DeLaet-ed over victory

TODD SAELHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:41 AM ET

Whether it was Rider Pride that kicked in -- or just home-grown Saskatchewan talent -- Graham DeLaet used his prairie past to full advantage to win the 2009 ATB Financial Classic.

Especially when it came to playing against Mother Nature.

In gusty conditions, the Weyburn, Sask., product handily won the $150,000 Canadian Tour event yesterday, breaking free from a star-studded leaderboard early in the final round at Sirocco Golf Club.

"It was fun -- there was a lot of Saskatchewan people out there, and I heard a lot of 'Go Riders' comments as I was going around out there," said Delaet, moments after accepting the $24,000 first-place prize that came with his 21-under 267 total.

"You play in the wind pretty much every single day growing up in Saskatchewan. The wind wasn't howling out there (yesterday), but it was a factor, for sure. So maybe (growing up playing everyday in the wind) had something to do with the win."

Certainly, his improving golf ability was key in the four-stroke victory.

The 27-year-old DeLaet has enjoyed an impressive run over the last calendar year.

To end last season, he won the CanTour's Montreal Open and had two second-place finishes in Ontario. Then, he was named alongside Calgary's Wes Heffernan to represent Canada in the 2008 World Cup of Golf.

Two weeks ago, DeLaet was runner-up in Vancouver.

Yesterday, he overcame the one-stroke deficit to Calgary's Stuart Anderson through 54 holes, and put distance between himself and sizzling Bryon Smith, who began the day tied with DeLaet at 14-under, en route to his second career CanTour triumph.

"This win was more emotional for me," said DeLaet, whose wife Ruby celebrated her birthday Saturday. "I'm a little bit speechless. It was a stressful day for me. I was playing really well, but I turned in 6-under and I hardly had an breathing room. I just tried to keep making pars, and I was lucky enough to make a couple (birdie) putts on the back nine. I was really proud of myself for some of the shots I hit under pressure."

His 12-ft. chip-in to save par on the 614-yard 17th hole, after taking an unplayable lie for a drive that landed in the bushes, summed up his day.

"That was a big shot for me," said DeLaet, who had eight birdies on the day, including a half-dozen on the first eight holes to get to 6-under and put the pressure on the rest of the contenders.

"I really could not believe when I turned at 6-under and I only had a two-stroke lead because he was playing so well. Byron's a helluva player, too. And Stu was right in the hunt, too."

Anderson, who led by one stroke heading into yesterday's final round, finished fifth with a 13-under 275 after a 1-over 75.

Smith, who played with Anderson in the final group after climbing into contention with 10 birdies Saturday, provided a challenge, staying within striking distance through nine holes with four birdies, but he couldn't close the gap.

"I couldn't get over the hump," said Smith, the 2007 CanTour player of the year. "I missed a short enough putt on the (par-4) 11th hole that it hurt. And usually if you're in the final group at 3-under at the turn, you're feeling pretty good.

"But Graham DeLaet is an amazing talent. When he gets some confidence and learns to seal the deal -- which he may have learned to do here -- he'll be very dangerous.


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