It was 45 degrees, raining and windy when Joel Dahmen teed off Thursday morning at the Times Colonist Island Savings Open, the first event on the Canadian Tour.
The conditions didn’t faze Dahmen, a two-time state prep champion from Clarkston and winner of the 2007 Washington State Amateur. He’s a year removed from his last chemotherapy treatment for testicular cancer and regular check-ups show he’s cancer-free. His improving game resulted in a third-place finish on the money list on the Gateway Tour’s winter series in Arizona.
“I’m feeling great,” Dahmen said in a phone interview Thursday from his hotel room in Victoria, British Columbia. “I have a pretty good perspective, even when it’s not going well. We’re not stuck in the office and we get to see the world playing golf.”
The Canadian Tour includes a number of young players who have made their mark in our region. Dahmen had dinner Thursday night with Craig Leslie, who finished his prep career at Ferris and played at UCLA, and Joe Panzeri, a product of Mountain View High in Meridian, Idaho. Panzeri and Dahmen were teammates at the University of Washington.
Ex-Huskies Brock Mackenzie, Nick Taylor, Zachary Bixler and Chris Killmer also compete on the Canadian Tour. Dahmen played at UW as a freshman, left for academic reasons and turned pro in January 2010.
“It’s a great group of guys,” Dahmen said. “We all split hotels, play practice rounds together. We travel in packs. We ask for dinner reservations for 10.”
Dahmen still calls Clarkston home, but he’s rarely there.
“It’s a place to dump off my clothes,” Dahmen said. “I don’t own anything except my car, clubs and clothes. I drive down to Arizona every winter, stay with a buddy, and drive back when I need to.”
He used to drive to several events on the Canadian Tour, but with $34,000 in Gateway earnings and a supportive sponsor, he decided to fly this year. He figures the $150 one-way tickets are cost-effective, considering gas runs about $6 per gallon in Canada.
The top two on the Canadian money list receive an exemption into the second stage of Qualifying School. The top five money-winners through the first five events qualify for the Canadian Open, a PGA Tour event. Canadian Tour regular Adam Hadwin, of Abbotsford, B.C., finished fourth in last year’s Canadian Open and also was 39th in the U.S. Open.
“I don’t think people realize how close the (Canadian) tour is to the PGA,” Dahmen said. “Adam made nearly $500,000 in five PGA events last year. Normally, four or five guys go from this tour to the PGA and maybe 10 more go to the Nationwide.
“There’s a ton of guys that have gone through the Canadian Tour.”
Dahmen said tournaments follow a similar format to a PGA Tour event with practice rounds Monday and Tuesday, a Wednesday Pro-Am, followed by a 72-hole tournament with a cut after two rounds.
He hopes to build on his run of strong play in Arizona.
“I’ve always hit the ball pretty well – everyone up here hits it well,” Dahmen said. “It’s just a matter of who can chip and putt. I worked hard on that in the offseason. I hit two fairways and eight greens (Thursday) and I felt like a 15-handicap off the tee, but I shot even par. The other thing you learn is to miss in the right spots.”
Some of the learning takes place away from the course.
“My first year out here I’ll be the first to admit I was traveling and it was so much fun,” said Dahmen, who shot 74 Friday and was in danger of missing the cut. “I did OK, made about half the cuts, but I was definitely more into the fun side of things. You’d miss a cut and go out Friday and Saturday night.
“But the group I’ve been around, we realize what we want and there’s a lot less of that going on than a few years ago.”
For now, Dahmen is content working on his game to reach loftier objectives down the road.
“We’re not making a lot of money,” he said. “If we break even on the Canadian Tour we’re having a pretty good year, but we’re also working toward a goal. It is a ton of fun. I hang out with five to 10 of my best friends. And I get to play golf.”