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A Kite in a Hurricane

The golfing life of Griffin Clark, a Lion gone too soon
Country Club of Petersburg, bunker

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On a cloudless June day in Virginia, I spotted his car while driving south on I-95. I pulled up behind Griffin Clark’s black Nissan Maxima in the center lane as I headed to my sister’s home in Williamsburg. His Richmond exit was coming up, so I moved into the left lane and pulled alongside him, thinking he’d see me. Instead, his eyes remained transfixed on the road, a soft grin stuck on his face. I couldn’t blame him; he had an awful lot to smile about.

Two weeks prior he’d achieved hero status by helping our Saint Leo University golf team win the school’s first national championship in any sport, the two of us had just returned from a legendary weekend of nonstop beverages, birdies and blackjack in the Ohio Valley and his newborn niece had given him a new outlook on life. So instead of cutting him off or honking, I just watched him marinate in the glory.

As his destination grew nearer, I picked up the phone and rang him. “Look to your left,” I said. When he finally did, he unleashed one of his signature laughs—a cackle so contagious you didn’t even need to hear the joke. The windows on my white Sonata were up and the wind was howling outside them, but I heard it. Then he pointed at me as if to say, “See you later!” and peeled off out of sight. I’m glad we had that exchange; it was the last time I saw him alive. 

The night before the most important round of golf in his life, Griffin Wilder Clark raised his glass to toast his Saint Leo teammates and coaches on the street side of the Cheesecake Factory in Denver, Colorado.  

“Boys,” he proclaimed, “when I’m three shots up on 18 tomorrow, I’m hitting 4-iron, 6-iron, wedge, wedge, two-putt, bogey: We win.”

Sure enough, the next day Griffin strolled to the 18th tee of Green Valley Ranch Golf Club with a three-shot lead—and responsible for the fifth and decisive point in a tied match against Chico State. With his life’s goal of an NCAA championship some 600 yards away, he set his bag down, ripped the head cover off his Titleist driver, turned around to look at the horror on the face of head coach Chris Greenwood and winked. In 21 years full of them, it was the most quintessential Griffin moment of them all.

Technically, the Clarks live just south of Richmond in Chesterfield County, Virginia. However, by all accounts, they make their home 15 miles down the road at the Country Club of Petersburg, where Griffin’s father, Kenny, has been the head golf pro for the last 15 years. It’s quiet, rural country, where members have to dress for all four seasons and errant tee shots come to rest atop pine straw under century-old oaks. Griffin, with his easy twang, referred to it only as “The Sticks.”

It’s also where a 12-year-old Griffin went from a meek, novice golfer to a rambunctious match-play legend, thanks to some hustling members who took him under their wing. Every day, through rain, snow and suffocating summers, Cindy Clark drove her son to the course and Dad waited in the shop until he was done slapping it around with “the guys.” 

Dots, Nassaus, rabbits, presses, even “Murphy Matches”—where the stakes occasionally prevent the use of a wedge from greenside—you name it and Griffin got his degree in it on Tuesday nights. And while he played, watched and learned, he also listened. 

“If you can’t give anybody crap, golf’s no fun,” says Rick Bauer, one of the Petersburg members who maintain that they “raised the boy.” 

As his game quickly improved, so did his trash-talking. Even though there wasn’t a spiteful bone in his body, he was one of the best at finding your button and pushing it on the course. 

“He would have a 4-footer, definitely outside the circle of friendship,” says close friend and 2017 U.S. Amateur semi-finalist Mark Lawrence Jr., “and he would walk up to the ball, look me dead in the eye and say, ‘Respect my ability.’ Then I’d have a 2-footer a few holes later and he’d say, ‘I’ve seen you putt. You’re not making that.’” 

It was that ability to tightrope between harmless humor and agitator—his older brother Taylor called him the “loveable asshole”—that endeared him to so many. As Griffin’s silky swing, minus that slight head dip at impact, continued to take form, Kenny assisted his son in rounding out the mental aspect of his game. After all, the old man was quite the match-play pest himself. 

