Erik van Rooyen, the South African who played golf at the University of Minnesota, earned his second PGA Tour victory on Sunday, at the World Wide Technology Championship in Los Cabos, Mexico.
He sank an eagle putt on the 72nd hole, shooting a remarkable 28 on the back nine to beat Matt Kuchar and Camilo Villegas by two strokes.
After the final putt dropped, van Rooyen raised his fist, pointed at his caddy, Alex Gaugert, another former Gophers golfer, then struggled to answer the first question from an interviewer.
NBC's George Savaricas asked him, "How were you able to be so calm when the stakes were the highest?"
Van Rooyen paused, wiped his face and began to cry.
"Sorry," he said. "I was calm because there's bigger stuff in life than golf."
Van Rooyen's best friend, Jon Trasamar, is another former Gophers golfer. Trasamar has Stage 4 melanoma.
Golf journalist Ryan French has reported that Trasamar tried to earn his PGA Tour card at qualifying school last fall, and that after he fell short, he went for a checkup and was told the cancer had spread to his ribs. In February, according to French, doctors told him his cancer had spread to his liver, back, spine and legs.
Van Rooyen said Trasamar has only six to 10 weeks to live.
"If you look at my ball, we've got a little music note — it's a little faded now — little music notes on there, and initials J.T., and that's for Jon Trasamar, my best friend," van Rooyen said. "He's got melanoma and he's not going to make it.
"Every shot out there today was for him. And when you're playing for something bigger than winning some silly trophy, it puts things in perspective. And at the end of the day whether I won here or lost here didn't really matter. When something motivates you like that, whether you make a putt or miss a putt, who cares?"
Trasamar is a Minnesota native who welcomed van Rooyen to the state and roomed with him for three years in college.
Before his latest victory, van Rooyen was ranked 125th in the FedEx Cup Fall standings, meaning he was close to losing his PGA Tour card. The win shot him up to 63rd.
While both have more important things to worry about this week, Trasamar might have served as the inspiration that saved van Rooyen from the exhausting life of a mini-tour pro that Trasamar — and, long before him, fellow Gopher Tom Lehman — has led.
"It dragged me down," van Rooyen said on the green on Sunday, about thinking of his friend while competing. "After Friday's round … what did we shoot Friday, eight under? And I get to my hotel room and I just break down in tears, you know?
"So I wasn't that calm all the time, but when I step on the golf course I've got a freaking job to do. That's what it comes down to at the end of the day, is do your job. Now we can celebrate and cry and do whatever you want, but until that last putt drops, it's focus, and it's, 'Do it for Trasy.'"
Known as a colorful personality in the gray-on-gray world of high-level golf, van Rooyen wears a bushy mustache, is an accomplished guitarist and employs Gaugert, who qualified for the 3M Open last summer.
Van Rooyen is sometimes emotional on the course, but he never before had such a good reason to cry on the 18th green after winning a tournament.
"We love him so much, and I'm still in disbelief, what he's going through. I wish we could take all of his pain away," van Rooyen said. `We're flying up to Minnesota [Monday] to go and see him on Tuesday morning.
"I'll give him a high five then."