James Wisniewski, Jared Boll and Brandon Dubinsky are unabashed Jason Day golf groupies.
Last weekend when the Central Ohio resident was in contention on the last day of the PGA Championship, they boarded a chartered plane Sunday in Columbus, Ohio, where all three are training for the summer, and flew to Whistling Straits Golf Course in Sheboygan, Wisconsin to see their buddy win his first major. This led to a ridiculously cool Twitter photo op of the hockey players celebrating with Day and the Wanamaker Trophy.
“It’s cool because you love having friends in other sports,” Boll said. “We have hockey all year long and to see your friends in other sports do well, it’s a lot of fun. I know all my buddies are giving me a hard time, like 'you’re a groupie following him around.'”
Day’s friendship with Blue Jackets past (Wisniewski) and present (Boll and Dubinsky) stems from the 2013 NHL lockout. He hails from Australia, but make his home in Westerville, Ohio and met Boll and Wisniewski – where else – on the golf course during the NHL’s work stoppage.
Though they play incredibly different games – golf is the furthest thing from a contact sport – they shared a bond. Enough of one to where Day skated with the Blue Jackets in 2013.
And he didn’t do too badly either for his first time on the ice.
“You expect a lot of people when they get on the ice the first time, it’s boom … they fall down and almost kill themselves,” Wisniewski said. “They can’t even get up and look like Bambi. But he was skating around decently and shooting the puck on the goalies.”
Wisniewski, now a member of the Carolina Hurricanes, said he plays 30-40 rounds of golf with Day per-year. Probably losing all of them.
“It has formed into a really good friendship,” he said.
Earlier in the summer, when Day was in contention at the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington, Wisniewski, Boll and Dubinsky jumped on a commercial jet to cheer on their friend.
But the atmosphere was much different there. Day was battling vertigo and had to gut out the weekend, looking like he was about to lose balance every time he swung a club.
“It shows him being a warrior out there and grinding it through,” Wisniewski said. “True hockey player style I guess. “
It was tough on them to both see their friend suffer, and also lose the tournament, finishing tied for ninth with a 4-over-par.
This was why they lunged at the opportunity to get on a charter jet Sunday to see Day close the deal ... true "Entourage" style.
On the Friday of the tournament, their friend Mark Kvamme, a venture capitalist in Columbus said if Day was in contention they would zip up on a jet to Whistling Straits. The decision was made late Saturday and Sunday they were all in Wisconsin cheering on Day.
The MVP of the group, was probably Boll who took his future father in-law. Smart move dude.
“I know how much he loves golf and he’s going to be a part of my life for a while,” Boll said. “I thought it would be a good idea to have him on my side. It was cool to have him there as well to see it all go down.”
At around the seventh hole, Wisniewski had to leave to go to Michigan to partake in a golf outing with Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos and took said private jet. After dropping Wisniewski off, it came back and picked up his friends.
“I saw him birdie three of the first six holes then I had to fly to Michigan by myself on Mark’s plane, so it was quite nice of him to let me do that,” Wisniewski said. “I get to the golf course (in Michigan), and it’s Hole 14, and then I saw him win his first major on TV. I had big-time goose bumps all over watching him. I was emotional because I know how much it meant to him and I knew how hard he worked for this first major championship.”
Now that Day is a major champion, they don’t expect their relationships to change with the Aussie golfer. In fact, Wisniewski was planning on playing a round with Day later in the week to celebrate.
Said Wisniewski on his golf/groupie experiences: “It’s been a great summer.”
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