There’s always an element of intrigue to how PGA Tour caddies get to where they are. There is no draft, or formal application process. Very often the men and women who land a bag on tour point to a hybrid of good timing and persistence, with the occasional “No one else was around” thrown in as well.
The journey for Geno Bonnalie, the caddie for Joel Dahmen the last five years, wasn’t much different. The two men grew up near each other in Idaho, and were already friends. But in Bonnalie’s case, there actually was a job application—at least if you count the plaintive email Bonnalie sent Dahmen in 2014 laying out why he was the right man for the job. The email, which Bonnalie shared as part of an candid first-person essay for The Caddie Network about his journey to the tour, is a fascinating window into the player-caddie relationship, and what the two value from each other.
You should read the whole story to understand just how devoted Bonnalie is to go, but as far as takeaways for other prospective caddies, Bonnalie’s missive serves as a decent blueprint.
For starters, it always helps to be unambiguous with your intentions, as Bonnalie does here: “I would like to officially apply for the position of ‘Joel Dahmen’s Caddie’ for the Web.com & PGA TOUR. I have been thinking about this for a long time, and I don’t want to put any pressure on you to hire me, I just want to explain why I would be a good fit for the job and let you decide.”
Then you need to detail why you deserve the job: “I don’t think you realize how much I love golf, everything about it. It literally consumes my thoughts. I promise you that no one would work harder than I would. I will be at the course earlier than everyone, I will be a charting/documenting machine.”
A caddie would also be wise to explain how he won’t put undue financial pressure on the player (extra credit for offering to live out of a Honda Civic) by living frugally: “I already have a plan to get rid of my truck and buy a Honda Civic and modify it to be my house. I have also looked at the schedule and know that there are some weeks where it is over 1,000 miles to the next location. That’s okay. That’s only 16 hours & $125 in gas… easy. I know there would be a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in my future, but I have a way of surviving on nothing. I made it through college, J.”
Of course, just to prove you’re not desperate, you need to make clear you have your own standards as well: “I do have some requirements from you, though, if you do consider me for this: 1. I expect you to give it 100% every week; 2. Never give up; 3. Be completely honest with me at all times.”
To read the email is not be surprised that Bonnalie landed where he did, and it seems to be working out for Dahmen as well. Last season was his best on tour with $1.476 million in earnings, and he’s on pace to exceed that in 2018-19.