Deacon “Sportlight”: Clay Stirsman


Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics

Stirsman looks forward to the first home tournament of the spring on Monday.

Christina Denovio, Sports Editor

After claiming his first collegiate title this past weekend, sophomore Clay Stirsman is looking to ride this wave of success into the Wake Forest Invitational at Pinehurst on March 7. The golfer from Carmel, Indiana captured the Wolfpack Invitational on Feb. 7, winning by five strokes in the 41-player field. 

While Stirsman enjoyed his first win in his two years as a Demon Deacon, he is keeping his sights set on the future as he hopes to garner more accomplishments in his college career. With the support of his family, teammates and coaches, Stirsman’s ultimate goal is to play professionally and continue in the footsteps of Wake Forest alumni who have found great success in the world of professional golf. 

Christina DeNovio: When did you start playing golf? 

Clay Stirsman: I would say I started just fooling around with golf when I was three. I didn’t play tournament golf until I was around 10 years old. And ever since then I’ve been pretty serious about it. 

CD: Did you play other sports growing up? What made you choose golf? 

CS: I grew up playing basketball and soccer up until almost high school. I played football for a couple years, as well. My dad played football and was injured a lot, so he kind of steered me towards the golf direction. My mom’s side of the family all played golf, too. I really enjoyed basketball, but I felt like I had a better shot of being a golfer than I did at being a basketball player. 

CD: How did you choose Wake Forest? 

CS: It’s a long process to choose a college. A lot of people go through it. All athletes, obviously, take a lot of visits. There are a lot of different factors that influence your decision. But overall, I liked the proximity to campus for our facilities here, and we have really good coaches. The academic reputation around here is very strong, and the tradition associated with the golf program was big. So that’s kind of how I ended up here, and I’m happy with where I’m at. 

I’d say there are 10 Division I programs that have a reputation for putting guys on the PGA Tour. Georgia, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma — a lot of guys make it out of there. Wake Forest has certainly been one of those with Bill Haas, Webb Simpson, Will Zalatoris and Cameron Young. But, Arnold Palmer for sure is l the guy that kind of made Wake Forest the golf school that it is. Everyone after that was just kind of looking to follow in his footsteps. We have a huge statue outside of our golf house of Arnold Palmer, which is pretty cool to look at every day. 

CD: What’s your favorite part of being on the golf team? 

CS: I would say the camaraderie of our team — we have 11 guys on our team this year. It’s kind of like a family. It’s a very competitive atmosphere in some ways — everyone’s trying to beat the other guy trying to get into a lineup and play at the tournaments. But at the end of the day, we’re lucky to be able to hang out with each other, and everyone respects one another. The team atmosphere that we have, paired with the coaches and the facilities we have is pretty special. 

CD: What does a typical day look like? 

CS: We generally have to get out of class by 1:45 p.m. We start practice around 2 p.m. I’ll go through my classes, whether it’s two or three a day. Then from there, we usually grab lunch somewhere on campus, and then it’s pretty much all practice. We mix it up between structured time and practicing on our own. But we’ll go until 5:30 or 6:00 p.m. 

We’ll probably play two to three times a week. So if we’re playing, we go to Old Town or Forsyth Country Club at around 2:30 p.m. We’ll be done by 7 p.m. and then get homework finished after that. Then, there’s some downtime at the end of the day. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we have workouts 6:30 to 7:45 a.m. with Coach David Bass. Those are the same whether it’s offseason or in-season. 

CD: How did it feel to claim your first collegiate title this past weekend? 

CS: It was awesome. I’m grateful to have played so well this weekend. It was not as big of a tournament as some of the other ones we’ve had, but I was fortunate enough to have an individual spot and play with a few of the other guys. We went down there and had a great weekend. It was not the best weather conditions, but I was able to string a couple good rounds together and fortunately came out with a win. It’s nice to say that I’ve won a collegiate tournament, but I’ve learned a lot from the negative outcomes of the rounds that I’ve had. I’m just trying to stay focused for the rest of the time I have here and see if I can do more. 

CD: What are you looking forward to this season? 

CS: We have Pinehurst next week, which starts on Monday. It’s one of our two home events — we host one in the fall and one in the spring. It’s our first home event of the spring season, but we had the Old Town event in the fall, and so it’d be great to win again. I would say everyone’s got their eyes set on one tournament at a time. It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the future with the ACC Championship and the regionals and the national championship ahead, but we can really only focus on one step at a time right now. 

I do not like to look too far ahead in the future, because in golf, you really can’t control how you’re playing at any given time. So right now I hope I can carry the momentum that I have from this weekend into next week. I’m going to be practicing really hard on the types of grasses that we have here on a facility that are going to be the same type of grass that we’re going to be playing on at Pinehurst. From a team and individual perspective, we want to do as best we can and show our skill levels. 

CD: Do you have aspirations to play professional golf? 

CS: I definitely do. As of right now, it’s kind of always something that maybe is changing, depending on how my golf career is going. I would definitely love to try to play some form of professional golf. I think anyone who wants to play professional golf understands how difficult it is. There’s a growing number of opportunities to play professional golf out there nowadays in a lot of different countries, including the United States. It’s a really challenging process which gets down to a select few. 

I would say that I definitely do want to play. If things turn out to be going in the right direction, I would love to. A lot of guys spend 10 years trying to play professional golf — it can take a long time. I haven’t really thought in-depth about how long I would be willing to try before I get a job and settle down. Right now, my passion for the game remains as strong as it was when I came here, and it’s growing too. So in a perfect world, one day I would play professional golf. 

CD: Do you have anyone you keep in mind or play for when you’re golfing? 

CS: Definitely my maternal grandfather. He’s one of the main reasons why I play golf. My uncle and my grandpa both played golf, and my cousin does as well. My grandpa was a really good golfer, and that was one of the main reasons why my dad put me in this sport. He had seen the career that my grandpa had just on small-level Indiana tournaments back in his time. He’s definitely the reason why I play golf, and I play for him. 

I play for a lot of people, but he’s definitely my role model. Everyone faces adversity, and I’ve certainly struggled in the game. I had a good weekend and played well, but it’s been a lot of up and down over the past couple years of playing the game. My grandpa has pushed me to be better and to play as well as I can in the time I have with the game. 

CD: What is your major? Do you have a dream job for when you’re done playing golf? 

CS: I am an Economics major with a minor in Spanish. Having the Spanish attached to it is really nice — I think it opens a different potential avenue in the future. I’d like to do something in the business world, potentially real estate. I think economics pairs well as real estate because you can understand how the general economy is working and moving in the future. 

I don’t really know exactly which area I’d like to go into. Math is not really a strong suit of mine, so I probably wouldn’t go into finance or accounting. Something in the business world would be great -— maybe international business one day. Anything that deals with relationships I feel is where my best chances would be.