Joel Dahmen’s caddie Geno Bonnalie shares hilarious Tin Cup-like story
If there’s a player/caddie pair on the PGA Tour that has more fun than Joel Dahmen and Geno Bonnalie, well, you’re just going to have to prove it to us.
And he didn’t in the least.
Bonnalie – in an effort to escape his wife and children for the interview – settled into the bottom bed on a bunkbed. He shares that with his wife, while son Hudson has the top bunk, and their baby daughter sleeps nearby. They’re staying in a trailer while building a house.
— Geno Bonnalie (@GenoBonnalie) October 15, 2021
Joked Rathouz, “You’ve got to be one of the few caddies whose sleeping accommodations are actually better on the road than they are at home.”
“Yeah, and that’s not saying much, because I’m a cheap ass when it comes to spending money,” Bonnalie laughed.
— Caddie Network (@CaddieNetwork) January 27, 2022
The conversation moved to Bonnalie’s longtime friendship with Dahmen, which dates to when they were 15 (Bonnalie) and 12 (Dahmen). Bonnalie was looking for a partner in a tournament and decided Dahmen – an excellent junior golfer – would be a great teammate.
“It was a two-man, best-ball tournament,” Bonnalie said. “It was like an hour drive. The plan was to go down there and stay the night. It was an overnight golf trip, which he had never done before. His parents told him, ‘You can play, but you have to pay your own entry fee.’ It was like $100 a man. He was like, ‘OK. I’ll do it.’”
Bonnalie recalls that even at 15 and 12 years old, respectively, the pair was around the lead after the first round.
When the older players went in the bar after Round 1, it was decided that Round 2 would be a two-man scramble skins game with carryovers — $10 per man, per hole with carryovers.
We’ll let Bonnalie take it from here, as this is the point where things got crazy.
“So, we go out there and there’s a couple of birdies on the first hole, so we go to the next hole,” he said. “We finally get to hole No. 4 (all carryovers so far) and Joel makes a 30-footer for birdie on this long par 3 and nobody else made it. So, we got like $40 per man from everybody that was playing. We had stacks of cash and I was like, ‘This is incredible!’”
Rathouz laughed and interjected, “clearly violating the amateur rules at the time.”
“Oh, 100 percent,” Bonnalie smiled. “Yeah. Joel turned pro at this moment at age 12… So, everybody ties hole 5 and we get to hole 6. Ties there. Seven is what it was. It was a par 5 and I hit a nice tee shot and cut off this dogleg. I hit the next one close and make the putt, so it’s an eagle on a par 5 and another three skins. We collected. We eagle the next hole – Joel holed one from out of the fairway. So, we had eight of eight from everyone and they stopped paying us. They were like, ‘those kids have too much money!’ We were literally swimming in 10s and 20s. I don’t remember if we won the tournament or not, but we came home, and I remember Joel’s parents – he has like a pile of cash and I did the same. In the hotel, I remember putting it on the coffee table and counting how much we had. I don’t remember how much we had. I just remember it was piles of money.”
They also talked on Bonnalie’s recently public-revealed nickname of “Laser.”
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So, Rathouz wondered, where did that come from?
“When I was in like third grade, I thought ‘Laser’ was the coolest name ever,” Bonnalie explained. “It was back in the ‘American Gladiator’ days. So, I thought ‘Laser’ was an awesome name and I always wanted to be called that.
“Well, one night – I don’t even know where we were in the country – but we went out dinner with a few pros to this taco stand. They were like, ‘give us your name and we’ll call you when your order is ready.’ I probably had a couple before dinner. So, she says, ‘Name for the order?’ And I go, ‘Laser.’ And I walked away.”
A few minutes later…
“Laser! Your order’s ready!”
“We were with Keith Mitchell and Brandon Harkins at the time, and they thought that was just hilarious,” Bonnalie said. “So, they started calling me ‘Laser’ and it’s really only them, specifically, that call me that. But, somebody asked me what my nickname was and nobody calls me anything other than Geno, so I was like, ‘I guess if I had to choose a nickname it would be Laser.’
