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Geno Bonnalie’s PGA Tour journey with best friend Joel Dahmen: Behind the scenes

The caddie we got to know in episode 4 of Netflix’s golf docuseries, tells us about his day-to-day on the PGA Tour and how he’s dealing with his newfound fame

Joseph McMahon
Joseph McMahon
Geno Bonnalie Ball Master

The episode on Netflix was about Joel Dahmen, but what’s a pro golfer without his caddie? In this case it’s also his childhood buddy. They’re like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, but the caddie is the eternal optimist, while Dahmen tries to keep his feet on the ground in the appropriately named episode “Imposter Syndrome.” Nobody believes in Joel more than his caddie and nobody is more realistic about winning on the PGA Tour than Dahmen himself

In the Netflix episode Joel comes across as a humble guy, almost too much so.

That’s definitely the way he is. A few guys we’ve played with he said, “This guy is just better than me.” The time we played with Xander [Schauffele] in Memphis he said “I can’t beat this guy, he’s incredible.” He said the same thing about Rickie Fowler at Quail Hollow a few years back, “Rickie’s just unreal.” He appreciates good golf too. He knows he’s really good, but he’s not afraid to say when he thinks somebody’s better than that.

The best players expect to be the best and expect to beat everyone

Geno Bonnalie

After the US Open last year [2022], the one we saw on ‘Full Swing’, you’d think he’d be confident and say I can compete with these guys.

And I think that’s in there a little bit. Looking back it was kind of a down weekend for us with the putter. We let a couple get away. Maybe we judged some irons kind of poorly out of the fairway with some wedges. Looking back we really could have won that golf tournament. It’s really hard to win and obviously a major is ten times harder with that pressure. He’s got the game. I think a hard golf course suits him best. We’ve had all of our best finishes at difficult setups.

On May 2 you sent a tweet to Tiger Woods, has he got back to you?

I mean who doesn’t want to caddie for Tiger Woods? No, unfortunately, he hasn’t gotten back to me. I’m still waiting for that phone call. I’m not going to hold my breath.

What did Joel have to say for that? You wouldn’t leave Joel would you?

For Tiger Woods, yes. But not for a lot of other people. I think Joel would retire from professional golf to caddie for Tiger Woods. That would be a dream come true. We had the privilege of playing with him a few years back at the TPC Potomac in Maryland and that was such an awesome day.

Speaking of a possible job change, I’ve seen you’re modeling underwear these days, how’s that going?

SAXX underwear took a chance on four of us bum caddies. We filmed the week of the RBC at Hilton Head. It turned out really good. I think everybody was happy. They set the bar pretty high for their first commercial, I don’t know if they can top that.

You were on the PGA Tour Live at the Valspar Championship. You’re a natural in front of the camera, that was really good.

I appreciate that. Joel was listening to it and he was like, “dude, you did a really good job.” I thought it was really fun. I thought it helped that I still am a caddie and so I have that relationship currently. A lot of caddies may leave caddying and go into that side.

The friendships are still there, but the weekly stories stop and things like that stop. To be able to caddy while doing that, I think that would be the dream, but coordinating it and making it feasible, I don’t know if it’s an option. But getting on for 45 minutes with John Rollins I had a great time and I’d love to do it again.

You talk a lot about the problems with accommodation that you’ve had as a caddie. The post pinned on your Twitter account talks about a dive you stayed at.

That one kind of went viral on me. I wasn’t expecting that. I almost didn’t even post it. I woke up to messages from guys like Scott Van Pelt. That one got some traction. I’m a pretty cheap individual or frugal, I guess. I don’t like spending my money on housing and I stayed pretty cheap that night.

So, how about the caddie house in Los Angeles where you guys are staying for the US Open?

I am pumped for that. They [SAXX Underwear) sent us a link, it’s incredible. It’s a tough week for a caddie. It’s so expensive in LA, it’s nutty, but they spoiled us for sure. We’ve got an association that sends out housing information, but a lot of the guys are struggling to find a place.

You’re a pretty good golfer yourself, how often do you get out and play?

Not enough. The weeks I’m home, I tend to be working on the house. My wife keeps telling me to go play golf, but I’m only here for a few more days and I tell her she needs a driveway so I don’t have time to play golf. I probably play when I’m home once a week. My expectations are still really high.

How’s it going with the new-found stardom? That’s got to be a radical change the last couple of months.

It really is. Our galleries are much bigger than they used to be. Joel is getting pulled in a lot of directions for off-course stuff and has a lot of opportunities to do speaking engagements and outings so that’s great for him. I’ve done a few myself and I don’t know if this SAXX deal wouldn’t have come to be without the Netflix thing. It has definitely changed things.

We’re supposed to be doing some things with Season 2. They filmed us quite a bit so far this season and a lot of the week of Zurich when we were paired with Denny McCarthy in the two-man event there. I wore a microphone all week and we had the cameras with us and did some off-course stuff with them so hopefully a T-11 at Zurich isn’t the highlight of the year.

We’d like to do something great between now and the Tour Championship and slip into the top-50. We’ve got a ways to go still, but it could all change in one week, though.

To finish up Geno, what’s your favorite golf movie?

That’s such a tough one. I remember when ‘Happy Gilmore’ came out as a kid. I died laughing. I was young enough to find the humor in it. I’m going to go with ‘Happy Gilmore’.


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