Walking With Tigers

Published on Thursday, May 3rd, 2018 in Features

Jolyn was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October of 2004 and, six months later, she passed away at age 46. Joel was very close to his mother and her sickness hurt him more deeply than words can describe. Dealing with the long, terrible illness and watching his mom die a slow death put him in a major mental tailspin.

The problem was accelerated because, though Joel had been a great communicator, he refused to talk about his mother’s situation. Instead, he went into a shell and watched her die, day by day, refusing to grieve properly or openly share his feelings. This still bothers Ed.

“I look back and feel very bad,” he said. “I didn’t do enough or pay enough attention to my boys. I was so focused on prayers and hoping the Lord would spare Jolyn that I wasn’t thinking as much about them as I should have been. Sure, I was hurting, big-time, but so were they, and I should have insisted on grief counseling or something to help them cope better. I regret the way I responded as a dad.”

It was against this backdrop that, in August of 2006, 15 months after Jolyn passed, Joel went Seattle to claim his University of Washington scholarship. Things didn’t work out.

“Golf-wise, I was okay, but I lacked life focus and maturity and just quit going to class,” he said. “Things were too far gone. I was a small-town kid without a lot of drive or direction to do anything. l missed my mother and didn’t handle that well at all. I plain flunked out.”

With no other options on the table and a bitter taste in his mouth regarding college, Dahmen moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, and declared that he was now a professional golfer. He bounced around the mini tours, played in local Gateway events and tried to advance his position in the golf world. Things were moving slowly, and he was having very little success.

“I wasn’t getting any better. I was with a bunch of other golf wannabes and we spent a lot of time partying and exercising practically no discipline,” Dahmen admitted. “We were more about having a good time than getting better at golf. Our work ethic sucked.”

In 2010, Joel moved in with two golf companions from his high-school days who were now attending Arizona State University. Trevor Arnone graduated from ASU and later returned to the Lewis-Clark Valley to become a successful investment advisor. Kyle Rogers now works for Amazon in the Seattle area.

Arnone and Rogers enjoyed a good party as much as anyone, but both had jobs and were going to school, so they had pretty full schedules. Joel, on the other hand, did practically nothing. He played in some skin games with other guys from the area and played in mini-tour events once in a while, but mostly he sat around and watched television or played video games.

“If he did practice, it was late in the day and short in duration,” Arnone recalled.

Plus, there was to be more cancer in his life. His brother, Zach, was diagnosed with testicular cancer and successfully treated. Then, in 2011, Joel got the same diagnosis.

“I remember when he told us,” Arnone said. “We were sitting in the living room and he shared the bad news. We were shocked. Guys our age aren’t supposed to worry about things like that.”

Dahmen had surgery to remove the testicle and underwent chemotherapy treatment that would go on eight hours a day, every day, for several weeks. Dahmen was sick, weak and prone to throwing up.

“At the beginning, it was tough,” Dahmen said. “You’re not sure where to go or what to do or how healthy you’re going to be or what your long-term goal can be. I was saying, ’Why me?’ I was pouting a lot.”

Luckily for Joel, in February of 2012, he had met Lona Skutt, a pretty, young graphic artist who was working as a waitress at the time. They hit it off immediately and soon became a couple. It was Lona who provided a badly needed “kick in the butt when I was at my lowest point,” Joel said.

“In the winter of 2013, I was playing lousy golf and getting nowhere. I was broke and depressed. We were pretty much living off of Lona’s earnings and I was laying around the house pretty much feeling sorry for myself,” he continued.

“One day, she got fed up and told me to get off my dead butt and either aggressively go after my golf dream or give it up and get a job! She told me she was sick of being part of my pity party. So, I took my last bit of money and took a golf lesson,” Dahmen recalled. “I went to PGA professional Scott Sackett, who was highly recommended, and I told him I needed to learn how to change my swing so I could perform better under pressure. He gave me a couple of positive thoughts and, three weeks later, I won $15,000 on a Gateway event. That was a fortune to us.”

Skutt’s talk also inspired a better work ethic.

“I renewed my respect and outlook on the game and changed my goals. My practice habits and several other things weren’t on track with PGA professionals and I re-dedicated myself and began a more disciplined approach,” Dahmen said. “Then, I kept it going and played my best golf ever on the Canadian Tour in 2014.”

Indeed he did. After floundering in 2013, he got rolling in 2014 and won the Canadian Award of Merit as the Canadian Tour’s leading money winner, which included a full exemption to the Web.com Tour for 2015.

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