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Iowa’s Caitlin Clark shows off golf skills at PGA event

(Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports)

Caitlin Clark is playing through her nerves at the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic Pro-Am, but you wouldn’t know it from her first swing.

The Iowa women’s basketball star drove the ball straight up the middle of the fairway on her first hole Wednesday, showing off the clutch demeanor she honed while leading the Hawkeyes to the national championship game earlier this year.

Ahead of the tournament, she downplayed her skills with a golf club.

“They should definitely stay behind me in case anything goes wrong. I don’t want to hit anyone,” Clark said. “I definitely think when I step up on the first tee, I’ll be shaking and nervous. I’m hopefully going to be hitting them straight.”

The 21-year-old guard played with U.S. Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson, who has won the Masters and the British Open in his career. When Clark was asked to play in the tournament, the answer was a no-brainer — even though she had to get out of a team weight-lifting session in order to play.

“Definitely an easy ‘yes’ — it was just about making it fit into my schedule,” Clark said.

The 2022-23 Naismith Player of the Year drew a large following on Wednesday, with many young fans wearing Iowa shirts with Clark’s No. 22. Clark took every opportunity to interact with and sign autographs for those cheering her on.

“I used to run around golf courses and wanted to go to golf and basketball events when I was a young kid,” she said after the round. “It can really change their life even if they have one interaction with you. Just trying to make as much time as I can trying to sign an autograph for a young kid or give them a ball or high five. That goes a really long way.”

While Clark has had a busy summer — from attending a Taylor Swift concert to winning the Honda Cup for the best collegiate women’s athlete — she’s not taking any of it for granted.

“I’m lucky to get to live this life. I know a lot of people would want to be in my shoes,” she said. “There’s not a day I take it for granted. It goes really fast; I’m going into my senior year already. Just trying to soak in every single moment.”