Caitlin Clark trades baskets for birdies

On July 5, the Hawkeye guard will play with Zach Johnson at PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic Pro-Am.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark signs autographs after a 2023 NCAA women’s Final Four game between No. 1 South Carolina and No. 2 Iowa at American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Texas, on Friday, March 31, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Gamecocks, 77-73, to advance to the title game.

Matt McGowan, Sports Reporter

It’s been no cruel summer for Iowa women’s basketball player Caitlin Clark.

The Hawkeye guard not only attended a Taylor Swift concert in Minneapolis but was also on stage in Los Angeles to receive the 2023 Honda Cup as the top women’s collegiate athlete.

Clark’s next stop is the green.

On July 5, Clark will join U.S. Ryder Cup team captain and Iowa native Zach Johnson at TPC Deere Run golf course in Silvis, Illinois, to play in the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic Pro-Am.

Clark has been an avid golf fan since she was young having received a set of pink clubs from her father as a birthday gift.

Her Twitter account features plenty of golf discussion, from Michael Block’s run in the U.S. Open to Rose Zhang’s dominance in the LPGA.

In April, Big Ten Network filmed Clark playing a two-on-two scramble at Finkbine Golf Course in Iowa City. Just two months later, Clark will have an in-person audience of thousands.

“[The crowd] should definitely stay behind me just in case anything goes wrong,” Clark said at a virtual press conference on June 28. “I definitely think when I step on the first tee, I will probably be shaking and really nervous … it’s a little different field, but it still has that environment that’s really fun and competitive.”

As of the press conference, Clark said she had never played Deere Run but plans to get a few practice rounds there in the future. She already received guidance from former Iowa basketball player Kris Murray, who played the course on June 22 before the NBA Draft.

On the hardwood, Clark is known for her highlight-reel passes, averaging 8.6 assists last season. When it comes to golf, Clark said she prefers playing by herself, citing her lack of patience and desire for a fast tempo.

Even though both sports have vastly different playing paces, Clark maintained that mental focus was most important.

“You have to keep your focus from shot to shot,” Clark said. “In both sports, there’s going to be things that don’t go your way. It’s just how you respond to that. And I think that’s how I’ve matured over the past year is understanding that … trying to turn it, make it go a different way, make it better.”

Clark said her Sundays usually feature the final round of a golf tournament on TV. Calling herself a fan of Zhang, Rory McIlroy, and Jordan Spieth, Clark said her golf demeanor is rather calm.

“I’ve never broken a club, nothing like that,” Clark said. “Probably because they’re too expensive, and I don’t have to buy new ones … I definitely get frustrated if I have a couple bad shots in a row. But like I said, that’s just part of golf.”

Zach Johnson was born in Iowa City and raised in Cedar Rapids. In the June 6 edition of the Hawkeye Report Podcast, Johnson said he was looking forward to getting to pick Clark’s brain on basketball.

Clark is just as excited to hear from Johnson.

“For over four hours to basically get a lesson from Zach Johnson, are you kidding me?” Clark said. “I’m going to be asking him everything.”

Despite all her passion for the game, golf is still just a part-time hobby for Clark. She admitted that she will miss a team lift when she plays in the Pro-Am but said head coach Lisa Bluder will let her make it up later.

Right now, Clark is just grateful to live out her wildest dreams.

“I’m an OK golfer, not like anything out of this world,” Clark said. “But if I had more time to play, I’d probably be a little better. I think the biggest thing is just going to have fun. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Who knows if I’ll ever be able to do this again.”