“A beagle dog doesn’t have collie pups,” Kenny quips.

Their formula was simple, and it proved successful right away. Griffin won his first Bobby Bowers Memorial Junior Golf Tournament at age 13 and would go on to fall to Lawrence in the finals of the Virginia State Junior Match Play Championship as a senior in high school. 

“For the first seven holes, give a guy a two-and-a-half-foot putt as long as it’s not to win the hole,” Kenny says of his strategy. “Don’t let him get comfortable practicing those. Chat him up: ‘Where you from? How are you? What else do you do? You like to fish? Great shot! Great shot! Great putt!’ And then, on hole No. 8, quit giving him putts and clam up. It’s just like life: After eight, it’s time to go to work.”

My first experience with Griffin was damn-near identical to the blueprint his father laid out: I was 17 and had been in fields with Griffin, and though I never officially made his acquaintance, I already couldn’t stand the kid.

Walking up to meet him at the first tee, all I could think about was drumming him 9&8. His shirt was untucked, his Footjoys weren’t even tied, his white Titleist hat looked like it had seen combat and his little half-swing practice takeaway over the ball was like golf’s version of a pump fake at the free-throw line.  

But after the first seven holes of our match, I thought, “I had this guy all wrong.” We talked about music, UVA basketball, girls, clothes and how college golf needed a braggadocious and flagrant team like Miami football had in the late ’80s. I don’t remember putting anything over 5 feet. And every swing, good or bad, was met with a “Great shot!” 

Then, on No. 8, I went to rake back a 3-footer when I realized Griffin had his back turned to me. 

I remember thinking, “Oh, this mother…” 

Of course I hard-lipped it on the low side and we didn’t say a word to each other the rest of the day. After I made bogey on 16 to lose 3&2, I seriously considered just walking off the course. I knew better and reluctantly extended my hand. He skipped it and pulled me into a hug.

“That was fun,” he said. “I like you.” 

“Wish I could say the same,” I mumbled back. 

The next week, we traveled to West Virginia together as part of Team Virginia to represent our state in the Mid-Atlantic Junior Invitational. 

We spent the week laughing at how seriously some other kids took the game we loved and complaining about how much we hated wearing blazers and khakis to dinner. We became inseparable.

Greenwood puts it simply: “Griffin had a talent for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

While he never went looking for trouble, he did enjoy straddling the occasional boundary. But he had a disarming sense of humor and surprising vulnerability that helped him out of some tricky situations. I was beginning to understand and even appreciate it when I left for Tampa in the summer of 2013 to begin my career as a Saint Leo Lion. Griffin was headed north, to John A. Logan in Carterville, Illinois. It offered a proven JUCO program with a track record of developing talent, and a chance for Griffin to get his grades up before transferring to a Division I program. 

In the first few weeks after his arrival, a massive on-campus party involving student athletes was busted by the police, and he was one of several who received a citation for underage drinking. With negative press swirling around the athletic department, the school issued a zero-tolerance warning. A few weeks later, campus police found a beer can in Griffin’s dorm room while investigating a separate party in his building. His spot on the team was immediately revoked. With a strong 72 scoring average over his first semester and interest already bubbling from Division I schools, he packed up his things and drove through the night back home to Chesterfield. 

As soon as I heard he was on the market, I brought it to Greenwood’s attention.

Our team was already loaded. We had five guys who could go six deep on any given afternoon. We were grooming a stellar freshman class that would include future All-Americans, Division I champions and U.S. and British Amateur participants. But we didn’t have a Griffin: a blue-collar, par-saving, shut-club-face-swinging, draw-slinging, cold-hearted grinder. If our team was a body, it needed a heart. And he had enough for everybody. 

“We are going to be nice,” I texted him. 

“I’m desperate,” he responded, half-jokingly. “I can’t sit out for two years.”

In between moping his way through classes at John Tyler Community College near his home, he drove down to campus with Kenny to officially look at Saint Leo and Lake Jovita Country Club, our 36-hole facility next door.

