‘It’s actually really cool’: A caddie, his hat and a rare, wonderful gesture

Joel Dahmen, left, and caddie Geno Bonnalie in May at the PGA Championship.

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Geno Bonnalie, after his rounds nowadays, will basically get one of three reactions. We’ll start with the one from his fellow caddies. 

They tease. 

“I get a lot of s**t from fellow caddies, for sure,” he said on the most recent Get a Grip podcast

How so?

“Oh, there’s a lot of them coming up to me with their hats and a Sharpie and be like, would you sign this for me?” Bonnalie told host Shane Bacon. “You know that, and I’m just like, gosh, I know it’s bad.”

And there are the other two reactions.  

Let’s talk Bonnalie first, and his pro, Joel Dahmen. You probably know them already. In Dahmen’s 13 years as a pro, they’ve carved out a good career. One PGA Tour win together, at the 2021 Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship. A pair of runners-up. Over $10 million in prize money. But it was a spot on Netflix’s Full Swing where they really took off. They were personable. Real. They became bigger stars. 

And that doesn’t really happen in the caddie world.  

“This Netflix effect, this Full Swing effect, you know as a caddie, your job is to not be in the limelight,” Bacon said on the podcast. “Your job is to kind of sink behind your player and kind of be in the shadows and not be famous, right. I mean, Fluff [caddie Mike Cowan] was famously let go by Tiger [Woods] because he was becoming too famous, right. He was becoming too notable. Has it been strange for you being a noticeable person on the golf course after that series came out and people started to watch it?”

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“Yes, it has been strange,” Bonnalie said, “and I also understand that if — well, maybe this isn’t true, but this is the way that I think of it in my head — if Joel was to ever fire me, or Rory [McIlroy] calls me next week — he’s like, Geno, I want you to caddie full time — I don’t think my presence on social media can be what it is right now, or in the spotlight. Because Joel is a special person to work for, and he’s just so laid back and accepting of all of this hoopla that goes with being on Netflix. 

“And it works really well.”

Then there are the post-rounds. Folks there have now started to ask for Bonnalie’s autograph. And his fellow caddies have had their fun with that afterward. Bonnalie is a bit embarrassed by it all. Pre-Netflix, he guessed he signed one autograph, when someone mistook him for a player. 

After the show, the number has been in the hundreds. 

“I don’t know what to do,” Bonnalie said on the podcast, “and people are so nice and they’re so supportive of us and I want to show that respect and if there’s a kid that wants Geno’s autograph for whatever it may be, to give that to him, but people see that and definitely give me a hard time for it.” 

“But also what is Geno supposed to do?” Dahmen said. “Like, people are asking him for his autograph — is he going to be like, no, I can’t; my boss tells me not to? 

“It’s just not who he is.”

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And there are the other two reactions.  

Kids have also asked for Bonnalie’s autograph. He’s obliged in nearly all cases. You can imagine the happiness. 

And then there’s their reaction when he asks for theirs. You can imagine the joy. 

It’s simple. It’s memorable. It’s wonderful. It’s rare, but maybe Bonnalie will start a trend.  

Here’s Bonnalie and Dahmen’s telling of it:

“The other thing Geno’s done that’s really cool — and you can tell this story better than me — but someone, when he was really little, he went to a golf tournament, his first one maybe, and someone asked him to sign his hat,” Dahmen said on the podcast. “And now Geno will have kids sign his hat. So he wears a PXG hat with just these random kids’ names all over it, and you can barely read them, but he does it almost every week and it’s actually really cool. 

“Yeah, if there’s a little kid that asks for mine, I always try to reciprocate,” Bonnalie said on the podcast. “I started trying to get white hats exclusively. 

“That way you can see their names when they write it.”

Editor’s note: To listen to the entire Get a Grip podcast with Bacon, Dahmen and Bonnalie, please click here

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Nick Piastowski

Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor

Nick Piastowski is a Senior Editor at Golf.com and Golf Magazine. In his role, he is responsible for editing, writing and developing stories across the golf space. And when he’s not writing about ways to hit the golf ball farther and straighter, the Milwaukee native is probably playing the game, hitting the ball left, right and short, and drinking a cold beer to wash away his score. You can reach out to him about any of these topics — his stories, his game or his beers — at nick.piastowski@golf.com.