Joel Dahmen playing with Fred Couples 'lived up to the billing'

Chuck Burton/Associated Press

Joel Dahmen playing with Fred Couples 'lived up to the billing'

PGA Tour

Joel Dahmen playing with Fred Couples 'lived up to the billing'

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NAPA, Calif. – Joel Dahmen nearly jumped out of his skin when he received a text message on Tuesday afternoon with his tee time for the first two rounds of the Safeway Open.

Dahmen was off the 10th tee on Thursday with Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo. But it was the other name that grabbed his attention: Fred Couples, a fellow Washington native who Dahmen looked up to as a kid.

“He had his name on all the junior tournaments I wanted to get after,” Dahmen said.

But until he arrived at the first tee on Thursday, Dahmen had never met his hero. Well, he had brushed shoulders with the 59-year-old Hall of Famer in the locker room at Riviera Country Club while competing in the Genesis Open earlier this year, but Dahmen got cold feet.

SAFEWAY OPEN: Leaderboard | Photos

“I was too afraid to say hi,” Dahmen said. “I figured we’d eventually meet. They say, ‘Never meet your heroes.’ I’ve been really lucky. Freddie lived up to the billing.”

Couples could relate to being starstruck around his childhood hero. He recalled the time he attended an exhibition as a 14-year-old in his hometown of Seattle and was mesmerized by Lee Trevino, who went on to become a lifelong mentor.

“I remember that like it was yesterday, I really do,” Couples said. “He was up on a podium and then hitting balls. It planted a seed that I wanted to be a pro golfer.”

Dahmen said his nerves got the better of him and he was 3 over after four holes in his first round of 74. Dahmen rallied to shoot 69, nearly chipping in for eagle on 18, and was hovering on the 36-hole cutline at 1-under 143. After the round, Couples gave him knuckles along with some final words of wisdom.

When asked if he had bothered to get a signature from his childhood hero, Dahmen said, “I didn’t need to. I just got to hang for 5 hours for two straight days with him.”

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