Thursday, July 23, 2015

DeLaet Hopes to End the Drought

It’s easy to make Graham DeLaet’s piercing blue eyes light up.
You just talk about something other than golf.
DeLaet is a professional golfer, and a good one at that. As Canada’s highest-ranked professional, the weight of a nation is on his broad shoulders each week -- especially this week at the RBC Canadian Open, the most important tournament in his home country. He’s constantly asked about when he thinks he will break through and win.

But, DeLaet is also an avid fisherman, a lover of hockey (obviously), and known to occasionally enjoy a Canadian-brewed Kokanee lager.
There’s more to DeLaet than being Canadian golf’s top dog. And that makes him smile.
DeLaet usually goes on an annual fishing trip with a handful of buddies – “We’ve done Northern Saskatchewan, Alaska a couple of times. We were talking about doing deep-sea fishing in Cabo in the fall,” he says - but this year, he won’t be.

His wife Ruby – who he met at Boise State University -- is expecting twins later this fall. It will be the couples’ first children.
DeLaet laughed when asked about a particular tweet he sent out before The Honda Classic, regarding a new family vehicle.
“She (Ruby) doesn’t want a mini-van,” DeLaet said. “I want one. That was an awesome courtesy car. There was so much room in there. Not much of a head-turner, though.”
While DeLaet is proudly Canadian, he now calls Arizona home and bleeds Boise State orange-and-blue.
That said: “It’s going to be important for me to keep that ‘Canadian’ in them somehow,” he happily states.
The now 33-year-old started playing golf while a youngster in Weyburn, Saskatchewan – a small town about 40 miles north of the U.S. border – with his parents.
“We’d go and play five or six holes after work, and I started to really love it,” DeLaet said. “I loved competing and playing tournaments back home. I never thought it would be my life, though.”

For all the support DeLaet gets from across Canada, his biggest fan may be one of the most important people in his home province. Brad Wall, the premier (akin to the governor of a state in the U.S.) usually will send a tweet when DeLaet is in contention, and follows his every move on the course.
Even though we love golf in Saskatchewan, this is not the most auspicious place to become a pro let alone a world-class player,” Wall said. “But, this is where Graham got his start.
“In many ways, Graham embodies Saskatchewan,” Wall said. “Graham has never forgotten where he comes from. He is still a Saskatchewan boy through and through.”
Like any Canadian from a little town, DeLaet grew up playing hockey. He is a die-hard Calgary Flames fan and isn’t afraid to mix it up with fans (and haters) alike on Twitter.

His passion for team sports showed at The Presidents Cup in 2013 where he went 3-1-1 and Adam Scott called him the “MVP” of the International Team.
He was paired with Jason Day for many of those matches, and although DeLaet is 17th in the standings, Day thinks he isn’t too far from making the team.
“We played so good together. The synergy between us at Muirfield was huge. We kind of fed off each other,” Day said. “Before then we never really met each other, we kind of got thrown in there together. It was great we played so well.”
Day, who will be paired with DeLaet and Luke Donald for the first two rounds, continued to say DeLaet is good enough to get himself on the team, and admits he’s probably only a few good tournaments away from earning enough points.
“I love being a part of a team,” DeLaet said.
But golf is an individual game, and DeLaet, of course, makes a hockey reference when it comes time to self-criticize.
“It’s always on you,” he said. “You can’t fake it or get away with a poor game because your line-mates are helping you out.”
DeLaet does have someone inside the ropes with him at all times. His caddie, Julien Trudeau (an alumni of Golf Channel’s Big Break and married to his fellow Big Break competitor Mal Blackwelder) has been with him for just over three years.
It’s a business relationship, sure. But its not always business.
“There’s no shortage of fun out there. We have a good time,” Trudeau says with a smile. “Even if he’s struggling – or playing well – we try to have fun. That helps both of us, trying to stay loose. But, when it comes down to putting the tee in the ground, there’s no messing around.”
DeLaet’s megawatt smile has attracted a legion of Canadian fans, young and old. It’s impossible to walk the grounds of Glen Abbey Golf Club without seeing a number of fans wearing DeLaet’s red Puma gear.
“It’s kind of like Mike Weir has passed on the torch to the next group of guys coming up. Graham, David Hearn, (Adam) Hadwin, (Nick) Taylor… all the boys,” Trudeau said. “It’s pretty cool.”
And DeLaet, who has not missed a cut since THE PLAYERS Championship, realizes this is a big week as the new King of Canadian golf.
“This is a major for us (Canadians),” he said. “But I don’t really feel extra pressure from the fans in here, it’s more support. It’s just such an awesome week.
“There’s something different about teeing it up on home soil. There’s so much pride,” he said. “You just want to play your guts out for everyone that’s cheering you on.”
DeLaet speaks aggressively as he admits that last point. Not because he is angry at the question, but because he is passionate.
It was fellow countryman Taylor who captured the Sanderson Farms Championship in November, breaking a five-year drought for Canadian winners on TOUR. Many thought that person would have been DeLaet.
So what would it mean if he won this week and made it two Canadian winners in one season?
“It would mean the world to me,” he said.


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