Clark, Seahawks motivate each other

UNCW coach Matt Clark

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North Carolina-Wilmington men’s coach Matt Clark is much better after a health scare in the fall. His Seahawks are much improved, too.

On Nov. 11, Clark was rushed to the Duke University Hospital with a subdural hematoma (bleeding in the brain), something he originally thought was a simple case of food poisoning.

Shortly after a morning workout with his team and a stop for breakfast, Clark returned home to get ready for the day. While in the shower, Clark fell to his knees vomiting and had periods where he blacked out.

“I called my wife and told her to check on me in about an hour to make sure I was alive,” Clark said. “I told her I felt terrible and thought I had food poisoning and was going to lie down.”

Clark, 35, suffered the same symptoms throughout the day, and by 6 p.m., his wife, Erica, had seen enough and told him to seek medical attention. Clark continued to insist that he just had eaten something that did not agree with him.

A visit to an urgent-care center resulted in a doctor there sending Clark to a hospital emergency room, where a CT scan revealed venous bleeding in the brain. Doctors quickly arranged for a helicopter to transport Clark to Duke, about 155 miles away.

When Clark first heard the news from the doctors, he knew it was serious, but he was just as worried about his team.

Clark does not have an assistant coach, so he knew it would be up to his players to stay on course.

“I told my wife that she needed to call (UNCW senior) Josh Brock, and he has got to make sure he takes care of the intensity at practice, in the weight room and (continue the) community-service projects while I am in the hospital,” Clark said.

Clark spent seven days at the hospital in Durham, and was released only because his in-laws lived close by and he could return quickly if needed. He stayed with his in-laws for three weeks until he was cleared to return to Wilmington. Meanwhile, his team pressed forward.

“It was a scary time because we did not know what was going on,” UNCW senior Michael Taylor said. “We had a team meeting and knew Coach would want us to keep on trucking. We wanted to incorporate that into our practicing.”

The hard work is showing on the course. UNCW opened the spring with victories at the Seahawk Intercollegiate and Pinehurst Intercollegiate, making it a strong candidate for postseason play. The Seahawks are No. 57 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings.

“Coach became stronger from it, (and) we have become stronger from it,” Taylor said.

Clark said he is almost back to normal.

“They worked me back into shape,” he said of his players’ support and hard work. “I feel 100 percent. I know I still don’t have all the energy and strength that I have always had, but I am pretty close. You can’t lie in bed for a month and expect to be at the same speed right away.”

Clark is scheduled for more tests in May, and he is hoping those put him in the clear.

At Pinehurst, Clark walked 18 holes each day. Now he is looking forward to pushing his team to the next level much the way they helped push him back to their side.

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