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Sympatico Column: DeLaet's Wild Ride to the PGA Tour

Been busy writing about Canadian golf lately, though it is December and it was damned cold taking my garbage to the curb this morning. Anyway, I touched base with Graham DeLaet on Monday afternoon, and here’s the story that came out of it for Sympatico. Interesting to note that all of the country’s rising stars — Chris Baryla (Vernon G&CC), Nick Taylor (Ledgeview G&CC), Matt Hill (Sarnia Golf Club), DeLaet (Weyburn GC), and Dustin Risdon (where ever one plays in Strathmore, Alberta) — all grew up playing at clubs or courses that are not widely recognized. These aren’t silver spoon kids — this group is more in the Mike Weir mode where they started playing at largely blue-collar clubs. Not sure what the implication is — but it is intriguing.

Here’s a taste of the column (the full version can be found here) :

Amid the noisy celebrations of lives that have been changed, Canadian golfer Graham DeLaet simply hasn’t had time to consider how he altered his future in six days.

On Monday, DeLaet became the first golfer from the province of Saskatchewan to make it onto the PGA Tour, surviving the tour’s demanding qualifying school. For DeLaet, who played in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America over the past year, winning events in South Africa, Alberta and Ontario, it was the end of an odyssey.
“That’s a good way to put it,” he said from Florida a short time after he clinched 8th place at Q-School, joining fellow Canadians Mike Weir, Stephen Ames and Chris Baryla on the PGA Tour next year. “It is the end of one journey and the start of an adventure.”
It has been said that the final stage of PGA Tour’s qualifying school, which is held over six rounds and involves approximately 150 players, is one of the most grueling in sports, a high-pressure endurance test over a week of highs and lows. How golfers balance their successes and failures typically determines how they will fare. Many first-time finalists like DeLaet have already lasted through at least two previous stages to get to the finals (though some golfers have to play through a pre-qualifying as well), a process that takes just over a month from start to conclusion. The final includes some widely recognized names “ like former World No. 1 golfer David Duval, and multiple PGA Tour winner, Tim Herron “ and some rising stars, like college phenom Rickie Fowler. Even those established players with multiple years on the PGA Tour won’t always make it within the Top 25 who capture tour cards for next year (like both Herron and Duval) and others, like Montreal’s Julien Trudeau, will face heartbreak by missing the mark by a single shot.
DeLaet came into the event as confident as anyone could be while facing such an uphill struggle. He knew that there would be moments of doubt, points where he thought it was slipping away, but managed to maintain his composure and hang near the leaders through the first five rounds. By Monday afternoon DeLaet sat tied for second when he started the final round, after finishing a rain-delayed fifth round that morning.
Then it all started to go sideways on the final handful of holes on the back nine.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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