd like his dad,” said Clark. “And he’s a great caddie.”
When Clark Dennis turned 50 and didn’t find his way onto the PGA Tour Champions, he discovered the Legends Tour in Europe. There was immediate success as he was Rookie of the Year and Order of Merit winner in 2018. What followed was more success in ’19, ’20, ’21, and ’22 as his win total is now five.
“There’s not the money that there is on the Champions Tour,” Dennis said. “But what there is a lot of is fun, a lot of great people we’ve met.” And when you compare it to those years when he wasn’t yet 50 and was working for a few years outside of golf, “well, those weren’t fun years.”
But traveling throughout Europe, Africa and Asia with Vickie and seeing places like Madagascar, Mauritius, Italy, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, and Ireland is “an experience I never would have had had it not been for the Legends Tour,” he said.
When he returns from Austria he’ll be comforted by knowing he has a spot in the KitchenAid Senior PGA in Frisco, Texas, Memorial Day weekend, as well as the U.S. Senior Open. As for the U.S. Open final qualifier “there are no illusions, I know I’m a long shot,” said Dennis. “There will be a serious field there. I have to be realistic.”
Then he paused, recalling that the May 22 final qualifier will be held at Norwood Club and Bent Tree CC. A smile. “My last U.S. Open was in 2001 and that year I made it through at Northwood.”
Oh, and there’s this: “Fran Quinn was 57 when he got through a year ago and no one thought going in that he would make it, either.”
So there’s hope and after so many years when Clark Dennis didn’t even have that, things are surely looking up.
Will Dennis wasn’t kidding when he said his father “still has got plenty of game.”