A few DI Virginia schools were hot on Griffin’s tail and willing to help with the financial burden of college. But if you knew Griffin, you knew that playing golf just for the sake of playing wasn’t enough. There had to be something on the line.

“When you’re in the fairway on the 18th hole with a chance to win a national championship and you have to hit a 7-iron,” Greenwood told Griffin and Kenny as they sat on the couch in his office, “you’re going to be nervous. And I can’t hit it for you.” 

That was all Griffin needed to hear. 

“He really believed me when I talked about winning nationals,” Greenwood says. “He wanted to be a part of something special.”

Country Club of Petersburg, Virginia
Reminders of Griffin Clark can be found in his home and the Country Club of Petersburg golf course where he learned to play the game and his father, Kenny, is the golf pro.

Anybody who grew up on bent grass understands: Bermuda sucks. Griffin was no exception. His first few weeks at school were spent stubbing chips, misreading grain and skulling bunker shots—especially skulling bunker shots. His swing was so in one piece and shallow that he had trouble getting steep in order to activate the bounce in those crusty South Florida traps. 

After Griffin failed to qualify for the first few tournaments of the spring of 2015, Greenwood decided to redshirt him and salvage half a year of eligibility. Even though he wouldn’t be tournament available, he was still expected to play in qualifying rounds—which he hated because they didn’t count for anything. 

“Griffin in a practice round was the most pointless thing I’ve ever seen,” says former teammate and All-American Liam Ainsworth. “He would take a random Tuesday match against a teammate as serious as the national championship, but couldn’t wait until practice rounds were over.”

During one particularly disastrous qualifier, I watched Griffin melt down and shoot 49 on the front. He was such a mess that Kenny woke up at 3 a.m. and drove through the night so he could help piece his son’s confidence back together. Expecting to find a broken spirit at Lake Jovita’s first tee following his 11-hour road trip, Kenny was instead met with a bubbly, “Hey, Pop!”

That was my friend: a series of highs and lows. One minute he was the world’s greatest golfer with, according to him, a “technically perfect swing.” The next he was throwing up snowmen, crippled by negativity. He’d say things like, “I have the most beautiful singing voice I’ve ever heard,” then threaten to quit school and work construction the rest of his life because he wasn’t good at anything. 

And it wasn’t week to week. It could be day to day, hole to hole, even swing to swing. He was a kite dancing in a hurricane, and you couldn’t help but love it. 

“Him being cocky wasn’t malicious, and him saying ‘I suck, I’m the worst golfer ever’ wasn’t malicious to himself either,” Kenny says. “They were just words.”

That summer Griffin played poker and spades with his boys, mixed it up in matches at the club and spent time with Meredith, his first and only crush. I could see his internal confidence growing and his game along with it, and I was excited to see what a full second season would bring. He drove 45 minutes out of the way to say goodbye to Meredith before turning his Maxima around and heading to Tampa.

Bryce Wilson didn’t ask to room with Griffin at the beginning of that school year. Wilson’s soccer teammate and close friend, Jules Verdin, had tragically died in a climbing accident over the summer, leaving an empty room to echo his empty heart. As fate would have it, Griffin was randomly assigned to Verdin’s room, and Wilson began building a new friendship. 

“He wasn’t afraid to express himself,” Wilson says. “You knew when he was upset, you knew when he was happy and you knew when he was mad.…We were good from the beginning.” 

Griffin began to feel at home off the course and he started the first two events in the fall of 2015, then qualified once again to set the stage for our first road trip together as teammates. We shot 5 and 6 under over three days to secure our seats on the bus to our next tournament at PGA National—one of our favorite tracks to watch on TV. In short, we were feeling ourselves. 

The day before we were set to depart, coach called for wedge practice on the soccer field. We saw how many shots we could land in a hula-hoop and a trash can, and, like always, made a game out of it. Griffin and I paired up as usual and continued our habit of talking shit to teammate Hugo Bernard, a former Team Canada member and current professional. Even though he was obviously the best player in the nation at the time, we’d tell him how ugly his lefty power fade was, imitate his French-Canadian accent and tease him about his NCAA eligibility fight (he was originally committed to the University of Tennessee). 

