He steps up to the seventh hole at Pebble Beach, selects a two wood, and smacks the ball down the middle of the fairway. For Weyburn’s Graham DeLaet, it is just another day on the job.
DeLaet, who turned 28 in January, has been competing on the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) Tour during the 2010 season for the first time in his career. To earn this right, DeLaet had to win his 2010 PGA Tour card by competing in the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament (also known as Q-School) last December. In the event, in which the top 25 finishers ensure a PGA Tour berth, DeLaet finished in a tie for eighth.
“It felt amazing,” DeLaet says, recalling the qualifying tournament. “I felt both relieved to attain my card and excited about my future on the PGA Tour. Q-School was an experience I will never forget and a stage in my career that I don’t plan on experiencing a second time.”
DeLaet is no stranger to success on the golf course. Before joining the PGA Tour, he had great success playing on the Canadian Tour. DeLaet’s four biggest wins came during the 2008 Desjardins Montreal Open, the 2009 ATB Financial Classic, the 2009 Canadian Tour Players Cup and the 2009 BMG Classic. Did qualifying for the PGA Tour top those moments?
“It’s hard to say because there really is nothing like winning,” DeLaet explains. “While qualifying for the PGA Tour is probably my greatest accomplishment in golf, I think that my wins are equally rewarding and special to me on a personal level.”
DeLaet is the first Saskatchewan golfer to play in the PGA Tour. An impressive feat, considering he did not start golfing at an early age.
“At 13, I made the decision to quit baseball and start playing more golf,” DeLaet says. “This is when I began competing in tournaments across the province. Weyburn had a junior golf program that was funded by Pan Canadian, an old oil company. Their funding made it possible for me to compete in more tournaments than I would have been able to play in.”
He also credits his dad for pushing him in the right direction.
“My Dad taught me the basics to the game of golf, and from there, I learned a lot just watching guys on TV,” DeLaet recalls. “I was always a big Mike Weir and Tiger Woods fan.”
Growing up in Weyburn and Moose Jaw, DeLaet’s golf skills continued to flourish. He attended Boise State University, where he won 10 collegiate tournaments. After University, DeLaet joined the Canadian Tour, where he would spend the next three years.
Of course, playing on the PGA Tour is a different experience entirely. However, DeLaet seems to be settling into a routine.
“On an off day, I generally like to practice in the early morning – first thing if possible,” DeLaet explains. “On a tournament day, I like to show up at the course about an hour-and-a-half to two hours before I tee off to grab something to eat, loosen up and hit the practice area before teeing off.”
DeLaet has also had to get used to playing against the same golfers he idolised growing up. Names like Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, and Ernie Els.
“At first it was pretty surreal, but after a short while you realize that they’re just golfers like you,” says DeLaet. “These days it’s not such a big deal. Also, if you plan on winning against these guys on the PGA Tour, you can’t afford to be starstruck. It’s best to get over it in a hurry.”
DeLaet has competed in six events during his young PGA career. Things started off good for DeLaet in his first two events. He finished in a tie for 25th at the Sony Open in Hawaii, earning $35,435.71, and then finished in a tie for 18th at his second event, the Bob Hope Classic. DeLaet earned $58,750 for this performance.
“Finishing in the top-20 was great,” says DeLaet, referring to the Sony Open in Hawaii. “Obviously, one of my main goals this season is to earn enough money to retain my Tour card for 2011, and my first two events were a big step in that direction.”
DeLaet has also tasted defeat, as he missed the cut in his next four events.
“Missed cuts are going to happen from time to time, it’s part of the learning process for a rookie like myself,” says DeLaet. “A missed cut is always a disappointment, but it’s nice to know that I get to tee it up the following week and make up for it.”
In the FedEx Cup standings, the PGA Tour’s Championship, DeLaet sits in 103rd place with 89 points. He sits 704 points behind the leader, Dustin Johnson.
DeLaet has already developed into a great influence for young golfers in Saskatchewan. Much like other Saskatchewan-born athletes, such as Jon Ryan (punter for the Seattle Seahwaks) or Ryan Getzlaf (forward for the Anaheim Ducks) have taught young athletes they can achieve greatness in sport, DeLaet hopes to continually aspire golfers across Saskatchewan and Canada.
“I think that’s a responsibility that I have as a professional on the PGA Tour,” DeLaet says. “Golf in Saskatchewan and Canada has come such a long way over the last decade, but we still have a long way to go. I sincerely hope that what I have accomplished in my professional career has inspired some young golfers to believe in themselves. I’d like to think that the inspirational message of this success transcends golf. Hopefully it will inspire children, and people in general, to succeed in anything they hope to accomplish.”
Though he is only in the early stages of career, DeLaet appears to have a bright future. When it comes to Golf, one could argue he is Saskatchewan’s Tiger Woods.
“On the golf course there is only one Tiger Woods – and he’s the greatest,” DeLaet says. “But I’m so proud to represent Saskatchewan on the world stage and to be the only pro golfer from Saskatchewan to play on the PGA Tour. The outpouring of support from my home province has been incredible and I’m so thankful.”