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Where are they now'

Tom Clark

Medford High School, 1964

It's a short, nine-hole golf course that floods in the winter and needs constant attention. It's also Tom Clark's Utopia.

If I had known about this, I never would have gone near a country club, says Clark, 58, who was one of Medford's top golfers in the early 1960s, went on to play for Oregon State, then made the game his profession as a head pro. Honestly, this is fun. I'll be working probably seven days a week for the next six months, then it's lock the doors, the hay's in the barn, let's go play.

Clark, who was on the 1964 Black Tornado team that had its state tournament appearance tragically interrupted, owns Neskowin Beach Golf Course just north of Lincoln City.

It's a mom-and-pop-type operation in a village setting. The course plays to about 5,200 yards and features a flat, open layout. Clark acquired it in 1995 and has since built three new greens and made slight layout changes. His duties are wide ranging: assisting the greens superintendent, carpentry repair in the clubhouse, working the pro-shop counter.

There's lots to do, says Clark. It's a fixer-upper. That's the only way I'd be able to buy a golf course ... This has probably been the most rewarding experience I've had in golf.

The course is unique in that it acts as a reservoir. It's just a few feet above sea level, and when the ocean gets rough and high in the winter, the course's creeks that normally flow into the Pacific back up and overflow. The course shuts down for about six months as a result.

Clark started in golf while growing up in Medford and was a senior on the Tornado team headlined by junior Doug Olson. With dreams of winning state 40 years ago ' after the first day, Olson was tied for first and the team was in second ' tragic word came that Olson's father, Jerry, had perished in a plane crash that afternoon.

Oh, says Clark, it was terrible. I remember coach (Paul Evensen) calling Dougie to his room. We didn't know what was going on. After he talked to Doug, he came to talk to us.

Olson returned home without playing the final day. The remaining three Medford players ' Clark, Rich Knight and Mike Nuich ' were relegated to individual play.

Clark moved on to Oregon State, where he was joined by high school teammate Jim Wise, now the Rogue Valley Country Club pro. After three competitive seasons with the Beavers, including two NCAA Championship appearances, Clark joined the service and flew for the Navy, landing two tours in the Mediterranean.

After serving, Clark returned to the Rogue Valley and went to work in 1972 as an assistant to head pro Ron Caperna at the country club. It wasn't long after that Wise was discharged from the service, and Clark encouraged Caperna to hire him on.

Four years later, Clark got his first head pro job at Cedar Bend Golf Course in Gold Beach. He worked there six years, then moved to Albany, where he was the Spring Hill Country Club head pro for a dozen years, stepping down in 1994.

That began his Travis McGee phase, so named for author John D. MacDonald's colorful character who took his retirements early and often.

I told my family that when we got the kids through college, we'd take a year off, says Clark.

That was in '94, when travel took center stage ' hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and visits to Israel and Egypt.

We got out of the house a little, Clark understates. That was a fun year, a real fun year.

Then it was off to Neskowin and, little did he know, the job of his dreams.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail