Joel Dahmen talks about staying grounded, having best friend and “life caddie” Geno Bonnalie on his bag, and his bucket list round with Tiger Woods.
Announcer: The Golf Show on 710 ESPN Seattle. Jim Moore (00:06): We're talking to Joel Dahmen, straight from Pebble Beach, and Joel just got off the course a little while ago, playing for the first time at the U.S. Open, and Joel, what was the experience like for you? Joel Dahmen (00:17): It was awesome. You know, it was everything you'd hope for in the U.S. Open. The venue could not be better. I mean, I think Pebble Beach and the U.S. Open kind of go hand in hand. And the venue was incredible. The weather turned out great this week. The course is in incredible shape. I just wish my game was a little better. Jim Moore (00:40): Well, Joel, you shot 75, and so today's round was better, though. We're talking to you on a Friday afternoon here. 72, it sounds like things went better for you today. Joel Dahmen (00:50): Yeah. I got off to a rough start on Thursday. I started on the back nine, which that 10, 11, 12 stretch is a pretty tough stretch. And I actually had a problem getting to the golf course. On 17-Mile Drive, one of the buses broke down. So I got inside the gate, there's only a mile from the clubhouse, and it took me 55 minutes to get to the clubhouse, to our locker room area. So I hate to use excuses, but I'm definitely using one. My rough start on Thursday, I just didn't have enough time to warm up. I didn't get a chance to eat. So I made three bogeys in a row to start off the tournament, and when you do that at the U.S. Open, you are quickly behind the eight ball. And really, since then, I played okay. Kinda battled through. Only shot plus 4 in the first round, not great but survived it, and then today, I played much better but my first tee ball of the day, I was aggressive off the first tee, blocked the right, hit a tree and went outbound. Probably only deserve a bogey there, made triple instead, and all of a sudden, I'm pretty much out of it at that point. But I played okay the rest of play coming in and definitely enjoyed my time. Shon Crewe (02:01): But we know U.S. Opens are traditionally set up to be more challenging and of course, it's a major, so it's taking everything to another level, but how noticeably different was the setup, say compared to other tournaments - even the PGA Championship, which you've played in recently? Joel Dahmen (02:14): Yeah, that's a good question. I think because of all the bantering and the players complaining about previous USGA setups and U.S. Open setups that it's pretty easy out there as far as a U.S. Open's concerned. Like you know, from what I've watched on TV the last 15 years, you know, you expect carnage, you expect crazy rough that you can't hit out of, the greens to be so firm and be browned out. And the golf course was a lot firmer on Monday/Tuesday, and they watered them Wednesday evening, so you can actually spin a wedge backwards the last couple of days, which is rare. And the rough is spotty where you can get a really bad line out of the rough, or you can get one where you can advance it on the green from, you know, 175 yards, which is pretty rare. So in that sense, I think it's playing like a traditional tough PGA Tour golf course, but I wouldn't say it's anywhere close to an U.S. Open. So the wind is picking up a little bit this afternoon, so you won't see me going too low, and the pins got a lot tougher today, I think. That's why you won't see anybody shooting probably five or six out there. But to be honest, it was very playable. The biggest difference… we play here in February for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and they change the fairway cuts and the rough line. So much narrower, which is a huge deal for us golfers. You know, that changes a lot, but I thought it'd be tougher out there. And that's funny that I'm saying that because I've shot a million but I probably should've shot a million and a half the way I played. Jim Moore (03:56): (laughs) Joel Dahmen is with us, a former Husky golfer, and Joel, this year's been a great year for you. You're ranked number 81 in the world. There are only 80 golfers considered to be better than you at this point, and I just love your backstory. I mean, look at the year that you're having. Six top 25s on the PGA Tour. I loved the rain delay there at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte. You ended up finishing in second place, and you had an interview during the rain delay and then you discovered, I think the woman asked you like, "What have you found out about yourself?" and you said, "I'm pretty good at golf." I don't know if there's anything about you, Joel, it just seems like you're easy-going and that you have a good, relaxed attitude about where you are in life. Joel Dahmen (04:40): Yeah, I think that's pretty fair to say. I've been through a lot, myself, and my family with health concerns. Man, being from where I grew up in Clarkston, Washington, and a small town, to be on the PGA Tour is just really cool, and then to playing well on the PGA Tour and, you know, my third year out there and starting playing Majors and starting to be around the lead of more events, I don't know if I ever really… I mean, you always dream of crazy things, but you don't really ever think of it, you know, I don't know. You always wonder if it's actually going to happen. So I think being from humble beginnings, my mum's a schoolteacher, my dad works at a pulp and paper mill, this life seemed so far away. And I just really enjoy the opportunity that we have, week in and week out. We get to play the best golf courses around the country for way too much money. And you know, we get to play off on TV, and people are coming out watching us. It's pretty wild to think about how far I've come in the last three or four years, and I feel like back all the way from Clarkston, Washington, which just doesn't really happen. So I definitely appreciate being out here. I don't take it for granted. I think a lot of those guys do, and once you're out here, we are treated so well. We are so spoiled out there on Tour. I think it's easy to fall into the PGA Tour trap. And I have great people around me who don't let me kind of fall into that trap, and they keep me grounded, they keep me humble, then hopefully, there's many more years of this to come. Jim Moore (06:21): Well, it's a little disappointing though, Joel. You would think that somebody who grew up in Clarkston just 30 miles away from Palmer would've gone to Washington State to play golf instead of Washington, but I'm gonna maybe give you a break on that. Joel Dahmen (06:32): Are you baiting me into telling everybody how much I actually like WSU? I mean, they are my second favorite school if that's worth something. Jim Moore (06:40): Second favorite. Okay. Joel Dahmen (06:42): They're a distant second, but they are second. Jim Moore (06:45): (laughs) Have you played Palouse Ridge? Joel Dahmen (06:47): I mean, how do you not like… I have, yeah. I played back in, I think the Washington State Amateur was there in maybe '09, but I played like a pretty big tournament there, and I got to play several other times with some buddies. I think it's a great track and I think that it does great things. When I was being recruited, they were just building that golf course, so I wasn't sure what they were going to have, and it gets cold there in the winter, not that the weather's great in Seattle but the program at UW, which Matt Thurman did, and we had a really good team. Unfortunately, I wasn't there very long, but they had a great team for ten/fifteen years there. So I really enjoyed my time at UW, and I'm definitely a Husky, and I bleed purple, but crimson isn't too far away from the purple. Shon Crewe (07:36): We're talking to Joel Dahmen on The Golf Show with Jim Moore and Shon Crewe. Well, Joel, I know you've said in the past that you don't have goals of wanting to be world number one or winning a green jacket, but as you've continued to experience more success, even with what you've achieved just in this past year, has the needle moved on that at all? Have your goals changed? Joel Dahmen (07:55): Yeah. I'm just going to keep continuing to getting better and continue to work hard and then work hard at what I'm doing, and if that produces, you know, bigger and better things, then great. But there's people out there who, their whole lives have just been almost like locked in on being the best golfer in the world or, you know, winning Majors, and for me, I think I've always just enjoyed the game, I've enjoyed what it's brought to me and brought to my family now and people around me, and I think that if you're going to tell me that I can play in the PGA Tour for another ten/twelve years, fifteen years, I would take that. I've played well enough recently that I need to reset my goals. It was always just to kind of keep my card and just to kind of keep plugging away out here, but I'm playing well enough now. I think my game's at a good enough spot where I do need to re-evaluate, and I need to think about being top 50 in the world and making the Tour Championship and things like that. So I'm going to continue doing what I do, and if that leads to bigger things, then great, but I'm not going to let golf affect my life. I'm not what I shot. I am Joel Dahmen. I play golf for a living, but I'm not a golfer. And I do pretty good at separating those things. I mean I just missed the cut at the U.S. Open, but we're going to go out and hang out and enjoy Pebble Beach, you know when you can, and we're going to have some drinks this evening and we're going to go to a nice dinner and hang out with some family and friends. I don't get too wrapped up in missed cuts and playing poorly because it's just golf after all, and it's not who I am. It's just what I do. I think that I'm doing a pretty good job of keeping them separate. Shon Crewe (09:52) Shane Ryan at Golf Digest did a great story on you last month, kind of a different perspective that you don't normally see in golf, but he wrote about you being a dream pick for his fantasy golf league. I think he even referred to you as a legend. That's gotta count for something I would think, right? (laughs) Joel Dahmen (10:07): Yeah. I was sent that article, I think it was right after I finished second in Charlotte, and yeah, I think my caddie Geno sent me that, and I kinda laughed at it because, you know, you get a lot of friends or buddies or whoever, social media, you know, you guys kinda saying things to you or chirping at you when you don't play well, "Hey, I picked you for my fantasy team this week, you didn't play well," and I was like "Oh yeah, I didn't play well. Sorry I didn't help your $5 bet out. I just cost myself over $100,000. I'm sorry about that." So I mean it is funny how that kind of happens. But yeah, I would say that I've probably been a pretty good value the last year, so I mean I was always kind of bottom of the list, however you need to take it, and it's easy to over-perform when you're already at the bottom. But I think my prices went up recently so people aren't picking me as much. So I need to either play bad again so my value's good or I need to just keep playing better, one of the two. Jim Moore (11:12): Well Joel, what's it like for you? I'm just looking at your official money. You made 1.8 million this year, I mean that's just gotta be mind-boggling to you. Joel Dahmen (11:19): Yeah, holy cow, it really is. I remember my first big check, my rookie, year, I was struggling, didn't make many cuts, you know, was just kind of getting by, and I made almost $200,000 in one week. And I looked at my now wife, she was a girlfriend a couple of years ago, and we just started crying. I mean, we didn't… you know, that's crazy money. My dad had a great job, but it would take him three years to make that. And to make that now, it really is numbing, and it's weird. It's mind-boggling. I never really thought about that, you know, it'd be great to do that. But the other thing is, after taxes and bought a house recently and had a wedding and all that stuff, you realize, I mean it looks real on paper, and it's great, it's not as much as I thought it was going to be if that makes sense. (laughs) It all disappears quickly. But we've done a great job of not changing our lifestyle. I mean we still fly Southwest, we have a Companion pass on Southwest, so we travel that all the time. We only have one car right now at home because we never drive around anywhere. We're just always on the road. So we've done a great job of staying grounded, staying true to who we are. I mean the great thing about making money now is if I can continue to do this over the ten/fifteen years, that means I get to retire earlier, and that means I get to just drink beer and play golf with my buddies during the week when they're all retired, rather than doing it for money. So I'm more about stuffing it away, saving it, and then I can have a bunch of dogs running around my house, and I can drink beer with my buddies. Jim Moore (13:10): (laughs) We're talking to Joel Dahmen, former Husky golfer. He's rocketing to the top of my list. It's a shortlist of favorite Huskies. It's The Golf Show with Jim Moore and Shon Crewe, 710 ESPN Seattle. Well, I guess you can afford to pay me back then, and you probably don't know what I'm talking about, but you were 300-1 at the U.S. Open, and I invested $2 on you, Joel. Do you think you could cover that for me the next time we see each other? Joel Dahmen (13:33): I can assure you that the payment will be in beer, and no actual cash will be traded. So I'm more than happy to pick up the tab, but unfortunately, you will not be getting two actual dollar bills from me. Jim Moore (13:45): Shon, how can you not love this guy? Shon Crewe (13:48): I do. Jim Moore (13:48): I mean, honestly. Shon Moore (13:49): I'm the one that suggested we bring him on. Jim Moore (13:51): (laughs) You play golf, you drink beer, and you love dogs, and you say your dog is cooler than you on Twitter, and you got a black Lab, and you sleep with him, and I just love you. What's your black Lab like? Tell us about him. Joel Dahmen (14:02): Yeah, he's incredible. We were pretty