Meet ORA Orthopedics Sports Medicine Surgeon: Dr. J.C. Clark
In honor of the John Deere Classic this weekend, meet golf enthusiast and ORA Sports Medicine Surgeon, Dr. J.C. Clark. When he’s not on the fairway, he specializes in arthroscopic and minimally invasive reconstructive surgery of the shoulder, elbow, and knee. Dr. Clark is an avid golfer who loves sharing the course with his three boys.
Hometown: Monmouth, IL
What do you enjoy the most about playing golf?
At this point in my life, it’s about getting outdoors, watching my boys and wife learn how to play, and maybe passing on some old-school wisdom.
Describe your golf game in 10 words or less.
Consistent, routine, boring, vanilla, precise, reliable short game, mentally stable
Driving or putting?
Putting! I understand the machismo that comes with hitting long drives and the statistics with getting the ball closer to the green off the tee. I realize all of this and have done the math. But, there is still something unique about sinking a solid 15 to 20-foot putt for birdie or a 7-foot putt to save a par that can demoralize an opponent.
What’s the best tip you ever picked up on the course?
When I was a freshman trying out for the varsity golf team, I was paired with a senior – who shall remain nameless – but was an accomplished golfer and state champion. I had known him since we were younger on the swimming team. I was playing horribly because the pressure was on me to make the varsity team as a freshman.
He told me to relax and think happy thoughts, but I couldn’t. He asked, “Well, what are you thinking about over the ball?”
I responded, “I don’t know. That tree, my swing, the ball, the hole – everything!”
He said, “No, no, no. You got to think simple thoughts. Be smooth, like me. I think of chilling on the couch and kissing my girlfriend. JC, just think of kissing your girlfriend.” I replied, “Well, I’ve never kissed a girl, and I don’t have a girlfriend.” He laughed, “Well sorry, buddy, you’re screwed.”
I didn’t make varsity that year, but it was a good tip!
Caddyshack or Happy Gilmore?
Caddyshack, for sure. Growing up on a golf course, I know people from my childhood who fit every stereotype in that movie.
What do you love about golfing with your family?
I love watching them get better with time. Exposing my sons to golf and sharing the game with them is so rewarding. Even if they don’t think it is “cool”.
Do your three sons share the same love of the game?
I wish. Golf isn’t cool yet. At least it’s not cooler than baseball and football. Who knows if golf will ever be cool until they get older. I remind myself that I grew up in a unique situation in Monmouth where golf was worshipped. There was an obvious and defined agenda of getting kids to start golfing at a young age and developing them into high school and collegiate golfers.
Furthermore, they had a knack for getting the best athletes to play fall season golf, much to the chagrin of the football coaches. But, I often remind my boys that someday they will see the light and appreciate golf, so they might as well learn how to play now.
Would you share your proudest golfing moment?
Winning the 1995 Illinois High School Golf State Championship with my high school friends was a great accomplishment. We had all played together since we were 9 or 10 years old. If you think about it, the number of hours we had put in on the golf course to reach that point is unfathomable.
What made you decide to become an orthopedic surgeon?
I was too small for the NBA, too slow for an NFL cornerback, too poor eyesight for the MLB, too inconsistent for the PGA tour. What else was there? I love sports, anatomy, and biology, so I combined them to make “sports medicine.” I would love to be a college professor someday, too.
What do you like best about practicing medicine?
It’s spectacular when everything goes right. From the correct diagnosis, the correct decision to perform surgery, the correct performance of that procedure, and the uneventful recovery of a motivated patient to achieve full function. When that happens, it is magical, awesome, and worthwhile.
What inspires you most about your patients?
When a determined patient comes in with a major issue and is willing to go the extra mile to get back to normal. Those highly motivated patients with a goal-oriented mindset are what inspire me to do better also.
If there was one piece of advice you wish your patients would take to heart, what would it be?
The hyaline cartilage you were given as a fetus that coats the end of your bones to make a smooth functioning joint is all you have for the rest of your life. Protect it dearly!