SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — It’s still weird for Joel Dahmen to say he’s on a Netflix series.
He likes to think he’s a normal guy, and that he and his wife, Lona, are just a normal couple with a normal family. By some measure, they may be. They do have a 3-week-old son, Riggs, and Joel is as tired as most new fathers are.
Except, there are parts of their lives that make them quite different. Dahmen is in his seventh PGA Tour season, has made more than $10 million in career earnings and, starting Wednesday, will have his pre-baby life shared on “Full Swing” to Netflix’s 231 million subscribers.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” the 35-year-old told ESPN.
Armed with the bravado of a sleep-deprived dad, Dahmen is going to try to take advantage of his 15 minutes — or 44, if you watch the entirety of Episode 4, which is Dahmen’s, titled “Imposter Syndrome” — of fame.
“I wonder if Netflix will give me a free subscription now instead of me paying whatever it is, $6 a month for it?” he said. “I’m going to take that one and go see if they’ll give me a free month, at least.”
That’s who Dahmen is.
He’s always tried to err on the side of fun — sometimes to a fault, sometimes uncontrollably.
Part of why is just his personality — some of his and good friend Max Homa’s Twitter wars have happened while they sit across from each other at a table in a restaurant — and part is a result of dealing with testicular cancer in 2011, six years after losing his mom to pancreatic cancer and two years after his brother was also diagnosed with testicular cancer.
His experience with cancer didn’t change his outlook on life. It focused it.
“I think I was pretty fun-loving, but it was more of like a wake-up call,” Dahmen said. “Like, ‘Hey, don’t waste this opportunity you have. You have an opportunity to be good at golf and play on the PGA Tour, and why don’t you put your best foot forward and go after that.'”
He harnessed that mindset and hasn’t looked back.
Dahmen’s Netflix debut almost didn’t happen. He initially turned down the invitation to be on the show because he and Lona were skeptical at first. What’s different about them, he thought? They have just an “everyday life.” His job just happens to be professional golfer. After talking to the show’s producer, Chad Mumm, Joel and Lona reconsidered, ultimately deciding to let cameras into their lives knowing they could always pull the plug later on.
“We just kind of dove in and went for it,” he said. “And all of a sudden we’re on a Netflix series.”
Joel and Lona found out in the middle of shooting that they were expecting a child. At one point, he said, cameras followed him to shop for a stroller.
Dahmen feels like the person on the screen matches up pretty close, if not exactly, with the person he is in reality. It would’ve been too hard, he said, for him and his wife to not be themselves.
“We’re just who we are and if you like us, great, and if you don’t, um, I’m sorry,” he said. “But we didn’t feel like we had to do anything different.”
Dahmen was pleased with how his episode turned out. He felt like it told his and Lona’s story, and showed his relationship with caddie Geno Bonnalie — a Twitter jokester in his own right — accurately: They’re two buddies having a good time while “living out a childhood dream” in professional golf, Dahmen said.
Finding the right balance between being the jovial, fun-loving and funny guy and being the serious golfer focused on his craft is a struggle at times. Dahmen’s not shy to admit he doesn’t always find the right harmony between them.
“It’s easy to have too much fun and it’s also easy to go the other way and just focus so much on golf that you kind of burn yourself out,” he said. “You practice hard and you don’t see results for a while, and then you’re frustrated with that. I know what I need to do to be good at golf.
“I have a great people around me: my wife, my caddie, my coach, managers … So, we kind of just navigate it and figure it out as we go. We don’t have like, this set plan, like a lot of people [probably] do. But, yeah, I’m not perfect at this work-life balance thing, but I think I know kind of what makes me tick and I try to stick to that plan as much as possible.”
Then something like last year at the WM Phoenix Open happens.
When Dahmen’s playing partner, Harry Higgs, dropped a 10-foot putt at the wild-and-famous 16th hole during the fourth round, he took his shirt off.
Then Dahmen followed.
One moment Dahmen is laser focused, frustrated with his round, impatient his range work isn’t paying off during the round. The next moment he’s shirtless in front of 22,000 people live on TV.
Talk about balance.
“At the same time, you take a step back and you try to realize that, like, you’re playing golf for a living, you’re fine,” Dahmen said. “And golf is very difficult, so you’re only going to be good at it not as often as you’d like to be.
“It’s going to frustrate you, but I try to just kind of stay balanced and stay patient and kind of stick to the course, because over the course of time I’m trying to come out on top more often than not.”