fortunate to get him five years ago now, five and a half years ago, and it was kind of on a whim. I was depressed about my golf game. It was over the winner. And Lana, my now wife, she's like, "Hey, we should get a dog." I'm like, "Hey, that's a terrible idea, but okay, I'll go grab him." So we picked him up, and they told me he was a purebred black Lab. I'm like, "Okay, great." He's a Labradane. This thing is not a Lab at all. He's long, lanky, and he doesn't like water, and he's bad at fetch. I'm like what is this thing. So he's an absolutely goofball, he's perfect for us. We treat him like our kid. He fleeces us. He's 95 pounds. He's super long. So he's on the couch with me every day, sleeps in bed. We take him to the store now. I mean, he does everything with us. So he's our baby, and he's doing well. We miss him when we're on the road. The other thing, if I can keep on making money, then maybe he could travel with us here. Shon Crewe (15:06): Right? Oh, that's great, yeah. Well, Jim and I are both dog lovers, so we can definitely appreciate that. You mentioned your caddie, Geno. You guys seem to have a great relationship. How much has he made a difference in all of this? Joel Dahmen (15:18): Yeah, absolutely. So Geno grew up across the river in Lewiston, Idaho. He's four years older than I am, so we knew each other growing up a little bit. We played some golf together. We'd team up in best ball tournaments. We'd whoop up on the old guys and take their money. We just kind of kept in touch, and he was the assistant pro at Sahalee for a while and realized he probably didn't wanna do that side of golf. He didn't really enjoy being in the golf shop. He loves playing and being outdoors. And for a couple of years, he was off and on with the job at home. He moved back to the valley. And then I got on the Web.com Tour, and he's like, "I wanna come out and caddie." I'm like, "You're crazy. You aren't going to make any money." And after a couple of months, he convinced me. So this is our fifth year now of being together on the road, and I can't imagine doing it with anybody else. I mean, a lot of guys treat caddies as purely as an employee and a business expense and being that way, and I love the fact that my best friend is with me every step of the way. And we bicker like brothers, and we fight like brothers and we also, you know, we enjoy all the good times. I mean, we love him so much that he was our officiant at our wedding in December. We were trying to figure out who was going to marry us and Lona, we just looked at each other, and we said, "Geno." Like he's the only guy who could possibly do it. So 39.99 and a Google search later, he was our officiant. And that just shows how much he means to not only myself but my wife and he's huge for us on the road. He's my caddie, but I call him my life caddie because he does so much for me. You know, he'll take care of flights, he'll make phone calls, tell me to stop drinking, pull me out of the bars when I get in trouble. He does it all for me. Shon Crewe (17:15): Joel Dahmen's with us on The Golf Show with Jim Moore and Shon Crewe. I know one of your bucket list items was to play golf with Tiger Woods, which you had a chance to do last year. What was that like, or more importantly, did it live up to your expectations? Joel Dahmen (17:27): It did. It lived up them, and it was more. It exceeded them for sure. It was so cool. He couldn't have been better to play with. You know, you hear about him kind of back in his glory days in the early 2000s about him, you know, being intimidating and, you know, not talking to his playing competitors or whatever may have been, but he couldn't have been nicer. Chatted quite a bit, he told some funny stories, and it's like playing in a football arena when you're with him. I had never played in front of galleries like that, and just every hole's just enclosed, and it is loud, and it is so much fun to do. It's exhausting. It really is, because that 18 holes felt like it just was never going to end, as far as you're just surrounded by people. They want to touch you. They're always yelling at you. It was a totally different experience. And I played okay, I think I shot one under or maybe two under, kind of hung around. And then the next two weeks were the best weeks of my career because, at that point, I finished fifth the next week and second the following week. So I think that helped me a lot with if you can play with Tiger then you can handle that pressure and that gallery, you can kind of handle the weekend pressure and Sunday afternoon. You know, and what he's done for the game and then, you know, raise our purses so we can play for this ridiculous money, you know, totally changed the game. And then for him to go