Teeing Off With ... Brian Clark

Long-hitting former Stampeders linebacker has more time to spend on the links now that his football career appears to be over

By ERIC FRANCIS

After pounding a wind-aided drive 330 yards down the middle of the fairway, Brian Clark was asked if he missed playing a game that once dominated his life.

No, not golf -- football.

Unceremoniously booted by the Calgary Stampeders' new coaching regime last winter after four years in red and white, the 34-year-old linebacker chuckled at the obvious query.

"I thought I'd miss it but I don't -- I don't miss waking up and feeling the way I did," said Clark on a day when his former teammates were limping through a rundown following a win over Hamilton.

"I had one more year left on my contract and I hoped to finish it but I'm not bitter -- I played 10 years. I wish it could have ended better."

Instead, it ended -- predictably -- during a routine visit to McMahon Stadium where new coach John Hufnagel pulled the classy American into his office and informed him the defence would continue to be blown apart and he would be a casualty.

"The last two years with all the things going on -- we had George White, Joey Boese, John Grace, Scott Coe... you scratch your head. We had something special and it got ripped apart," said Clark, who insists he still cheers on his former team.

"Edmonton called after the first preseason game but the offer wasn't where it needed to be. It wasn't a hard decision at all -- I thought it would be. I look at my career now and see more opportunities outside the game."

Those opportunities stem from a sales rep job in the oil patch with Lonkar Services he's had for several years.

"We'd like to call Calgary home," said the husband and father of two young girls, content to stay in their Tuscany home for years to come.

"We love it here."

Currently in the midst of a lengthy process to become a Canadian citizen, Clark now finds himself able to spend more time with his family as well as on the links where he occasionally hosts clients.

"As a kid growing up in Michigan, I got the basics of the game down," said Clark, who also spent many an afternoon playing the legendary Bethpage Black course, host of the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Open, near his beloved Hofstra University on Long Island.

"For a couple years when I played in Winnipeg, I played three times a week. It was always Wade Miller and I against Khari Jones and Troy Westwood. We played money games all the time and we'd beat them all day until the 18th hole when they'd press everything, beat us and we'd end up all even."

He also cherished the Ryder Cup-style tourney (Americans vs. Canadians) he and his Stamps teammates staged every year at Banff Springs. Clark maintains friendships with many of his former teammates in Calgary as well as former Hofstra teammate Wayne Chrebet, an ex-star receiver from the New York Jets who recently spent the weekend in Calgary visiting his old pal.

Still dedicated to working out (he has not officially retired just yet) the 6-ft.-2, 225-lb. Rob Lowe look-alike is a monster off the tee throughout our rain-shortened round. However, his swing tends to be a tad more erratic once he has a wedge in his hands.

"That's my game," shrugged the quiet, Illinois native after following up a brilliant drive with a 30-yard chunk.

Unfazed by anything on the golf course, the emotional leader of the Stamps defence for four solid seasons is also content with everything else in his life.

A comforting thought given how classy an athlete he's always been.


BRIAN CLARK

Age: 34

Handicap: 18

Best score: 89

Years played: Since age 9

In his bag: Top Flite irons, Taylor Made R5 driver

Avg. rounds a year: 10

Strength: The long ball

Weakness: 100 yards and in.

Favourite course: Lynx Ridge

When the beer cart pulls up, I'll have: A beer

The CFL and Canada win over another classy American, after having a fine career there.

It's a shame it had to end the way it did for him, but it's great to see he has a nice career and family. Pretty good golfer too!

Yes he is still very much working in the community a great gift to Calgary. A very classy guy.

Hey Red maybe down the road on the Calgary wall of fame?

I'm thinking he probably made the right choice. There's got to be better economic opportunities in Calgary than in Michigan.