In The Swing of Things

Netflix ‘Full Swing’ episode featuring Denver native Wyndham Clark and Joel Dahmen provides plenty of revealing behind-the-scenes nuggets; it’s one of the highlights of season 2

By Gary Baines – 3/13/2024

One way or another, Wyndham Clark seems to be soaring in the rankings. 

Coming off a runner-up finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational — and a month after picking up his third PGA Tour victory of the last year, including the U.S. Open — the Denver native now sits a career-best fifth in the World Golf Rankings.

Meanwhile, his backstories also seem to be among the best. For instance, the episode in which Clark and Joel Dahmen share the spotlight during the Netflix docuseries “Full Swing” was rated the best of season 2 by Golfweek. In fact, the publication added the notation, “the best by far” of the eight episodes released last week.

Golf Digest hit a similar note, calling the show on Clark and Dahmen the “single best episode ‘Full Swing’ has ever made.”

Clark, a 30-year-old impending Colorado Golf Hall of Famer who graduated from Valor Christian and cut his teeth at Cherry Hills Country Club, was asked last week about the reaction he’s gotten about his/Dahmen’s Full Swing episode, entitled “Mind Game”.

“Thus far, the only thing I really know is from my friends and family, and they all gave me great feedback,” Clark said. “They said they were pretty emotional and loved it. So all good stuff thus far.”

For golf fans, there’s plenty of entertainment and storytelling value from episode 3 regarding Clark. Besides his considerable improvement starting last year — a run which included his first PGA Tour victory (last May at the Wells Fargo Championship) and his first major championship win (at the U.S. Open in June) — there’s the story of what he’s overcome and just how he made the jump from very good to one of the best. (During the course of 2023, Clark went from being ranked outside the top 150 in the world to inside the top 10.)

Specifically, Netflix and Clark delve into him dealing with the death of his mom, Lise — due to breast cancer — in 2013. Also examined closely is him taking a big leap with his game by dealing head on with a pattern of negativity and some anger that had set in. Reluctantly at first — and only after an intervention of sorts by his team — Clark started working with a sports psychologist, Julie Elion, to very good effect. Elion also helps Justin Thomas and Max Homa, among others, and has worked with Phil Mickelson in the past.

The episode is emotional at times, with Clark getting choked up at one point while discussing his mom, bowing his head and covering part of his face with his hand.

“My mom was also the nurturing one that was always there to pick me up in more of a positive way and made me feel better,” Clark said to the Netflix cameras. “She cared so much about what we were going to do in our life. When she did pass I kind of lost that. For a while I didn’t have anyone to ever talk to about anything other than golf, sports and the weather — whatever B.S. that people talk about that doesn’t have any meaning in life. 

“When she was on her death bed, she said, ‘Wyndham you are very special and you are going to do great things in golf.’ She said, ‘I want you to play big.’ That was her theme and mantra. That’s really become kind of my mantra — (a) thing that I live by.”

A photo of Clark and his mom, Lise, that appeared on “Full Swing”. (Netflix)

As for Elion, though Clark admits he was reluctant to start using a sports psychologist, he did so starting in December 2022. And it didn’t take long for positive results to kick in as he recorded three top-6 finishes in March and April of last year. Then he really broke down the dam by notching three PGA Tour victories in the last year, including a major title.

For career Tour win No. 1 at the Wells Fargo Championship, “I went to Quail Hollow and it all matched up,” Clark said. “I get chills thinking about it … finally winning. I’m like, ‘All right, this stuff actually works.’”

“Full Swing” shows the steps along the journey, with particular focus on the U.S. Open victory and the immediate aftermath. It’s telling that at that U.S. Open in Los Angeles — where the final-round leaderboard also featured Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler, Cam Smith and Rickie Fowler, among others — Clark admitted taking a bit of an “us vs. them” approach.

“I probably had the least amount of fan support,” he said. “It kind of gave me a little chip on my shoulder. I wanted to prove them wrong and show them I’m the guy they should be rooting for.”

At the end of the day, after Clark parred the final hole at L.A. Country Club to win the national championship, Netflix caught a touching moment, when playing partner Fowler leaned in toward Clark and tells him, “Your mom would be really proud of you.”

With three PGA Tour victories in the last year, it’s been an exciting time for Clark. (Netflix)

In “Mind Game”, Clark is quick to note how the trajectory of his career swiftly changed — and one of the key reasons why.

“I’m so glad she was brought into my life,” Clark said of Elion. “Julie gave me a new mindset and a new outlet. … You look back five or six months and you can kind of go, ‘Wow, it’s amazing how far I’ve come.’

“Pretty much all the way up until (2023) I’ve always felt and feared that bad things are going to happen more than believed that the good things are. But now I truly have a belief that good things are going to happen. I’m reminded of my mom saying you’re going to be someone great.”

Said Elion on the show: “Seeing Wyndham connect the dots, I felt I was in the presence of something magnificent. He just got to see how amazing he was (and) if he applied himself he could make his dream come (true). It worked.”

So why is Clark’s story in this Full Swing episode paired with Dahmen, who gained significant fame by being featured on season 1 of the Netflix series? It’s because of their life and career paths, some of which parallel one another, others that are divergent. For instance, both of their moms died of cancer when they were young men, and some of the people closest to them thought they could benefit from working with a sports psychologist. (Dahmen was even more reluctant than Clark to engage on this subject, though he finally gave in, apparently.)

Whatever the case, the episode works, both golf-wise and on a deeper level. Especially for viewers not particularly familiar with Clark and Dahmen, “Mind Game” can be revealing and insightful at times.

About the Writer: Gary Baines has covered golf in Colorado continuously since 1983. He was a sports writer at the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, then the sports editor there, and has written regularly for since 2009. The University of Colorado Evans Scholar alum was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 2022. He owns and operates