Jon Trasamar, 1990-2023
November 20, 2023 | 7 min.
By Cal H Simmons
I first heard the name Jon Trasamar in 2007. Brad James, then head men’s golf coach at the University of Minnesota, was telling me about the best young player he had seen during his recent recruiting season. Jon was finishing up his sophomore year in high school.
Born and raised in Blue Earth, MN, Jon loved the game. “He played for the right reason,” said Brad. “He was the one driving the engine, not his parents or other reasons. He just loved the game.”
Jon played for the University from 2009-2014, redshirting his freshman year. He was the captain of the team in 2013 and 2014, graduating in four years and getting a graduate degree in his fifth year.
“I watched him in junior golf,” said Andrew Tank, then assistant coach at Minnesota, now head men’s golf coach at Iowa State. “It was how he handled himself. He was calm, poised. Nothing shook him on the course. When he came to Minnesota he was humble, competitive and down to earth. He had a calming presence. He had great perseverance,” said Tank. “He struggled with his game for a long while as a freshman. There was no give up. He would seek out information in order to get better.”
“He was a coach for all of us,” said Jon DuToit, a team member. “He was so much more mature than everybody we had around. He was reliable and trustworthy. Tras was one of the best friends I could have asked for. Anyone who got to know him and called him a friend was extremely blessed.”
In 2014, Minnesota won the Big Ten Championship. It interrupted a 5 year winning streak belonging to Illinois. Tras was not the number one player on the team, but he played every tournament in 2014 and was the motivational leader. In the final round of the Big Ten Championship in 2014 he shot 70, finishing third in the tournament. He was named to the All Big Ten Team and Academic All Big Ten Team.
“You could lean on him and count on him,” said Eric van Rooyen, his freshman roommate and current PGA Tour player. “He always did the right thing.” Eric dedicated his October 2023 PGA Tour win in the World Wide Technology tournament in Cabo San Lucas to Jon.
“He was just calm,” said Alex Gaugert, van Rooyen’s caddie and a teammate on the Big Ten Championship team.
After leaving the University, true to his love of the game, he turned professional. A win in his first professional start on the Dakotas Tour, jump started his career. He would win a total of five times on the Dakotas Tour and make eight Korn Ferry Tour starts in eight years. In order to fund his dream of playing the PGA Tour, he worked in the golf industry.
I would watch the 6’ 2” 185 lb Tras when he played events in the area. The Minnesota State Open, Minnesota Champions event and PGA Tour Monday qualifiers were on the list. He always had a smile on his face and, no matter the outcome and looked forward to his next event.
In 2016, he met Allie Haen. After dating for several years and a wedding postponed by Allie getting Covid, they were married in March of 2022.
In May, two months after being married, a spot on his shoulder and one on his thigh turned out to be melanoma. “I had some cells in one of the lymph nodes, but it’s the earliest possible spread according to my surgeon,” Jon told me in early July of 2022.
We met to catch up and have a beer on July 22, 2022. He was still recovering from the surgery in May but “I want to be at full strength before playing golf,” he said. He was in great spirits, as always.
After more scans in early November of 2022 he texted me. “The scans showed a melanoma in a lymph node in the shoulder as well as a spread to the rib. I’ve switched everything to Mayo and started five rounds of immunotherapy.” We had lunch in mid January before his getting the results of his next scans. It was the last time I saw him in person.
“They found some lesions and metastasis in the hip and back,” he texted me. “Certainly not what I wanted to hear, but it doesn’t change the outcome I want, so it’s just another challenge to overcome.” The cancer had exploded through his body, but as typical of Jon, throughout the entire ordeal, he was always positive. Never a down word.
More tumors were found and rods were surgically put in to strengthen each femur. Following surgery we texted. “The support I have gotten is nothing but inspiring. I know I’ve got a lot of people I’m fighting for!”
He continued with immunotherapy and worked toward getting back to the golf course. In April he got the news he was praying for after more scans. “There wasn’t a thing on there! My doctor called it a dramatic and complete response to the meds. I’ll continue them for 2-4 months to be sure we get everything. Best news we could get.” The doctors told him he was cancer free.
“Those scans in January. When I looked at them, I lit up like a Christmas tree. Now I’m clean,” he said laughing.
I have spoken with doctors about his miracle recovery. “I’ve heard of two or three situations like this,” one told me. “Melanoma seems to be the cancer responding the best to some of the new treatments.”
He went back to working on his golf game and getting stronger. In late July he entered the Monday qualifying for the Quad Cities and 3M Open, PGA Tour events. I looked at the starting times for the 3M Open Monday qualifier. He was paired just behind a friend I was caddying for in the event. I looked forward to seeing him. The day before the event he withdrew. “My back locked up on me last week and I haven’t been able to play,” he told me.
He later texted me. “It was caused by some cancer on the spine causing compression. It shows cancer in the spine, rib and a couple of other bones. I start chemo next week. This time around we’re going to get it good.”
“He was the most positive person I have ever known in my life,” Logan Holt, a friend he worked with at Whisper Rock Golf Club said. “Every time you talked to him, things were going great.”
By mid September he was still fighting. “Trying to get the nausea figured out. PET scans showed good signs of improvement. We’re taking it one day at a time,” he said.
On October 30th he sent out a text to his buddies. “Not good news. Tumors are pushing against the cord. The tumors coming back means it’s getting past every line of defense we’ve thrown at it. I don’t have a lot of time left. Hopefully they can give me some pain and sleep relief.” It came as a shock. A short few months earlier he was told he was cancer free.
Jon passed away November 11, 2023. “He was just a spectacular guy,” said Eric van Rooyen and a special person to many in A Life In Golf.
An endowed scholarship in Jon’s name has been established at the University of Minnesota. Direct contributions to, University of Minnesota Foundation, 200 SE Oak Street, #500, Minneapolis, MN 55455 and write Jon Trasamar in the memo line.
About the Author: Cal Simmons is a Western Golf Association Director, former MGA president, and recipient of the MGA Warren J. Rebholz Distinguished Service Award. Simmons writes a monthly blog, “A Life in Golf,” from which this post is dated Nov. 18.