By Ben Block
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As Jonnie West recalled, it was somewhere around 2 a.m. Monday local time in China. Stephen Curry had forgone a good night’s sleep before embarking on his third annual Asia tour with Under Armour because the only thing on his mind was golf.
Jordan Spieth just rolled in a twisting 50-foot eagle putt on the par-5 15th of the 146th British Open at Royal Birkdale. And Spieth’s disappearing ball trick was followed by an act of rare improv, when he ordered caddie Michael Greller to “go get that,” referencing his ball in the cup, while he strutted to the next hole with his third major victory in sight.
It was something of the “did you see that?” variety. The kind of moment that West has seen Curry, the Golden State Warriors star who facilitates the guard position like a velvet jackhammer, produce with the basketball.
Captivated by Spieth’s theatrics, West texted Curry, thousands of miles away and a different time zone be damned. After all, West would be caddying for the two-time NBA MVP about a week later upon his return to the Bay Area, where he’d play in the Web.com Tour’s Ellie Mae Classic.
“I was just joking back and forth with him and I was like, ‘You have to find a way to do that during the tournament,'” West told WFAN.com.
West and Curry have a likely friendship based on their upbringings, and an executive-to-player relationship that’s closer than many.
Born two months apart in 1988, West is the son of Los Angeles Lakers legend and Hall of Famer Jerry West, and Steph’s father is Charlotte Hornets all-time points leader and renowned sharpshooter Dell Curry.
Yet when West joined the Warriors organization as a scout in 2012, he remembered that the two didn’t have much more to say to one another than “Hey, what’s up?”
Growing up with high-profile athletes for fathers and being around the NBA life didn’t automatically make them friends.
“We never talked about me growing up as Jerry West’s son and him growing up as Dell Curry’s son,” said West.
What solidified their bond was a shared love for a game away from the familiar hard court.
“Over the last couple of years, we started playing golf together and (our relationship) just kind of grew from there,” remarked West.
West, who unofficially referred to himself as the Warriors’ “front-office voice on the road,” aspires to one day be a general manager. The name Jonnie West sounds almost fictional, as if his potential is boundless, or that his name should be preceded by “The Adventures of.”
The 29-year-old executive’s title is director of player programs, which he slid into after serving as the assistant general manger to their G-League affiliate, the Santa Cruz Warriors.
Amenable to wearing different hats, West was the perfect choice to loop for Curry last week.
Curry shot a 74 in each of his first two rounds, missed the cut by 11 strokes and finished tied for 148th. However, he drained a long birdie putt toward the end of his first round, to which he told West, “Go get that,” as he walked off the green. But not before the two shared a laugh over the inside joke that was born just over a week prior.
Spieth caught wind of Curry’s first-round performance after he completed his own first round at last week’s WGC Bridgestone Invitational, saying it was “awesome” and “really cool.”
The skeptics were still out there, though. One of them included TPC Stonebrae’s director of golf, Justin Saragueta, who knows Curry and his game but was unsure how it would translate under the special circumstances.
“I was shocked at how well he played, I really was. I thought he was going to shoot 82, 83, for sure,” Saragueta confessed.
Although, the golf director went on to praise Curry for his overall impact.
“It brings a ton of attention to not just him and the property, but to everyone in the tournament,” Saragueta said. “So from a marketing standpoint, it’s genius.”
West wasn’t surprised at how well Curry played or handled the pressure.
“If there’s an athlete that can make the transition into golf, it would be him,” he said.
“He’s one of the most gifted hand-eye coordinated athletes I’ve ever seen in my life.”
West noted that Warriors head coach Steve Kerr is a huge advocate for guys playing golf as a way to escape all the attention and stress that come with being a professional athlete, no less a defending world champion.
Joining Curry’s and West’s shared bond has been Warriors role-playing superstar Andre Iguodala.
By West’s account, Iguodala is not the scratch golfer that Curry is, but he’s convinced that nobody follows the game like he does.
“He is always watching golf tournaments or on a flight watching golf highlights,” West said.
Turner Broadcasting has realized Iguodala’s passion as well. Iguodala has partnered with Turner to be a special contributor across their multimedia platforms during Friday’s coverage of the PGA Championship, the final major of 2017.
“I’m glad he’s getting a chance,” West said. “He is one of the most obsessed golf lovers that I know.”
To suggest that golf is the reason why Curry and Iguodala have been able to propel the Warriors to be one of the NBA’s most dominant teams the past few seasons would be an excessive amount of hyperbole.
But one thing that is clear to West is the impact that a shared passion for golf has had.
“It’s developed just a bond between the three of us,” he said.
Follow Ben on Twitter at @benjaminblock21