by Garrett Johnston
Joel Dahmen qualified for his second Open Championship with his T5 finish in the 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Twelve months prior to that, the Clarkston, Wash. native had never even played in a major. But since making his major debut at the 2019 PGA Championship, he has been on a roll. Dahmen went on to play in the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. He played in his first Open Championship in 2019 at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.
Dahmen was a two-time WIAA 3A state champion while attending Clarkston (Wash.) High School, and won the 2007 Washington Men’s Amateur. He played one year for the University of Washington.
His first win on the PGA TOUR in March 2021 at the Corales Puntacana Championship gave him a two-year exemption on the tour.
The 33-year-old missed the cut in the Open in his first appearance two summers ago, and then the 2020 championship was canceled because of COVID, so he’s fired up to get back to the U.K. this July.
“Yeah it’s awesome for me, it was probably my favorite event I ever played in,” Dahmen said of his 2019 appearance at Royal Portrush. “We had so much fun over there. The fans are definitely different. I don’t know if better or more educated is the right word. The vibe over there is just different, especially from a Monday morning when you get in, it’s just incredible. Practice rounds were awesome, just everything about it. I’m really excited to get back over there.”
Dahmen loves the Open, and those associated with the championship (the R&A) seem to like him as well, even commenting on Dahmen’s fun personality and sense of humor.
Dahmen was joined at Royal Portrush in 2019 by his wife Lona and of course his longtime caddie and boyhood friend, Geno Bonnalie.
“The people are the best part of being over there,” Lona said of her time at Portrush in 2019. “They are so nice and easy to talk to. Northern Ireland was great. Our bartender gave us a ride home one night. Joel missed the cut so we went to the most iconic pub there in Portrush and had the best time. It was my favorite place that we’ve ever been. We actually got to stay for a few days after and drove to Galway and made a little trip of it and that was really fun.”
The fifth-year PGA TOUR pro can remember getting up before dawn growing up in Clarkston, eight hours behind, to watch the championship most years as he grew up.
“Yeah I got up early and watched it when I was younger, and I’d wake up around four in the morning to watch the coverage,” Dahmen smiled. “I would get up, watch it, fall back to sleep in the afternoon when it was over. I remember watching a lot of them over the years and I really enjoyed it.”
Any specific Opens stand out?
“Well, when Mark O’Meara won in a playoff in 1998, Jean van de Velde in 1999, I think those stick out the most,” Dahmen said. He would have been only 11 and 12 for those two Opens. “I remember Paul Lawrie came back from 10, 11 shots back to win that one in ’99. And of course I remember Tiger winning three times (2000, 2005, 2006).”
Dahmen is happy to have qualified for golf’s oldest championship again this year.
“I’m super-excited. I’m glad that I locked it up a little earlier this time. In 2019 I was waiting on some world ranking points and things like that,” Dahmen said. He didn’t get into the field until the end of June that year. “This year we can plan a little more and maybe go over a week early and stay a week later and hopefully figure out that schedule.”
As the amicable tour pro heads to Royal St. George’s this year, he will do so with an attitude that embraces links golf.
“I really like links golf,” Dahmen said. “I’m not a bomber so I like using the ground a little bit. I like having to flight shots, having to think your way around a golf course. I definitely prefer that so I like to really think on every single shot and not just whack it in the air and go find it. I prefer that type of golf and hopefully I can play well there.”
It will be his first ever visit to England, as his trip to Northern Ireland in 2019 marked both his and caddie Geno Bonnalie’s first time to Europe.
“It will be so fun to go back, I hear it’s an easy train ride in to London from the course. We’ll certainly check out the city. You know, if we can work it in there we’ll probably hang out in London for a few days (after the championship). We like to take advantage of going to new places, so we’ll look at the map and figure it out.”
(This article previously appeared in the June 2021 issue of Pacific Northwest Golfer magazine.)
Garrett Johnston has written on golf since 2009 and covered 30 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnstonGarrett.