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Valley golfer Clark dedicates senior season to grandfather

| Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012, 1:48 a.m.
Eric Felack, Valley News Dispatch
Valley's Bill Clark watches his tee shot on the fifth hole at Saxon Golf Course in Clinton Township during the WPIAL Section 8-AAA individual qualifier on Sept. 19, 2012. Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch

With every center-cut drive that skids down the fairway and winding birdie putt that drops into the hole, Bill Clark gives a nod to the sky.

The Valley senior golfer has dedicated his senior season to his grandfather, Bill, who died in April at age 90.

“That's my motivation,” Clark said. “I mean, I'm a senior and it's my last year playing, but my main motivation is my grandfather. When I played (in the sectional tournament), I played for him. I went to his gravesite the night before.”

Clark will try to qualify for his first WPIAL championship appearance Tuesday when he plays in the Class AAA semifinal tournament at Seven Oaks Country Club in Beaver.

The top 12 finishers advance to the WPIAL Class AAA championship Oct. 3 at Fox Chapel Golf Club.

Clark strives to make family members proud. He said his grandfather taught him the game. His father, John, is Valley's former coach.

“We always played together,” Clark said of his pap.

Clark shot a 2-over-par 74 last week to tie Shady Side Academy's Troy Berglund for medalist honors at the Section 8-AAA tournament at Saxon Golf Course.

Now, redemption awaits in the semifinal round. Last year, Clark shot 79 to get into a four-man playoff in the semifinal at River Forest Country Club — where he works, parking and cleaning carts.

“I feel like, the way I am playing, if I putt well, states might be in my future,” Clark said. “I am taking it day by day. I like how I am playing.”

Clark tied for low honors at the Westmoreland County Coaches Association Tournament earlier this season (77), but lost on a scorecard playoff at Latrobe Country Club.

Will Wears, Arnold Palmer's grandson, edged Clark for the title.

Who knows what happens if the two play extra holes?

“I think my swing is more under control,” Clark said. “I am hitting a draw now, and that's going well. I am hitting more greens. I used to hit a fade, but not I feel like I can shape shots a little better.”

Knoch will have a section-leading three players in today's field: Stefan Carlsson, Josh Bartley and Austin Miller.

“Austin is a nice surprise for us,” Knoch coach Rob Voltz said. “He put together his best round of the year (in the sectional tournament). He was excited about it. He shot a 41 on the front nine and was all stressed out. But he made it.”

Another semifinal, at The Links at Spring Church, will feature five local players: Fox Chapel's Charlie Friend, Jorden Alfery and Patrick Sheerer, Kiski Area's Adam Robison and Plum's Andrew Reynolds. The top 12 advance to the finals.

A third semifinal will be played at Cranberry Highlands.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-224-2696 or bbeckner@tribweb.com.

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