There was little to celebrate for Joel Dahmen in early 2021, but that could change dramatically in Punta Cana.
Dahmen, who shot a 4 under par 68 in the third round of the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, heads to Sunday’s final tied for the lead with local favorite Rafael Campos. Campos, who is from Puerto Rico but calls the Dominican his second home, birdieed the tough par-4 18th from the green to tie Dahmen at 10 under, much to the delight of the small crowd there this week.
Michael Gligic and Danny Willett are a shot back at 9 under and tied for third. Gligic is, like Campos and Dahmen, in search of his first victory on the TOUR.
Dahmen, meanwhile, only made one cut in the 2021 part of this season, a T60 at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. After Thursday’s 67th birthday – only his second round in the ’60s in 2021 – he admitted his clubs bowed badly earlier this year. Although his swing was solid, the ball didn’t fly the way he hoped it would. His trainer in Arizona, Rob Rashell, brought him back to normal.
“I played four weeks roughly, maybe with clubs that didn’t match up properly. And that sucks, obviously, ”Dahmen said. “Things were bad at the start of this year and I felt like I was playing better than I was scoring and we kind of worked on some of those things. Then you work on your swing, you don’t do as much chip and putt, so I knew it was okay, I knew I would wake up someday and it was going to be there.
“I was putting in the time, I was making the effort, I was doing the right things. But golf is really difficult like that.
He said that while the results have been “lousy” so far in 2021, he said he had hit well, and it was shown through 54 holes in Punta Cana.
“I’ve been getting my butt kicked here since the start of the year so it feels good to play well,” said Dahmen.
Dahmen’s third round 68 featured four birdies of the nine windswept at Corales. He admitted his putter had been “hot and cold” this week, but kicked himself after making the turn on Saturday. He saw he was going down the standings, but he felt like, the way he was hitting him, he should move up.
He birdied the No.9s and 10s, added a few more on the two par fives, and saved par on the tough par-3 17th and par 4 18th, after a bad tee shot, to finish.
Dahmen believed he should have been in the World Golf Championship-Dell Technologies Match Play based on his work in 2020 (he was ranked 64th in the world at the end of last year) and although he thought he was going to do it. Take this week out of Match Play was the motivation he needed to play Corales.
Dahmen has been a mainstay of the PGA TOUR since finishing 80th in the FedExCup rankings in 2018. He has improved every year since, finishing 55th in 2019 and 38th last season. This next half decade on Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada until his breakout season in 2014 where he won twice and was player of the year.
The 33-year-old’s journey in professional golf – including beating testicular cancer at the age of 23 – has been well documented, and now he’ll be in the final group Sunday on the PGA TOUR for the first time.
He credits his wife, Lona, for supporting all of his ongoing successes over the nine years they’ve been together. The couple call Scottsdale home and have been married for two years now – Lona documenting much of their travels on her well-followed Instagram account, @TravelEatsAndTreats. She worked two jobs to pay rent when Dahmen tried to get to TOUR and said she has always been a positive influence in her life.
“I just had a tough seven, eight weeks, it’s not that bad, but the way I play – super consistent, do a lot of cuts – you know, it felt pretty bad to me. It’s never as bad as you think, it’s never as good as you think, and Lona has been great to me, ”Dahmen said of her 2021.“ She always hugs me and a kiss and told me to go butt kick, so that was good.
And with Dahmen tied for the lead and 18 holes away from his first PGA TOUR win, there might be an even better reason for a hug and kiss on Sunday night.