Hamilton Jr. Caden Clark was at his lowest point on May 9.
For a time, he was hurting himself. The marks are still visible on his arms. But on that day, it reached an all-time low.
He drove into a secluded area in the eastern valley and attempted to cut the two major arteries on either leg. He then phoned his closest friend, John, for help, asking him to inform his parents. Later, Kaden was in the hospital and officially started the road to recovery.
“I was feeling very lonely and dissatisfied with my life and golf,” Kaden said. “After that happened, I thought there was a missing link in the chain somewhere. There’s some kind of problem. I almost talked about it.”
“Now, I feel more comfortable in my own skin.”
It was still a struggle. But he was finally starting to see the future in July when his father, Dave, informed him one morning that he had been selected to play this week in the 2022 PURE Insurance Championships, a PGA Tour event held at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Spyglass Hill Golf Course and broadcast live on The Golf Channel.
It gave him purpose. She gave him leadership. He began spending three to four days at a time at the Lone Tree Golf Club in Chandler, where he now works and trains with the Hamilton golf team. It helped him fight the emotions he was feeling just months ago when he was at his lowest point.
Now, with only a few days left until the event begins on September 20th, he’s proud of how far he’s come.
“It really means a lot,” Kaden said. “Over the past few months I’ve had a lot of struggles. So it really means a lot to me to say that I will at least do this. I fell in love with golf for a long time because of the state I was in. It revitalized me.”
Caden was selected for this event through First Tee, a life skills development program that teaches children character through the game of golf.
The program started when he was 8 years old. Dave got to know some of the building blocks and character pillars involved in the show and wanted to share Caden and his older brother Mack.
About a year after he joined, Caden began taking golf very seriously. He moved from training at a comfortable pace to several days a week to better prepare himself for competition. It paid off.
Caden quickly became one of the best golfers in the state. And now, he has something to really show by doing the state championships with huskies and playing on national television alongside a professional. There is a long list of names Caden hopes to play with, including Kirk Triplett, Freddie Couples, and Miguel Angel Jimenez.
He’ll find out who’s accompanying him on Tuesday night, just before the event begins.
“Kirk Triplett’s son went to Brophy, Freddy Coples…His golf swing is an icon when you think of classic golf swings,” Kaden said. “Miguel is just a character like me. I think we are going to have a good time.”
Caden’s selection for this event was based on his personal golf resume, which included history with the game, hours of community service, and his personal growth and development. He described it as “selling himself” to the selection committee.
He was one of 78 players selected and one of four from Arizona—the Millennium’s No. 1 golfer Isabel Junior, Dream City’s No. 1 golfer Christian Jacques Lyman, and Xavier Jr. Lena Dorit.
As a special opportunity, Dave wants his son not to look ahead. He wants him to enjoy the moment and enjoy the spotlight. The results will not be important to him or the rest of his family.
As long as Caden is having a good time, that’s all they care about.
“I’m excited for Caden,” Dave said. “I just like to see him enjoy the experience, not let the pressure get to him and he enjoys it.
“I’m proud of him.”
Kaden is the next in a long line of Hamiltons to excel on the golf course.
The team as a whole won several state titles under coach Steve Kanner, and many went on to play in college and beyond. Kanner referred to Kaden as one of the team’s many “stars”.
His Caden teammates aren’t walking in circles around him and what he went through at the start of the summer. He doesn’t want them to do that.
He is open about his mental struggles, which is one of the reasons why he chose not to wear long sleeves to cover his arms. The team was there as a support system when needed. When Caden was at his lowest point, he entrusted the First Tee and Kanner coaches.
To see how far he has come is special.
“I’m proud of Kaden and I think a lot of that is down to his family’s support and inner desire,” Kanner said. “I am glad to see he has come such a long way. I was surprised and saddened that he was going through it. I am glad he was able to get the help he needed and for me, that takes courage.”
When Caden returns in a week, he’ll dive back into the high school season with the Huskies, who are once again considered the favorites to win the Division I tag team title this season.
Whether Caden continues to golf after high school is still unknown, according to Dave. But that doesn’t matter to them.
Currently, Caden is living in the moment of all he accomplished as a 16-year-old high school student. And he hopes to set an example for others with mental health issues, it’s okay to ask for help.
he did. Even if it was at a critical time.
“I didn’t want to be just another statistic,” Kaden said. “Being able to say that I’ve been in that place and that I can use my story as a kind of platform to say that things can get better is something that feels like a blessing.”