through all what he went through - injuries and some personal struggles and then to win the Masters again. There is not a single golfer on the PGA Tour who's not happy for him and happy for ourselves for what he does for the game and what he's going to continue doing for the game. Jim Moore (19:11): It's interesting what you have to say about Tiger and playing with Tiger, Joel, but I also have to hear before we let you go - the "HackMasters." You play every year down in Scottsdale with your buddies the weekend of the Masters, and it sounds like it's a good time. You guys are drinking from morning until dusk. It sounds like. Joel Dahmen (19:28): Yeah, it's probably very similar to a lot of people's Member-Guest. It's a full party. If you get caught without a beer in your hand, you're probably going to do some push-ups, or you're going to have to take a shot, one of the two. You're going to have to catch up. But it's a best ball event, so you play best ball one day and then scramble the next, and handicaps, plays just at a public golf course in Scottsdale. I think they had 65 teams this year. It's just a blast. I mean, the weather's perfect. Well ran but also just an absolute party. And some people play golf in between and actually play some decent golf sometimes. So we had a great time, and I think I've done that for four or five years now. Geno's normally my partner, but unfortunately, he missed this last year. But yeah, it's something that we look forward to every year, and I guess if I ever get into Augusta, I'm going to have to figure out how to play in the HackMasters or the actual Masters. Jim Moore (20:25): (laughs) Hey Joel, I'm a mental midget, and I'm just going to admit this to you. I feel like I play better after I've had a couple of beers than when I'm completely sober. Joel Dahmen (20:34): Absolutely. Everyone should, and I do myself. I mean, if you let me have three beers before I teed off and then a beer every three holes throughout the round, I might be top ten in the world. I'm pretty good at that, and it frees you up, you know, if you want to call it swing lube or swing oil or whatever you want to call it, I'm a big believer there, I'll tell you that much. Jim Moore (21:00): (laughs) Do you have anything else for Joel? You know, we've already taken 25 minutes of your time, so we'll let you go and really appreciate it. Shon Crewe (21:06): He needs to go celebrate being down there. Jim Moore (21:07): Well, no, I have one more, though, because did you see on Twitter? It was Rex Hoggard from the Golf Channel. He tweeted out a picture of Joel Dahmen on the range hitting shots in socks. Shon Crewe (21:17): Oh, I did see that. Now, what was up with that? Joel Dahmen (21:18): Yeah. It's a classic like picture with no context, right? It looks like I am doing a drill, I'm actually practicing in socks. I just actually had… I grabbed the wrong shoes going to the range, and I said, "Sorry, Geno, but you're gonna have to go back to the locker room and grab my other shoes." So I was without shoes for about three minutes. Rex happened to take a picture of it and it went out to Twitter. So it looked like there was probably a great story behind that one or I was doing some special drill to make me better at golf, but in reality, I was just dumb enough to put on my tennis shoes instead of golf shoes, and I didn't realize until I started hitting balls. Shon Crewe (21:59): (laughs) Okay, well, (laughs) if that works for you. Joel Dahmen (22:00): Which is pretty standard for me so. (laughs) Jim Moore (22:04): Hey Joel, you're the best. I sure hope we get a chance to meet sometime, and thanks for your time today. Joel Dahmen (22:08): Absolutely. Yeah, thank you, guys. No, I had a great time, and let's do it again sometime. Jim Moore (22:14): I absolutely love him. That's Joel Dahmen, and he's rocketed to the top of my list of favorite Huskies all-time, edging out Jake Locker and Joe Jarzynka. Joel Dahmen did not make the cut, but boy, he's having a good time. He's a guy that admits that he partied himself out of school there at Washington. 31 years old from Clarkston and six top-25s on the PGA Tour this year. Our thanks to him for joining us on The Golf Show with Jim Moore and Shon Crewe. Also, our thanks to our sponsor Fairway Mortgage of Seattle. Your home isn't just a place to live; it's an investment for you and your family's future. Fairway Mortgage of Seattle offers a diverse collection of loan programs and takes pride in meeting your unique financial needs with the most appropriate loan, from conventional mortgages and jumbo loans to reverse mortgages and VA loans. Fairway Mortgage of Seattle does it all. Visit FairwaySeattle.com. Thank you for listening to The Golf Show on 710 ESPN Seattle.