Long before Kansas golfer Lauren Clark helped lead the Jayhawks to an NCAA regional last season, the first thing that caught her attention about the program was the mindset of KU’s women's golf coach Lindsay Kuhle.
“Everything coach Kuhle was about is how to build up each player to build up the team,” Clark told R1S1 Sports. “It wasn’t just, ‘Hey, here’s how you can help the team,’ it was ‘Here’s how we’re going to help you as an individual.’ And look at all of the resources. No one else really compared with the amount of resources and the feeling of all the people that want to support you.”
During her first season with the Jayhawks, the LSU transfer, who had plenty of options to go elsewhere after entering the transfer portal, was the top KU finisher at three events and carried a spring stroke average of 72.8 per round. Nearly all of that was the result of Clark being the prototype for what Kuhle is looking for in her golfers — competitive, confident and coachable.
That philosophy — call it the 3 Cs approach — has been a huge part of how Kuhle has built her roster since coming to Kansas and a big reason the Jayhawks are ranked and rolling.
“Those things are really important for me to have on my team and with the coaches,” Kuhle said. “So, multi-sport athletes, players that have good feel in touch or athletic can work the ball and can score and grind to score. I love competitive athletes.”
With an early-fall amateur golf ranking of 551, Clark at one point had the highest ranking of any returning Jayhawk.
“She loves talking the same language I love talking and coaching, looking at stats and analyzing numbers,” Kuhle told R1S1 Sports. “That’s just the way we talk and think.”
Kuhle, who focuses a lot of her time on working with her team’s putting, said she remembers her first conversation with Clark. Their shared love of dissecting key numbers, which surfaced during that conversation, was a big part of the reason they got along so well so quickly and, ultimately, why Clark wound up at Kansas.
Clark is a data analytics major. Her interest in data and her interest in golf have a similar origin: a bond she shared with her dad.
“The way me and my dad think is looking back and analyzing all the data. So, I remember years just being in a car, analyzing everything,” Clark said. “So that level of analysis and turning back to data has worked in my personal life in golf, and it's just always, ‘How can I gather the information to make the best decision?’”
Clark was first introduced to golf as a way to spend quality time with her dad — heading to the golf course when he got home from work — but her love for golf was cemented on her eighth birthday.
“I won this one golf tournament at my old home course in Virginia,” she recalled. “And I beat a 13-year-old boy by nine shots, so then I decided that this is really what I want to do.”
At her core, Clark is a competitor and she applies that trait to everything she does, on the golf course and off.
“I want to be good at every aspect of my life, because why not?” Clark said. “I think that’s the competitiveness that makes me good at golf, the mindset of, ‘How can I be the best at whatever I'm doing at that moment?’”
“I love competitive athletes.” — Kansas women's golf coach Lindsay Kuhle
A year ago, Kuhle's team made it to NCAA regionals for the second time in school history and first time since 2014. KU ended the tournament in eighth place in the 12-team field with a three-round score of 890 (+26).
Already this fall, they’ve set a program record for lowest team total in a single round and returned to the national rankings, with eyes on another trip to the postseason.
“(Last year) isn't the last time we’re gonna be back,” Clark said of qualifying for an NCAA regional. “It just motivates us more on how we can get even better. This is a reward for some of the hard work we've put in, and it makes us want to put more hard work in. I think that's what makes such a competitive program right now — we're not just happy with going to regionals once, we want to be back there, we want to be a staple at regionals.”
Clark hopes to one day play professionally, and not just be on the tour, but be competitive on the tour. She sees Kansas and the coaching staff as her ticket to evolving into becoming a better golfer.
“Coach Kuhle really just brings it back to the individual, on how can we improve you as a person to make those goals possible,” Clark said.
Some examples of the data that Kuhle and Clark love to dive into include: specific statistics from tournament rounds, such as fairways hit, where you’re consistently missing, greens hit, up-and-down percentage and much more.
One of her favorites is speed ratio on the greens, which examines how close the Jayhawks are getting with their first putt so they have fewer three-putts per round.
“I go deep into their rounds and give them hard, specific information about where they can save strokes,” Kuhle said.
At the end of the day, while golf is an important part of Clark’s life, it’s not the only thing that matters to her.
“I hope on my tombstone one day, it says ‘good person,’ not just ‘good golfer.’”
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