Clark Craig

Clark Craig

FAIRMONT — For the first three years of high school, Fairmont Senior’s Clark Craig stockpiled a resume on the golf course that interjected his name into the annals of the Polar Bears’ program history.

His list of accomplishments was impeccable, and his standing within the state was firmly among the golfing elites. At the peak of his game, Craig could out duel any golfer and prevail over any course.

Yet, entering his senior season, the game’s ultimate prize of a state championship had somehow shockingly eluded him. In each of his first three seasons, it was almost impossible to omit Craig’s name when recounting the path individuals and teams took to reach the state’s zenith, but in every tale, Craig was left holding a runner-up plaque.

But in 2019, in the last tournament of his career, Craig, alongside teammates Gannon Satterfield and Zack Morgan, finally earned the label of state champion and lifted the Polar Bears to the Class AA-A state title.

“I’m just kind of relieved honestly,” said Craig, who finished his high school with two team state runners-up, an individual state runner-up and this year’s team state championship. “It’s something I’ll always remember. It’ll definitely be at the top of my list.”

The state championship caps an outstanding senior campaign and a historic overall career that has earned Craig the honor of being named the Times West Virginian’s Golfer of the Year.

The TWV Golfer of the Year award adds to an already loaded list of 2019 accolades for Craig, which include: All-state team, All-Big 10 team, Big 10 individual conference champion; Big 10 Player of the Year; and state, regional, and conference team championships.

For his career, Craig will graduate from Fairmont Senior as a four-time All-Big 10 selection; four-time Big 10 All-Tournament Team selection; four-time state qualifier, two-time Big 10 Player of the Year (2018, 2019); two-time all-state selection (2018, 2019); two-time team state runners-up (2016, 2017); individual state runner-up (2018); and team state champion (2019).

“I’ve watched Clark play golf ever since he was just starting out at the (Fairmont) Field Club as a young kid and I knew he was going to be special,” said Luke Corley, Fairmont Senior golf coach. “Everyday he’s got a golf club in his hand and it’s been that way ever since he was a little kid. He never stops working to improve his game. He’s always at Green Hills (Country Club) playing golf or he’s always practicing on a simulator in the winter time.

“He’s always striving to get better, and that separates him from any other player I’ve ever coached.”

Craig was advanced beyond his age as soon as he entered high school, where he immediately established himself as a match-to-match team qualifier as a freshman for a Fairmont Senior squad with state championship aspirations. He was long off the tee as an innate ball striker and possessed a nascent short game, areas of his skill set he had refined into an elite class by the time he was an upperclassman.

“He is the most consistent golfer I’ve ever coached,” Corley said. “Even when he’s hitting it bad, he knows how to score and not give up strokes. It’s really a sight to see because he can get up and down from anywhere. It doesn’t matter where he hits his drive or anything else, he can still come out with a par because his short game is so tight.”

But in the latter half of his junior season through his senior year, Craig honed a different avenue of his golfing pallete. A supreme talent in terms of skill, Craig graduated to something more as he became practically infallible on the course.

“He finally understood that you can’t play golf mad, you can’t waste strokes, you have to fight for every stroke,” said Corley.

Craig’s mental game reached a level that aligned with his already top flight physical attributes, the true holy grail for a high school golfer. Mishits no longer phased him, bad holes didn’t sink him, and a shaky round couldn’t break him. Craig was a relentless fighter, but also a composed competitor.

“He’s a special player who comes around once in a blue moon. He’s been the best leader I could ask for,” Corley said. “He was always the little kid at the Field Club with golf clubs bigger than he was. And then the fact that I got to coach him beyond four years and coach him to a state championship is very special to me. It’s just been amazing to watch.”

Email Bradley Heltzel at bheltzel@timeswv.com or follow him on Twitter @bradheltzTWV.

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