Watching along as the three of us went back and forth, Greenwood turned to his father and assistant coach, Roy. 

“You know, someday, somebody is going to knock one of those two out,” Greenwood said. 

That night Griffin and I, along with several others, rolled up to our local tavern to celebrate our good play. We had some Coors Lights and argued about whether the Warriors had ruined basketball. As we left, Griffin, in not the most polite terms, told a local cowboy to turn his truck headlights off, as they were shining through the bar windows. I laughed and didn’t think much of it. That would have been the nicest thing he had said to Bernard all day. 

Halfway down the hill back to campus, I turned around to see eight cowboys circling Griffin like rodeo clowns to a bull. I sprinted back up the dimly lit dirt path but had little success gaining entry into the fight club. About four seconds later the circle dispersed and there lay Griffin in a cloud of blood and dust. His sweat-stained white Saint Leo hat was unaccounted for, along with his balance.  

Griffin slept with a frozen Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwich on his left cheek. The next morning, he called Greenwood.

“Coach, I think I might have broke my jaw.”

“Well, there aren’t any ‘mights’ with broken jaws,” Greenwood responded.

Later that day, Griffin’s jaw was wired shut. He pleaded to get on the bus the next morning, but the training staff wouldn’t allow it. There went his shot at playing the Bear Trap. Undaunted, he played the following week in Orlando and shot 77-76-74 in 90-degree weather while sipping on baby food. I felt awful for not being by his side when it went down. Yet he apologized to me, for reasons I still can’t explain.

“When he messed up, he owned up to it,” Wilson says. “He took accountability for his actions and that brought us a lot closer.”

I figured that wire might actually get him to shut up for a while. Wrong. For months, unprovoked and in between sips of PBR through a straw, he’d look at teammate C.J. Tyler on the couch and say, “You know, I’m pretty sure I’m handling this better than anybody else could.”

After getting the wire removed over the holidays, Griffin returned to school hoping to reclaim his momentum. Instead, he once again failed to conquer Florida golf and missed the first two tournaments of the spring in 2016. 

“I don’t think he understood at the time what he was good at,” Greenwood says of Griffin’s game. “He wanted to do what everybody else did. I’ve never seen a guy who could hit a 5-8-yard draw every time want to try to fade it instead.”

Trying to break back into the lineup, Griffin trailed teammate James “Poopsy” Jessop by a shot heading into the final hole of a qualifier—the must-birdie par-5 ninth on Jovita’s South Course. After Poopsy tapped in for par, Griffin was left with a 6-footer for birdie and a tie. 

“It was the dirtiest 360 [degree lip-out] I’ve ever seen,” recalls Marcus Crowe, who was also in the group. 

Standing on the hill perched behind the ninth green was Roy, or “Old Coach,” as Griffin liked to call him. Griffin stormed up the steep gradient and threw his putter into the slope toward his bag. Instead of sticking, it landed on the butt end of the club and launched forward, nearly hitting our then-72-year-old assistant coach. Word got back to Greenwood and the next day he summoned Griffin to his office. 

“Have you ever had a day in your lifetime when you couldn’t go hit balls?” he asked Griffin.

“No, I guess not,” Griffin replied.

“So you’ve never experienced not being able to play golf. Well, I have. And the day I got the clubs back in my hand was one of the greatest days ever. Right now you are taking for granted the opportunity that you have: the ability to pick the club up and go out to practice. So for the next seven days, you won’t be able to touch them. That way when you come back in a week, you’ll be excited. No matter where you hit it, no matter where it goes, you’ll be excited.”

For the next week, I didn’t see, hear or speak to my best friend. Crowe said he saw him come out of his room once. 

Country Club of Petersburg, Virginia
Sunlight and shadows at the Country Club of Petersburg in Virginia. Griffin Clark’s home course.

