Videos by OutKick
The US Open begins Thursday with all the best golfers in the world converging on Los Angeles Country Club. In addition to the players, caddies need to be on their games in order to help their golfers be successful. Geno Bonnalie, Joel Dahmen’s caddie who gained fame on Netflix’s Full Swing documentary, spoke to OutKick about preparing for the tournament.
Bonnalie explained that for a regular week on Tour, he generally travels to the site Monday and examines the course Tuesday. But for this week, he left a day early. Part of that is because the host of the US Open — Los Angeles Country Club or LACC — is not part of the normal rotation of courses.
“I’ve got a date, so to speak, on Monday morning with a good player and a member at LACC,” Bonnalie told OutKick. “And, we’re going to grab my yardage book and go for a walk.”
I asked Bonnalie what he does as he traverses a golf course prior to an event.
“We’re going to walk around and speculate where all the pin positions are going to be and where you hit it to certain pins where you can miss,” he said. “We try to determine which pins we can be aggressive with and which ones we need to be cautious about.”
One thing that I, personally, always wondered about: who provides the yardage books and what do caddies do with them? Bonnalie explained that there is a guy who makes the books for each course.
Then, I wondered if he marks the books up with his own notes. He said that for easier courses, he doesn’t need to do as much. Often, the yardage book is enough to go off of.
But for tough courses like LACC, he needs to see it a few times and make notes in his book.
“Getting slopes around greens is very important,” Bonnalie said. “Sometimes — when you go to a difficult, tricky golf course — you might look at a yardage book and go, ‘Oh, this is what you do on this hole.’ But, you see it in real life and it looks totally different.
“Trying to get a feel and an understanding of what’s actually in front of you instead of just on the piece of paper in your yardage book is important,” he explained.
As important as the pre-tournament prep work is, nothing prepares a player for the atmosphere around a major golf tournament. The only way to understand that, truly, is to face it.
Joel Dahmen finished in a tie for 10th last year at the US Open, so he and Bonnalie understand that pressure.
“There are certain events during the year that feel like a major and have that kind of vibe,” he said. “But there are way more people at the majors and there’s a buzz and an energy with the gallery that you don’t get on a weekly basis.”
Despite the challenges of preparing for and competing in major golf tournaments, Bonnalie says there’s nothing like it.
“Just the fact that every best player in the world is there adds this level of excitement and it’s just awesome,” Bonnalie described. “There’s this energy that’s unmatched by most other events.”
He then explained that he actually prefers the tough courses, at least from the perspective of his responsibilities.
“I absolutely love what I do,” Bonnalie said. “Being able to go walk a golf course and try to learn it is my favorite part of the job. And, to me, the more difficult a golf course is, the more I enjoy caddying, because I feel like you have to strategize your way around it.”
Bonnalie isn’t just a great caddie — he’s a great golfer. His handicap index is positive. I actually looked him up on the GHIN app; he’s a +0.5.
For guys like me — I’m an 18 by the way — that’s absurd. And he said that he actually drives the ball only slightly less than PGA Tour-average distance.
He told me he holds the course record at his home club, Lewiston Golf and Country Club (Idaho), with a round of 61.
Yet he said he’s nowhere NEAR good enough to even sniff the PGA Tour.
“Not even close,” he said definitively. He said that he often plays Dahmen in money games back home. And Dahmen gives him two shots per nine holes, four strokes per round. That seemed low, for a PGA Tour pro, which made me wonder why Bonanlie believed himself so far from reaching that level.
“If you put that in a tournament perspective — two shots per [nine holes] over four days — that’s 16 strokes,” he explained, which made a lot of sense.
I already knew I would never be a PGA Tour player, but our conversation cemented that.
To wit, Bonnalie actually had the chance to play Oak Hill Country Club, the site of this year’s PGA Championship, on Monday after the tournament.
He said he shot an 85. For reference, no player who made the cut shot worse than 79 in any round. Champion Brooks Koepka shot 67 during the final round.
Again, Bonnalie is a scratch golfer who drives the ball slightly below PGA Tour average. And he shot an 85 on a major championship golf course. I can’t imagine that someone like me — a mid-handicapper — gets out of there shooting better than 140.
That gives some idea to just how ridiculously hard these courses can be, like this week’s US Open at Los Angeles Country Club.
In addition to caddying for Joel Dahmen, Bonnalie recently partnered with the underwear company SAXX, which provides gear for him. I jokingly asked him if he always wanted to be an underwear model.
“That never crossed my mind. Not even a little bit,” he said with a laugh.
SAXX is providing several caddies, including Aaron Flener (J.T. Poston), John Limanti (Keith Mitchell) and Joel Stock (Will Zalatoris), with gear this season.
Plus, they’ve committed to donating $100 to the Testicular Cancer Foundation for every birdie made by the caddies’ players.
Lastly, I asked him about his relationship with Dahmen. As shown in the Full Swing documentary, Dahmen and Bonnalie are best friends. Their relationship is unique in that they’re often not as serious on the golf course as other pairings.
However, Bonnalie says that he and Dahmen have struck the perfect balance for their relationship on-the-course.
“I think being able to poke fun at one another and have fun on the golf course is maybe what sets us apart, Bonnalie said. “But when it’s time to be serious, we are serious.”
They were quite serious last year when Dahmen held a share of the 36-hole lead at the US Open. He didn’t win, but his tie for 10th place earned him $400,000 and a nice bonus for Bonnalie.
The pair begin their quest to repeat — or best — last year’s remarkable US Open run on Thursday morning at 8:24 a.m. local (Pacific) time at Los Angeles Country Club.
Follow Dan Zaksheske on X – formerly known as Twitter: @RealDanZak