WEYBURN — As a young golf prodigy, Graham DeLaet was inspired by the likes of Mike Weir and Tiger Woods.
Lo and behold, he’s now playing alongside his idols on the PGA Tour — and adapting to his own new-found celebrity status. DeLaet has come a long way since his early days at the Weyburn Golf Club, a fact that was reinforced on Tuesday when he staged a clinic for wide-eyed junior golfers as part of the Graham DeLaet Charity Golf Tournament.
“It’s pretty amazing,” he said of the turnout. “I remember when I was 10, 15 years old, there were only three or four or five of us juniors playing in Weyburn and there were probably 60 kids out here today. I don’t take credit for that by any means but if they look up to me it’s a pretty special feeling to be a role model. It’s pretty cool to be in this situation to help give back.”
DeLaet is doing just that, lending his time and good name to an event that benefits the Weyburn and District Hospital Foundation. The inaugural tournament last year raised US$317,000 for a new hospital and organizers are hoping to match or surpass that total this year.
“You have to kind of pinch yourself to know I can help do something like that for the community,” said DeLaet, who now resides in Boise, Idaho, where he attended university. “[Weyburn] will always be home for me. I don’t get back here very much anymore because my parents and family are up in the northern part of the province but it’s definitely really cool and I’m just super excited that I’m able to help out.”
DeLaet’s enthusiasm extends to his own game, having regained his place as one of Canada’s elite players after sitting out almost all of last season due to back surgery. DeLaet finished in a tie for 12th place on Sunday at the Greenbrier Classic in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. More importantly, he received $119,560 and met the terms of his major medical extension, thus retaining full PGA Tour status for the rest of this season.
The extension gave him 26 tournaments and he reached his objective in just 18.
DeLaet is now ranked 100th in total PGA earnings with US$674,230 this season — only six spots behind top Canadian David Hearn of Brantford, Ont. (US$704,915) — but his work is just beginning. He still has to finish among the top-125 money winners to keep his card for next season.
“It doesn’t really change much,” said DeLaet, 30, the top Canadian on the PGA Tour in 2010. “Even starting the year I wasn’t really focused on getting off my medical at all. My focus was to try to win golf tournaments and try to finish in the top 125 this year. I’m a good position to do it now. Last week took some pressure off that, but as far as the medical it was something I fully expected of myself.”
As for his back issues, DeLaet is eager to put those problems behind him. To that end, he enlisted the services of Dr. Craig Davies, a Canadian nutrition and fitness guru who works with some other players on the Tour.
“It’s wonderful playing on the PGA Tour but I saw how fast it can all be taken away with an injury, so I definitely want to do everything I can to stay out there,” he said. “There’s still days where I’m not feeling as good as I would like, but generally I’m still getting better. I owe a lot to (Davies) but I really felt like this was going to be a good year for me. I try not to think about my health and all that kind of stuff because it’s good enough to be playing at a high level right now.”
DeLaet doesn’t plan to change his approach now that the medical extension is behind him. That means he will continue to pick and choose tournaments that suit his game and schedule, helping him to stay fresh and give his body sufficient time to recover.
Beyond that, he simply wants to focus on doing what it takes to get better.
“I’m still improving all the time,” he added, noting that players often reach their prime in their mid-30s. “The main thing is learning how to play in different situations and managing your game … taking risks at the right time and playing safe at the right time. That just comes with experience.
“I was lucky enough my rookie season to start off with a couple top 25s. That settled me in a little bit and I realized I did belong. I truly believe in myself 100 per cent that I have what it takes to win out there.”