Camryn Gray Clark was born Dec. 22, 2015, to Taylor and Brittany Clark. Griffin finally met his niece in February. Amidst the chaos and frustration of school and golf, that little girl somehow brought a kind of peace to his world. 

“Griffin hated kids,” says Cindy Clark. “He would get up and leave dermatologist offices because a baby was crying. But he loved her.” 

Our daily late-night conversations during SportsCenter—which once consisted only of Meredith updates and issues with his bunker game—were now strictly reserved for pictures of Camryn and soliloquies on how much he wanted a life like his older brother.

“I wasn’t expecting that,” Kenny says of the impact his granddaughter had on his son. “But then again, he was always doing the unexpected.”

Around that same time, after serving out his golf jail sentence, Griffin also unexpectedly started taking a liking to something else: school.

That semester, he decided to take a criminal-justice class. We all clowned him; after all, if there were one person to partake in a career of law and order, he wouldn’t have been our first pick. Later that spring, he suddenly appeared in my doorway, out of breath.

“I made the dean’s list, bro!” he exclaimed.

At that moment, I was having girl troubles and failing to solve a two-way miss that had plagued me all semester. I wasn’t very enthusiastic in my response. 

“Is nobody excited for me?” he asked.

To this day, I remember the disappointment in his voice. I wasn’t the friend that he was to me. 

“He smiled and laughed the most when other people smiled,” Wilson says. “He found enjoyment out of other people finding joy. He found happiness out of other people finding happiness. He wasn’t ever the person who would be upset at somebody else succeeding.” 

The truth is, I was excited for him. Whatever Greenwood taking his clubs did to him, Griffin found himself inside that locked room. I always knew golf needed him. But I think he learned over those seven days that he needed golf.

As our No. 1 team breezed through conference play and regionals, I was even excited when Greenwood picked him to be our fifth player at nationals over a few others, including me. He had earned it. 

Division II still uses medal match play as its championship format following the stroke-play portion at nationals. The top eight teams are put into a bracket based on their 54-hole scores. The five players from each team are then paired against one another, and the lowest 18-hole stroke-play score in each match earns a point. No 1-up, 1-down. Seventy-two beats 73 and 88 beats 89. Should a team match finish tied at two and a half points, the lower aggregate score of all five players decides the winner. 

Coming from “The Sticks,” this format pissed Griffin off to no end. He just wanted to play somebody. But he used it as motivation.

“He said it a million times that week: ‘There’s no chance we lose this shit,’” teammate Ryan Gendron says. “He wasn’t even hitting it that well. He threw his driver all the way down the 15th hole during the practice round. But he embraced it and ended up striping it.”

At one point in the third round of stroke play, our squad reached 31-under par—an NCAA DII record. Bernard set the NCAA record for low 36- and 54-hole scores, and won as an individual at 13 under. Griffin plugged along with rounds of 73-72-71. 

“He wasn’t a world beater,” Kenny says. “He wasn’t going to shoot 63. But he also wasn’t going to shoot 80.”

After slipping past Wilmington University 3-2 in the first round, we squared off with rival Lynn University in the final four. A year prior, they beat us in the very same round. 

Sitting at 1 under and tied with Lynn’s Martin Cancino, Griffin found the fairway on 18 with his tee shot. With hazards on both sides of the dogleg right par-5, Griffin tried to lay up with a 6-iron, but double-crossed it into the left high stuff. He made double and lost by two. 

Behind him, Ainsworth was down five strokes with three to play. Instead of packing it in, he birdied two of his last three. When five matches weren’t enough to settle things, Ainsworth’s birdie on 18 won the total-score playoff.

Instead of pouting and wallowing in the aftermath of one bad swing, Griffin thanked his teammates for saving his ass and he promised to return the favor.

“All he wanted to do was be the anchor,” Gendron says. “He said, ‘I know this is coming down to me.’”

So when it came time to draft the lineups for the finals against Chico State, Greenwood’s decision wasn’t difficult: One of the toughest match players in the country was begging for the responsibility of going out last.

That night, Griffin Wilder Clark made his now-legendary toast on the street side of the Denver Cheesecake Factory.  

