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James "Bollie" Clark

James "Bollie" Clark

Excitement is everywhere for the 2018 Masters. The top contenders all seem to be playing well and the world’s most famous golfer, Tiger Woods, is ready to play again.

The tournament begins today but Masters week is about more than those four days. The Wednesday Par-3 Contest is a staple and the champion’s dinner on Tuesday night gets more focus than ever.

Amid the pleasantries of one of the world’s most famous sporting events that occurs practically in our back yard, the champion’s dinner brings back memories of an Orangeburg County connection to the Masters that sadly was lost in 2002. Fifteen Masters have come and gone since James "Bollie'' Clark Jr., then a 61-year-old from Holly Hill, served his last day as head chef at Augusta National Golf Club.

In September 2002, Clark, who had held the position at Augusta National for three decades, was shot and killed at his home in Holly Hill. Gone in an instant was a man with an infectious smile, one in whom his community took great pride.

Clark had a fascinating professional career.

A native of Holly Hill, he left the small town after completing Roberts High School in 1960. He went to New York City, where he started his working life taking any job he could find, including dishwashing. From there, he learned cooking secrets from French and German chefs.

Clark's culinary skills grew enough through the years to open the doors to well-known kitchens. His resume included the White Face Inn Resort in Lake Placid, N.Y., the Essex and Sussex in Spring Lake, N.J., the Thousand Dollars Resort in Upstate New York and The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Fla.

In 1973, the founders of Augusta National sought a chef who could create world-class cuisine to satisfy the diverse tastes of members and visitors to the club and its signature event, The Masters.

One of the employees who had worked with Clark in Lake Placid recommended him to then-club President Clifford Roberts. A dinner of prime beef, lamb and Parisian potatoes sold Roberts on Clark.

With his job, Clark was given a cottage just off the third putting green, along with highly coveted playing privileges on what he called "one of the most beautiful inland courses in the world."

Clark could tell stories from Augusta National, including what it's like to play the course in the week following the Masters. He could detail encounters with some of golf's greatest personalities. Yet he was equally at home spinning stories and jokes about the local men he called golfing partners and longtime friends.

It's April in Augusta. Time to tee it up. And a fitting time to remember a man who has his place in Augusta National’s storied past.

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