November 30, 2011
'Every shot biggest of your life': DeLaet
By IAN HUTCHINSON, QMI Agency
Qualifying school, which got underway Wednesday for both the PGA and LPGA Tours, is more likely an extended learning process over several years than the instant step into success that the naive might expect, although that is a possibility.
It took Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask., four shots before getting it right in 2009.
“I came out of college. I had quite a bit of confidence. I really thought that I was going to get through,” said DeLaet of his first try back in 2006.
“To be honest, the first time is probably the easiest. You don’t really know what to expect. You don’t know what the failure of it is like, so you just kind of go in free-wheeling and it’s probably the easiest, at least mentally, of all that I went into,” he said.
However, Q-school has a way of teaching a lesson that you’ll never forget. As the final round of second stage wound down, DeLaet tried what he called a “hero shot” and wound up taking “a stupid, stupid triple that cost him a trip to final stage that year.
“It’s one of those things that you think about for months and months afterwards,” said DeLaet, who couldn’t get past the second stage until 2009, when there were a lot of eyes on him after a magnificent year on the Canadian Tour.
DeLaet won twice that season to win the Canadian Tour’s Order of Merit. He also had a win, among other outstanding showings, in South Africa and played with Victoria’s Stuart Anderson in the World Cup in China before heading to Q-school.
“My expectations were probably as high as they ever were. It was my first time at final (stage). I was obviously super-excited about that,” he recalled.
“Mentally, I really believed 100% that I was at least going to get a full Nationwide Tour card and I would have been satisfied with that. Obviously, the goal going in there is to get your PGA Tour card and just kind of settle for a Nationwide Tour card if that’s the case,” he said.
DeLaet didn’t have to settle. He started the final round in a tie for second, but wound up in a tie for eighth at 15-under, more than enough to earn his card.
“It was a long week — six rounds of golf and such high pressure. It takes a lot out of you,” said DeLaet, who is in Phoenix preparing to kick-start his career at the Sony Open in January after the better part of a year off due to surgery to deal with a bulging disc in his back.
“Even getting through and succeeding, it still probably took a week or two to kind of just get over the emotional roller-coaster and then the high, obviously, of getting through,” he said.
“It’s almost indescribable. Every shot is basically the most important shot of your entire life, one after the other and it’s easy to look ahead whether you’re playing really well or really poorly or mediocre,” added DeLaet.
“You make a bogey or a double and you think, 'Oh, here we go again,’ Then, you get a string of birdies together and you go, 'Okay, here we go.’ It’s just so easy to get ahead of yourself either way. Staying in the moment is definitely the most important part of getting through,” he said.
DeLaet’s experience in 2009 is similar to what’s ahead for Adam Hadwin, who drew the eyes of Canadians with his tie for fourth at the RBC Canadian Open in July in Vancouver. It was one of two top-10 finishes in limited PGA Tour play this year.
DeLaet hasn’t played golf with Hadwin for years, but he is aware of the progress Hadwin has made over the past two years.
“He’s an incredible talent. I know there are a lot of Canadians and media and peers and just fans in general that are really rooting for him because they see a lot of potential in him and rightfully so,” said DeLaet.
“He’s obviously got the talent. He’s shown that he can perform under pressure situations and those are the two most important things at any tournament, but especially qualifying school,” he said, adding those qualities should serve Hadwin well in avoiding the pitfalls ahead.
“Just basically try to avoid the big numbers, try to stay as even-keeled as you can at all times, playing smart, playing safe, moreso than taking risks,” he said.
“Risk can obviously end up in birdies, but just as often end up in a bogey or even a double or a triple and that’s what you really have to avoid,” said DeLaet.