The following day, with Greenwood watching in disbelief, Griffin took driver and absolutely striped it down the middle. 

Now in roughly the same spot where he’d made a mess the previous day, Greenwood tried to help Griffin pick out a target and calm his nerves. 

“See that tree through the fairway?” he asked. “Hit it at the branch on the right.”

“You mean the tree that looks like a penis?” Griffin asked. 

In my four years at Saint Leo, I can remember maybe three smiles from Greenwood on the course. In that moment, I would’ve bet my life that Griffin would make a 16 on that hole before our coach even smirked. But there he was, giggling in the middle of the 18th fairway. 

“In my head, I was like, ‘Dude, do you know you made double from here yesterday?’” Greenwood later said.

Then Griffin uncorked another perfect shot, right at that penis-shaped tree.

He was one good swing away: 172 yards, a 20-mph wind into his face. Pin tucked between two bunkers that nobody wanted to see him skull one out of. Factoring in the Colorado elevation, they settled on 155 playing like 170. If it was an everyday round, it was his stock 6-iron. But Griffin remembered that day when he first visited Saint Leo, looking for a home, and Greenwood sat him down on the couch. 

“When you’re in the fairway on the 18th hole with a chance to win a national championship and you have to hit a 7-iron…”

So he reached for the 7, gave one signature practice takeaway over the ball and let it rip. Every Lion held their breath. 

“The whole time it was in the air, we all just said, ‘Please get over that bunker,’” Gendron says. “He’ll make a 9. But he flushed it, probably the best 7-iron of his life.”

When Griffin tapped in for par, he gracefully shook his opponent’s hand and braced for impact as Ryan, Hugo, Liam and Joey Savoie rushed him on the green and doused him in water. That framed image now sits in the center of the Clark living room.

At around 9:30 p.m. on July 3, 2016, Griffin took a left out of his driveway and headed down Walthall Creek Drive to his friend’s home within the neighborhood limits. 

He texted our team group-chat at around 10 p.m., just to say how much he loved us. He then texted Meredith to tell her that since he had accomplished his career goal, he didn’t want anything more to do with golf. He joked with the boys that he was going to average 79.8 next season. He then griped to his girl, saying, “idk what makes me happy yet.” 

According to those who were there that night, Griffin was his usual self. He went swimming in the backyard, placed his new iPhone inside his dry Air Maxes and then fell asleep on a couch alongside them. He awoke around midnight and headed back toward his house. Except instead of pulling into his driveway for the night, he continued toward Woods Edge Road at the top of the street.  

As was usually the case with Griffin, his gas tank was teetering on empty. He also had to be at the country club first thing in the morning to get his dad’s carts ready for the wave of July 4th golfers. Nobody hated waking up early more than Griffin, so in order to maximize his sleep time he often put $5 in the tank the night before and spent the rest of whatever Kenny gave him on a Wendy’s sandwich. 

Half a mile from his home, Griffin lost control of his Nissan and collided with a brick retaining wall at the end of the Noggin family driveway. The car rolled. Griffin wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.

At 12:26 a.m., 20 seconds after impact, Mrs. Noggin, a registered nurse, ran outside to find Griffin lying in her front yard with a peaceful look on his face. He had passed instantly.

“It was like he had seen God and liked it,” she later told Griffin’s mother. 

Around 4 a.m., police finally knocked on the Clarks’ door and delivered the news that their son had been pronounced dead at the scene—36 days after winning the national championship.

Those with Griffin that night say alcohol couldn’t have been the reason. With the coroner ruling the official cause of death as blunt-force trauma, the Clarks made the decision against an autopsy and moved forward with Griffin’s cremation. To this day, the police haven’t provided additional details on the cause of the accident, and the Clarks aren’t expecting any.

The phone that Kenny bought Griffin on July 2 was found inside his shoes in the backseat without a scratch. The only picture on it was of him and Camryn. Kenny still uses that phone, with the image of Griffin holding his niece as the background. 

