AVONDALE, La. – Neither the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball jersey nor the nickname they coined on the back of it begin to tell the lovefest between Max Homa, 32, and Collin Morikawa, 26, this week at the Zurich Classic.
Team HomaKawa doesn’t quite have the ring of, say Bennifer, but go together like oysters on the half shell and cocktail sauce at nearby New Orleans famed restaurants Acme Oyster House or Drago’s. It pairs former Cal Bears – Homa, ranked No. 7 in the world, and Morikawa No. 13 – who are members of a mutual admiration society.
Both remember the first time they met in 2016 and played a nine-hole practice round and recount the details as if telling of their first date with their now wives.
“The first time I had ever met Max, he did not care about me at all. I was just some fat little kid walking around out of college just like on a sponsor’s invite because I had won the Trans Miss the year before,” Morikawa said of the time he played in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Wichita Open as an amateur and nearly won the tournament. “It was me, Max and Brandon Hagy, another Cal player, and I think I talked to Brandon almost the entire time, and Max just kind of like let me go.
“It’s weird, everyone thinks Max is this outgoing guy. When I met him 7 years ago, he was pretty shy. He was in his bubble. I was not in his friend group yet, especially back then. But you got to kind of ease into him, and as we met through college and whatnot, when he came over, it’s obviously been a great friendship.”
— Collin Morikawa (@collin_morikawa) March 30, 2023
“The first time you see somebody play golf, anybody out here can blow your mind for a day. So you just never know,” Homa said. “But that first time we played, I was like, this guy really does not hit a bad shot. I would be lying if in the back of my head as somebody trying to get their card and progress in golf if I wasn’t a bit jealous that a 20-year-old kid just absolutely dominated me for a week. But such is life. It was motivating to get better than a 20-year-old when I was 26.”
Morikawa also was impressed that Homa served as a volunteer assistant coach at Cal during his playing days there.
“You don’t really do that when you’re fighting for your card on the PGA Tour or you’re grinding on the Korn Ferry,” Morikawa noted.
Homa was paying it forward after receiving help from another Cal player before him who made the PGA Tour, Peter Tomasulo. So, Homa went to Las Vegas during an off week to watch the Bears compete in the Southern Highlands Collegiate and got a close look at Morikawa’s many gifts.
“I watched him play, and he hit the ball so well. All the guys went to the range after, and I was just sitting there watching everybody and I was talking to Eric Mina, who was my teammate and Collin’s assistant coach, and I was like man, this kid is already a top-20 ball striker in the world and he’s still in college,” Homa recalled. “I remember I told Collin, I’m not saying this as someone who thinks they’re better than you, I’ve just seen a little bit more golf than you. If you can learn how to get a world-class short game, I just really don’t know who can beat you, and he did. He obviously worked really hard.”
A week later, Homa received a phone call from Cal’s men’s head coach Walter Chun, who informed him that Morikawa’s usual tee-to-green stripe show was off-kilter.
“I actually almost fell over,” Homa said. “But his short game kept him in it and he won a golf tournament. I was just impressed that a kid who already has kind of the world in his hands went home and by all measures worked at something.”
They became fast friends but that didn’t keep Homa from playing a little hard to get when Morikawa texted to see if he’d like to play with him this year in the only two-man team event during the FedEx Cup regular season.
“He kind of gave me the I’ll-get-back-to-you-later type of thing,” Morikawa said.
Homa already has won twice this season, giving him six career Tour wins, one more than Morikawa who already counts two majors on his resume but failed in his efforts to get tie Homa with a six win before this event.
“Getting to play with Collin, two-time major champion, that’s an easy job for me,” Homa said.
When reminded that he described Morikawa’s game as “robot golf,” Homa replied, “Yeah, I say it every time I watch him hit a golf ball.”
“There’s way too much praise on my game,” Morikawa said.
Let the HomaKawa lovefest commence.
“There will be a lot of praise on his end, as well, this week, trust me,” Morikawa said.