HomeSportsEVR wins, with heart and mind with dying best friend

EVR wins, with heart and mind with dying best friend

Erik van Rooyen just wanted to see his friend. It was Saturday evening in Mexico and van Rooyen had just completed 66 holes to move within one of the 54 hole lead at the World Wide Technology Championship.

But his friend. That was the one he was thinking of: Jon Trasamar.

Van Rooyen first met Trasamar when the former traveled from South Africa to… Minnesota… to study.

“When you leave your home country as a 19-year-old, it’s never easy, and I left South Africa in 2009. I grew up in a very small town. The golf course wasn’t great. So it wasn’t easy to leave home,” Van Rooyen said on Sunday after rallying to win his second PGA Tour event. “Jon and his family lived about a two-hour drive from Minneapolis. I arrived in Minnesota in September 2009 and they were there at the airport to pick me up, to say hello, because he would become my roommate and teammate shortly after. We have clearly become best friends.”

Van Rooyen, Trasamar and Alex Gaugert were Golden Gopher teammates. Van Rooyen made his way to the PGA Tour and won the Barracuda Championship two years ago. Gaugert became Van Rooyen’s caddy.

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Trasamar also built a professional career playing on the mini tours. In April 2022, Heritage Week, as Van Rooyen remembers, Trasamar sent his former housemate of three years some good news. It had nothing to do with golf; rather, it was a photo of a scan that showed Trasamar was cancer-free.

“That was an incredible moment for all of us,” said Van Rooyen.

“Not soon after that it came back.” Stage 4 melanoma.

Van Rooyen said he knew his best friend, the best man at his wedding would face an uphill battle. But it was worse than he imagined, as he learned this week.

“On Tuesday he texted us; he has six to ten weeks left [to live],” said van Rooyen. “They did some scans and the cancer was everywhere in all his organs.”

And therefore, at 125e in FedExCup points, with his PGA Tour card in the balance and a career that would redefine the day ahead, Van Rooyen wasn’t stressed about what awaited him on Sunday.

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He just wanted to see his friend. But he knew he had to take care of his business first.

His final round at El Cardonal started with a bogey-6 and he was four behind Camilo Villegas on the turn. And then Van Rooyen made a birdie on the 10e11e and 12e holes. He birdied the 14e. He made long birdie putts on the 16e and 17e.

Van Rooyen came into the par-5 18e tied with Matt Kuchar for the lead, Villegas one back. The South African ran a 3-hybrid from 304 yards to within 16 feet of the hole, then made the putt for Eagle, a back-nine 28 and a two-stroke victory.

After securing victory – with Kuchar and Villegas yet to finish – Van Rooyen hugged his caddy, the normally stoic Gaugert, who needed his boss, former teammate and friend to support him.

“To be honest, I only comforted him,” said Van Rooyen. “It has been – as everyone now knows – a tough week for both of us. To win, everything came out, comforted him and hugged him, yes.

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Van Rooyen was grateful for his victory. It had been a tough year on the course, evidenced by the fact that he was dragging the Tour status line entering this event. He said he started working with swing coach Sean Foley the week of the U.S. Open and “things started to change.”

He left Mexico with almost $1.5 million, a ticket to the Masters (among several other prominent events) and a two-year Tour exemption, which was set to expire at the end of the fall series.

His next stop, however, is the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Seeing his best friend, which, now that things are settled, is all he wants to do. Almost all.

‘We sent a text message. I just told him how much I love him and how much I miss him,” said Van Rooyen. “All I want to do is go play nine holes with him somewhere, you know.”

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