Vince Clark waits for his golfers to arrive at their first tee on a small hill inside Cottonwood Creek Golf Course. They are preparing for a tournament taking place that weekend with a qualifying match. Clark can only take six of his 15 team members to the competition and this match will be the decider. He sets them up in teams of three, and after an initial brief at the staring tee, he watches them play the game his grandfather taught him to love.
Clark grew up in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri playing golf and loving the outdoors, but in 1979 he made Waco his home when he began his undergraduate studies at Baylor University. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in history in 1983 and his law degree from Baylor Law School in 1985, he went on to work in lawsuits for five years. As happy as he was practicing law, Clark felt like something was missing.
“I have been blessed by shepherds who have mentored me down the path to this place,” Clark said. “When I was at Baylor, I went to work for a man named Robert Reid. He was the chairman of the history department. He was the most popular professor on campus and one of the best teachers. He thought I could be a teacher.”
Inspired by Reid, Clark returned to Baylor to earn his master’s in history and became a college professor at McLennan Community College, where he has been for the past 25 years and has taught over 12,000 students.
In 2007, Clark was named head coach of the Highlanders’ golf team. Growing up under the influence of his grandfather, who was a master at the game, he learned to love the sport and to appreciate the challenges that come with it. Clark’s goal as a coach is to teach his players to play the game his grandfather taught him.
“The most difficult and most significant challenge for every golfer has to do with themselves,” Clark explained. “The best golfers are the ones who accept and deal with their imperfections. What I want my guys to see is that this game is a game of challenges. But if you think about it, life’s like that too.”
Clark takes the time and effort to get to know each of his players well, not just as golfers and students, but as men. In this way he learns how to best help each of them achieve their goals and to help make the team better. He creates a family within the team so that they have something to play for that is more than just themselves.
Clark has led his Highlanders to three NJCAA Championship titles. He has coached 19 All American, 13 Academic All Americans, and seven Academic All American teams and has been named NJCAA Head Coach of the Year three times. He carries his championship rings in his pocket. He won’t wear them because they’re just too big, but he likes to carry them around to show his players just how proud he is of them.
Every player that has been coached by Clark becomes part of his family. He still speaks to each of his former players, including Hunter Shattuck, a two-time All American at MCC.
“Playing for Vince, you learn how to treat people,” Shattuck said of his former coach. “He’ll open the door for people, look them in the eye and tell them to have a good day.”
Shattuck went on to play for Mike McGraw at Baylor, a man who Clark considers one of his shepherds. Clark and McGraw were both inducted into the Golf Coaches Hall of Fame in 2016. In Shattuck’s opinion, they’re the two best golf coaches in the country.
Clark still strives to be better. A better teacher, a better coach and a better man. He starts his day at 4:15 every morning excited and driven because he loves what he does. He makes an impact in the lives of every person he meets.
“I think what I’m really trying to do is be the kind of shepherd that my grandfather and Robert Reid were for me,” Clark said, “not so that I would be remembered but so that they (his students and players), in their later lives can have the same joy and peace that I have.”