Van Rooyen is a PGA Tour winner again. He prizes relationships as much as trophies

Erik Van Rooyen has experienced enough tournament golf to recognize that his best golf – whether over four rounds or nine holes – can appear without warning. Perfect timing has been on his side in his two PGA Tour wins.

Van Rooyen was sitting at No. 139 in the FedEx Cup and approaching his final two starts in 2021 when he won the Barracuda Championship. His victory not only secured his card for the next two years but also propelled him to the Tour Championship at East Lake.

This year, he was squarely on the bubble – No. 125 in the FedEx Cup – with only three tournaments left in the season when he made his way to the southern tip of Baja California for the World Wide Technology Championship and played the last nine holes in 8-under par to win.

Another two-year exemption. A ticket to the Masters. And much more.

Van Rooyen paused for 10 seconds, covering his mouth at one point before his lips fluttered with a heavy exhale. “I was calm because there’s bigger stuff,” he said, his voice shaking.

Thoughts at that moment – all week, really – were with Jon Trasamar, van Rooyen’s best friend from the day he arrived in Minnesota for college in 2009. Their close bond was epitomized by a shared experience that transcended boundaries and spanned over 9,000 miles.

Van Rooyen was accustomed to addressing one of the top five questions posed to him: How did someone from the Western Cape of South Africa find himself playing for the Minnesota Gophers? The universe indeed worked its magic as he found love and friendship during his four years there.

However, the story took a different turn for Trasamar post-college, who faced a grueling battle with melanoma. An exchange of texts on Tuesday led to van Rooyen’s realization that he had six to 10 weeks left to spend with his dear friend. He was departing from Mexico to Minnesota to see him.

During an emotional interview after his win, van Rooyen revealed his struggle to remain composed. He admitted to breaking down in tears after shooting 64 on Friday to regain his footing in Mexico. However, he was steadfast in his resolve to focus on the tournament and dedicate his victory to Trasamar.

Van Rooyen reminisced about the pivotal moment when he was four shots behind Camilo Villegas and running out of holes on the eighth fairway. He couldn’t miss from that moment onwards – “The back nine, just an absolute blur,” van Rooyen said.

The interview also saw his caddie – Alex Gaugert, who shed tears, reflecting the depth of their friendship. Gaugert, more than just a caddie, formed a bond with van Rooyen and Trasamar during their time at the Minnesota Gophers. The two share a history that is built on dreams, struggles, and triumphs.

Although van Rooyen is exempt through the 2025 season, his victory held a greater significance – a reminder of life’s more profound rewards. He acknowledged that golf will pale in comparison to the memories created with cherished people. The victory, he said, felt “extremely immaterial.”

“So I look forward to seeing him.”


AP golf:


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