‘Transcendent’ Caitlin Clark claims crowds and compliments at PGA Tour pro-am

Seemingly not content to dominate only the college basketball scene, Caitlin Clark stole the show at a PGA Tour event this week.

The superstar Iowa Hawkeyes point guard drew huge fanfare as she played in a pro-am tournament prior to the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run in Illinois on Wednesday.

The 22-year-old became a household name after a flurry of record-breaking performances to help drive Iowa to the NCAA Championship game for the first time in the school’s history. Clark rattled off an unprecedented 191 points across March Madness, though a record eight three-pointers in the championship game were not enough to overcome the LSU Tigers.

Three months on, the popularity of Clark – who will be eligible for the WNBA Draft in 2024 – shows no sign of waning. Flocks of fans, many of them younger than the Iowa star and donning the Hawkeyes’ black and gold colors, followed her for 18 holes, with Clark signing countless autographs throughout.

Clark played the first half of her round with Swedish pro Ludvig Åberg – who labeled her a “rock star” – before she was joined by 2023 US Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson for the final nine holes.

A fellow Iowan, Johnson praised Clark for her “transcendent” basketball talents, but drew particular attention to her character.

“It’s off the court that makes it easy to be a fan,” Johnson, a two-time major champion, told reporters.

“I’m not surprised because that’s the way the university is, and it’s certainly the way Iowans are in general. I just think that’s the way you handle yourself, with integrity and class. But you work your butt off, and if success comes, you’re going to have fandom. It’s just the way it is.

“I can’t speak highly enough about how she handles herself, whether it’s in interviews or just the way she goes about her work. Obviously, she’s had a lot of awards and success, but she always goes back to her team.

“You have to surround yourself around great people, and they’re the ones that deserve at least a heavy dose of that credit, so it’s easy,” he added.

For Clark, it was an opportunity to turn her hand back to a sport she has played since childhood – and still plays occasionally when she has time.

“Honestly, I wasn’t really nervous,” Clark told reporters.

“I don’t get nervous for basketball either – more than anything just enjoying the experience. This is not an off day for me, but it is something I really, really enjoy and love getting to do this.

“It’s just cool getting to interact with all the young kids that were here today and really enjoy being around them. I used to run around golf courses and want to go to golf events when I was a young kid or basketball events, and it can really change your life if they can have one interaction with you.

“Just trying to make as much time as I can to sign an autograph for a young kid or give them a ball or give them a high-five because that goes a really long way.”

The John Deere Classic got underway on Thursday, with Sweden’s Jonas Blixt racing into an early two-shot lead with a scintillating nine-under 62 opening round.

World No. 19 Cameron Young is the highest-ranked player in the field, with American compatriot James Tyree Poston back to attempt to defend his 2022 title.

This post appeared first on cnn.com