Fear a factor in Joel Dahmen’s fall success
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Written by Sean Martin @PGATOURSMartin
Joel Dahmen cards birdie at The RSM Classic
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Joel Dahmen has earned nearly $10 million on the PGA TOUR. He’s kept his card for five consecutive seasons, won for the first time in 2021 and contended at this year’s U.S. Open.
Yet Dahmen admits that he was afraid at the start of this season. Why? Because if playing professional golf is akin to tightrope walking -- both professions have severe penalties for those on the wrong side of small margins -- then Dahmen embarked on the 2023 season without a safety net.
The two-year exemption that Dahmen earned with his win at last year’s Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship expires at season’s end. He’ll have to earn his return to the TOUR for 2024, and if there is one thing that Dahmen does not want to do it is lose his TOUR card.
“I’m scared to death of having a job,” said Dahmen, whose vocational experience includes working at a golf course and as a valet.
“Golf is very hard and it can go sour quickly,” he added. “Teeing it up in Napa (in September for the season-opening Fortinet Championship) was like OK, we're back at square one. If you don't play well, you don't have a job. I was very aware of that.”
Dahmen doesn’t have to dust off his resume quite yet. His quest to keep his TOUR card is off to a good start. He arrived at Sea Island ranked 19th in the FedExCup, including top-10s in his previous two starts. He’s made his last five cuts and four of those finishes have been T16 or better.
Dahmen also is just a shot off the lead at The RSM Classic’s halfway point and in good position to earn another of those coveted two-year exemptions.
He opened this week with a 67 on Sea Island’s Seaside Course and a 64 on Friday at the Plantation. Dahmen played the first two rounds with FedExCup leader Seamus Power, another player who’s saved his best golf for his mid-30s. They offer a stark contrast to the young studs on The RSM leaderboard, such as Sahith Theegala, Cole Hammer and Chris Gotterup.
Hammer and Gotterup are both competing on sponsor exemptions after turning pro earlier this year. Gotterup was this year’s collegiate player of the year, while Hammer is a former No. 1 in the world amateur rankings who made headlines after qualifying for the 2015 U.S. Open at age 15. Theegala was college golf’s top player just two years ago and is coming off a rookie season that concluded at this year’s TOUR Championship.
Dahmen and Power first met during their freshman year of college, so along ago that the course they were playing (Arizona State’s Karsten Course) no longer exists. They both spent several years on the mini-tours before making it to the Korn Ferry Tour, then waited a few more seasons for that first TOUR title.
Now one of them could start 2023 atop the FedExCup standings. Power currently holds that position after earning his second career TOUR win at last month’s Butterfield Bermuda Championship and then finishing T3 in the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba. Power is just four off the lead at The RSM after shooting 66-68.
“I'm like, if I can keep up with Seamus it means I'm probably in a really good spot today,” said Dahmen, who’s 35 years old. “It wasn't so much competition, it's like, hey, this guy's kind of leading right now and he's ahead of the game, so if you can hang with him, you're probably going to be in a good spot.”
They were tied with four holes remaining Friday, but Dahmen made three birdies while Power played those holes in even par. Dahmen said his ability to convert some breaking short putts on Sea Island’s slick greens was one of the most satisfying parts of his play this week,
“I've been improving a lot on my putting. Stats aren't showing that, but I promise it's improving. My short game's improved a ton this fall,” Dahmen said. “Obviously this fall's been really good for me, but I think my best golf is in front of me, yes.”
Fear can be a great motivator.
Sean Martin manages PGATOUR.COM’s staff of writers as the Lead, Editorial. He covered all levels of competitive golf at Golfweek Magazine for seven years, including tournaments on four continents, before coming to the PGA TOUR in 2013. Follow Sean Martin on Twitter.