Caden Clark used golf as an outlet to battle mental health

Caden Clark used golf as an outlet to battle mental health

Hamilton junior Caden Clark was at his lowest point on May 9.

He had been self-harming for some time. The marks are still visible on his arms. But that day, it hit a historic low.

He traveled to a remote area in the East Valley and attempted to cut the two main arteries in each leg. He then phoned his best friend, John, for help, who told him to let his parents know. Some time later, Caden was in the hospital and officially started on a path to recovery.

“I felt very lonely and dissatisfied with my life and golf,” Caden said. “After it happened, I thought there was a missing link in the chain somewhere. There is some kind of problem. I almost felt like I had to talk about it.

“Now I feel more comfortable in my own skin.”

It was still a struggle. But he finally began to see a future in July when his father, Dave, informed him one morning that he had been selected to play this week in the 2022 PURE Insurance Championship, a PGA Tour event which takes place at Pebble. Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill Golf. Courses and live streaming on the Golf Channel.

It gave him a purpose. It gave him motivation. He began spending three to four days at a stretch at the Lone Tree Golf Club in Chandler, where he now works and trains with the Hamilton golf team. It helped him deal with the emotions he was feeling a few months before when he was at his lowest.

Now, just days away from the start of the event on September 20, he is proud of how far he has come.

“It really means a lot,” Caden said. “Over the past few months I have been through a lot. So it really means a lot to me to say that I will have at least done that. I had fallen in love with golf for a long time because of the state in which I was in. It invigorated me.

Caden was selected for the event as part of the First Tee program, a life skills development program that teaches children character through the game of golf.

He started with the program when he was 8 years old. Dave recognized some of the building blocks and character pillars involved in the program and wanted Caden and his older brother, Mac, involved.

About a year after arriving, Caden began to take golf seriously. He went from practicing at a leisurely pace to several days a week to better prepare for competition. It paid off.

Caden quickly became one of the best golfers in the state. And now he has something to show with a state championship with the Huskies and playing on national TV alongside a pro. There’s a long list of names Caden hopes to play with, including Kirk Triplett, Freddie Couples and Miguel Angel Jimenez.

He will find out who he is paired with on Tuesday evening, just before the start of the event.

“Kirk Triplett’s son went to Brophy, Freddie Couples… his golf swing is iconic when you think of vintage golf swings,” Caden said. “Miguel is just, like, he’s a personality like me. I think we would have a great time.

Caden’s selection for the event was based on his personal golf resume, which included the game’s history, community service hours and his own personal growth and development. He described it as “selling himself” to the selection committee.

He was one of 78 players selected and one of four from Arizona – Isabelle Junio ​​senior Millennium, Jack Layman, senior golfer Dream City Christian and Xavier junior Lena Durette were also selected.

As special as an opportunity is, Dave doesn’t want his son to look to the future. He wants him to enjoy the moment, enjoy the spotlight. The scores won’t matter to him or the rest of his family.

As long as Caden is having a good time, that’s all that matters to them.

“I’m excited for Caden,” Dave said. “I would just like to see him enjoy the experience, not let the pressure get to him and enjoy it.

“I’m proud of him.”

Caden is the next in a long line of Hamilton players to excel on the golf course.

The team as a whole won multiple state titles under coach Steve Kanner, and many went on to play in college and beyond. Kanner called Caden one of the team’s many “stars”.

Caden’s teammates aren’t hovering around him and what he went through at the start of the summer. He doesn’t want them to.

He’s open about his mental health issues, which is one of the reasons he chooses not to wear long sleeves to cover his arms. The team has been there as a support system when needed. When Caden was at his lowest point, he confided in the First Tee coaches and Kanner.

To see how far he has come is special.

“I’m proud of Caden and I think a lot of that is due to the support of his family and his inner yearning,” Kanner said. “I’m glad to see he’s come a long way. I was surprised and saddened that he experienced this. I’m glad he was able to get the help he needed and for me that takes courage.

When Caden returns in a week, he’ll be diving right back into the high school season with the Huskies, who are once again the favorite to win a Division I tag team title this season.

Whether Caden continues with golf after high school remains to be seen, according to Dave. But that doesn’t matter to them.

For now, Caden is living the moment of everything he accomplished as a 16-year-old high school student. And he hopes to set an example for others struggling with mental health issues by telling them it’s okay to seek help.

He did. Even if it was at a critical moment.

“I didn’t want to be just another statistic,” Caden said. “To be able to say that I’ve been in this place and that I can use my story as a kind of platform to say things can get better, that feels like a blessing.”


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