Around the same time that police forever altered the Clarks’ life with four little knocks, I was jolted out of my sleep in a panic. I was on the eastern tip of Long Island visiting family, with no idea what had just happened 450 miles away. I just knew something was wrong.

About six hours later, I got the call from Greenwood. I dropped the phone, crumbled to the floor and screamed for help. The world wasn’t whole anymore. You never expect how hard it is to breathe with a shattered heart.

Soon after I got the call that I’ve since replayed in my mind 10 million times, word spread from Virginia to Florida to everywhere else where his name and swing were known. I immediately flew home and after 48 hours of hell tried to take my mind off things by watching Golf Channel. But there was his picture on “Morning Drive,” with a caption that I still didn’t want to believe: “Griffin Clark, 1995–2016.” 

The funeral later that week at the Country Club of Petersburg was a fog. The entire Clark family somehow stood in front of an overflow crowd and eulogized their youngest child, with the course that taught him everything peering back at us through the window behind them.

“If you knew Griffin, you loved him, and if you didn’t love him, you didn’t know him,” Kenny says.

Foreign teammates spent thousands on last-minute overseas flights. The same bag he carried down the 18th fairway in Denver was on display outside the reception, surrounded by childhood photos and personal belongings. His Virginia buddies played a round after the service in his memory. One by one, hundreds upon hundreds waited in line to shake the family’s hands and give them hugs, whatever they could to let them know what Griffin meant to them. 

“I consider myself so lucky,” Wilson says. “Whenever people would say, ‘I’m sorry for your loss,’ I’d feel bad for them—because they didn’t get the chance to know Griffin. I feel bad for anyone that didn’t get to come in contact with him.”

“I still talk to him all the time,” Meredith says. “I would love to see where he’d be at right now.”

“My kids aren’t going to know him, and I’m not going to get to continue building our friendship,” says Taylor, who welcomed Landry Griffin Clark into the world in 2018. “I think about it every single day.” 

In the time since that July 4, Kenny and Cindy have scattered their youngest’s remains across his favorite places on Earth. You can find him in the roundabout at the entrance of Saint Leo, on the 15th hole at Lake Jovita’s South course and in the lake itself. You can find him at the Country Club of Petersburg. And yes, you can find a little more of him where he hit the best 7-iron of his life. 

For those who don’t have a piece of him to call their own, Lawrence had green-and-gold wristbands made in his honor.

“Anytime I don’t want to do something or think about procrastinating, I look at this wristband,” Taylor says. “I owe it to him to do it, because he can’t anymore. It wouldn’t be fair to him.” 

Five months after the accident, I stood at center court of the Bowman Center at halftime during a Saint Leo basketball game. The Clark family was to my left, my teammates to my right. One by one, we were introduced and presented with our gaudy national championship rings—the ones that Griffin won for us. Kenny received his son’s, another was modified into a necklace pendant for Cindy and together they were gifted to them along with Griffin’s honorary degree from Saint Leo. 

As we faced the home bleachers and raised our fists in the air, the first and only national championship banner in the 130-year history of the school fell from the rafters. DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” roared over the public-address system. It had become tradition for us to blast the song in the van as we returned to campus following tournament victories. This time, it just felt hollow. 

My eyes left the banner and the waving fans underneath. I looked down at my right hand to see the fluorescent gymnasium lights dancing off the white and green jewels. I wondered how something that was supposed to stand for our greatest victory could also signify such loss.

I looked up and saw the tears in Kenny and Cindy’s eyes and wondered if they were from pain or pride. Probably both. Griffin’s image appeared on the Jumbotron and suddenly it felt like that mammoth ring had become lodged in my throat. It was the moment we had talked about sharing together every night since we were 18 years old. I just never imagined that this would be the closest we’d get. 

Griffin Clark, Division II Mens Golf Championship
21 MAY 2016: Griffin Clark of Saint Leo University is congratulated by his teammates after winning his match during the Division II Mens Golf Championship held at the Green Valley Ranch Golf Club in Denver, CO. St. Leo defeated Chico St. by a score of 3 matches to 2. (Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)