“Brian Reed, Matt Kuchar’s caddie, he saw that post and at the Sony – every time I walked by – he’s like, ‘What’s up, Laser?’”
Bonnalie shared so many great stories on the podcast from visiting Dahmen and Nick Taylor in college, his style of caddying, Dahmen’s mindset when he’s in birdie mode, a time club’s went missing during a tournament, buying – and selling – a used Saab on the road, and, among many more, this gem…
“Springfield, Missouri, our rookie year on the Web.com Tour,” Bonnalie said. “We thought – well, Joel thought – we were going to miss the cut. And we didn’t miss the cut.
“This is fantastic. So, there’s this par-3 course in Springfield that’s under the lights. So, we finished up Friday afternoon and we’re like, ‘this cut is going to be really low.’ I think we were 6 under and Joel said, ‘it’s going to 7.’ I’m like, ‘I don’t know if it is. It’s going to be really close, but I think it (6 under) might hang on.’”
From there, Dahmen made his way to ‘The Truck’ where all the scoring operations were handled on the Web.com Tour and started drinking beer with the guys.
Meanwhile, Bonnalie went out to watch other players finish.
“At the time,” he said, “I had 12 cents to my name and I’m just praying we make this cut because maybe we make another $80 on the weekend.”
They make the cut. And that’s where this story takes the kind of turn that would make Roy ‘Tin Cup’ McAvoy blush.
“I find Joel and he’s like four IPAs deep,” Bonnalie remembers. “Which, for Joel, he’s feeling good. I say, ‘buddy, we made the cut.’ He’s like, ‘that’s awesome! Let’s go get some beer and let’s play that par-3 course!’
“So, we go out and find some random dudes on the course and we’re like, ‘hey, can we play with you?’ They were terrible, but they had like a fifth of Fireball with them and we brought some Coors Lights. So, we’re shooting Fireball and drinking Coors Light. Next thing you know, it’s midnight and they shut the lights off. The course is closed and we just keep making laps around there and we became best friends with these guys. We were too intoxicated to drive home, so one of their girlfriends came and got us and took us back to our hotel. Our tee time the next morning is at about 7 o’clock and we shut it down close to 2.”
Once back, Bonnalie immediately set the alarm. When it was time to get up, Bonnalie told Dahmen to get ready for the third round while the caddie ran back to the par-3 course to retrieve the car.
“You need to be ready when I get back,” Bonnalie said, “we’re running late.”
When Bonnalie returned, Dahmen was still sound asleep with their tee time just one hour away. Bonnalie says he picked Dahmen up and put him in the shower.
After a quick pitstop at Waffle House for breakfast, the boys arrived at the course about 15 minutes before their tee time.
“He’s on the range trying to hit trick shots,” Bonnalie said. “He is wasted.”
A few minutes later, Bonnalie is on the tee box. He sees Dahmen on the cart path walking toward him with his cell phone out recording a selfie video.
“He’s like, ‘I was just on the range throwing up. I am so wasted, and I have to play in a professional golf tournament today.’ He sent this to some of his best friends. He’s like, ‘I’m going to shoot 77 and it’s going to be the best 77 of all time.’”
Dahmen was 7 under through nine holes and shot a 9-under 63 that day to leap from a T64 to second place… before the leaders even teed off.
Ultimately, Dahmen would finish the tournament in 10th place.
“Essentially, that kept our Web.com card that year,” Bonnalie said. “I think he finished around 65th on the money list our rookie year and 75 keep their card. So, that was huge. I remember the next time he made the cut, he was like, ‘should we go get blacked out again?’ I’m like, ‘No!’ It doesn’t happen very often, but that’s one of my favorite stories that I’ll never forget for sure.”
You can watch the entire podcast in the video above, or click here to listen.