Turlock High features a brother-sister golf duo lighting up the Central California Athletic League and youth circuit. Sophomore Clark and freshman Savannah Van Gaalen have been swinging clubs ever since they can remember and both have aspirations to play golf at a high level moving forward.
Clark has been playing in the Kids World Championships since 2017 and has come away with first place finishes in the last two years at Pinehurst in North Carolina. Last year he was able to perform just as well in the CCAL and earned league MVP honors, team MVP, first team all-league and his varsity letter. Clark was also named the Junior Golf Association of North California Player of the Year in 2021 and 2022. In the 2020 and 2021 seasons, he won 17 out of 29 tournaments as the overall champion in the 14-18 age division. He placed seventh out of 43 players in the American Junior Golf Association, which is the No. 1 junior tour in the US.
“The big reason why I enjoy it is being able to compete,” said Clark. “Going out there and playing against people that are better than you makes you better and makes you want to work harder. When you play well it’s a confidence boost and makes you want to play better.”
Clark has been playing golf competitively since he was six, while Savannah got in the game a little later at 12. She has hit the golf course with a passion and has already left a mark on the girls golf team at Turlock High.
Savannah was one of the leaders on the team that took home a league championship this fall and earned first team all-league honors, as well as her varsity letter. In the first event of the fall season, she placed individually with a 75 at the Merced Country Club. She also helped the team finish first in over 10 areas of team competition.
“I love the challenge of it and meeting new people,” said Savannah. “I got to meet a lot of new friends and playing this sport with people I get to know is awesome.”
Clark's favorite course is Pinehurst, where he feels really comfortable and is where a lot of great golfers converge. Savannah’s is the Reserve at Spanos out in Stockton. Some golfers Clark likes watching play on tour are Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson, while Savannah follows Lexi Thompson and Jordan Spieth.
Both the Van Gaalens enjoy playing for the Turlock High golf team and have made strong relationships during their time there.
“The coach (Jason Boswell) is always there to help you, not only in school, but in life in general,” said Clark. “I have known the team my whole life and it’s nice going to matches and practices with those guys.”
“My coach (Mary Krupka) always encourages me to go out as a team and supports us,” said Savannah. “The team is really nice, sweet and they’re always ready to play.”
Both are hoping to play golf at a Division I college after high school and possibly join the professional tour. Recruiters will be able to reach out to Clark on June 15 and he is hoping to receive scholarship offers.
Turlock High hasn’t seen the last of the Van Gaalens, because the youngest brother Carter is 12 and following in the footsteps of his brother and sister. He was the Central Valley U.S. Kids Tour champ for fall 2020 and winter 2021, which earned him an invitation to the U.S. Kids World Championships in Pinehurst, North Carolina in the summer 2021, where he placed second in the 11-year-old division.