In the third round of the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Golf Club, Graham DeLaet climbed to par-3 13The tenth Punch and hit a brittle iron that flew into the pin, rolled past the cup, stopped four inches from the hole, and lost a hole in one. After tapping, it went to par-4 14The tenth The tee again dug his shot precisely towards the green. It landed in the front, rolled to the pin and bounced back, only missing the very rare pin on par 4.
Two swings, two near-perfect shots, both coming from a guy who can barely walk due to the pain swinging in his back.
In many ways, this sums up the career of DeLaet, one of Canada’s greatest golfers, and almost certainly the toughest.
This week, DeLaet finally gave in to his sick back and announced his retirement from the PGA Tour.
“Every part of me has always wanted to keep playing and keep doing what I’m doing,” Delight stated. “I love the game. I love the competition and everything, but every time I tried to ramp it up and practice again, I would fall back. It got to the point where it wasn’t worth it because it was affecting my life with my family and the things I wanted to do at home With my kids and all that stuff. So, finally, after multiple decisions and a lot of tears, Ruby [his wife] And I realized that maybe it was time to move on.”
The 40-year-old has been battling his shaky back since he was 15. When he was good enough to let him play, he could hit the ball with such accuracy that made a unique sound come out of the front of the club, a clear click that would send the ball away like a bullet and head off the field of his peers.
When it was bad, he would spend hours getting treatments before and after his rounds, relying on chiropractors and physical therapists to bend him into some form that would allow him to stabilize him. When the pain became severe, he underwent back surgeries (he underwent a microdiscectomy long before Tiger Woods), stem cell therapies, cortisone injections, cryotherapy, and most recently a nerve ablation.
There were times when DeLaet didn’t hit practice or even walk the track before the tournament started and he could barely navigate any kind of slope without almost falling to his knees. That was the case at the 2017 PGA Championship, however, somehow, he finished in a tie in Week 7.
“It was really hard mentally because I don’t really know anything different,” Delight said. “I’ve been a professional golfer my whole life and I’ve been a golfer since I was 10. I felt like I was giving up and never gave up on anything and that was kind of the heart that was the last step, going through the mental hurdle of ‘okay’ You won’t be a Tour player anymore. You’re just going to be an ordinary guy in the community, no quote.”
It would be easy to look back and consider what it would have been if DeLaet’s back had not been so annoying. But that will ignore his long list of impressive accomplishments.
He earned over $11 million in 186 events on the PGA Tour, and finished in the top ten 33 times. He was the second Canadian, after Mike Weir, to play on the international team in the Presidents Cup, setting a record 3-1-1 in 2013. He also represented Canada in several World Cup finals, and in 2016, went to the Olympics in Rio is where golf is back in the games after a long absence.
“He played really hard when he played,” Delight’s Olympic teammate David Hearn said. “He left everything on the course, gave 110 percent even though he was probably in pain. He was just a great striker for the ball too. He was great to watch.”
“I liked it when I was just starting out here,” said fellow Canadian PGA Tour pro Cory Conners. “He was a guy I looked up to. He was so fun to be around, and his swing was so immaculate.”
In fact, it was. He got a lot of attention for his accuracy off the tee and in the greens, and many of his peers were jealous of the swing that produced them.
“His swing is very simple and very effective,” said Derek Ingram, head coach of the men’s team at Golf Canada. “There are guys who have tried so hard to swing as he does, and that’s normal for him.”
DeLaet’s route to the PGA Tour is a great one. Growing up in Webburn, Sussex, where there was only one golf course, designing a serviceable wasn’t much of a challenge, but it was a starting point.
“Looking back at the time, I didn’t know anything different,” he said of the course. “So, I made my best all the way. We had a six-month golf season, and the golf course was only in good shape for about three months.”
There was a set with some well used balls, and a chopping and laying area that was a bit rough but allowed him to practice.
From this beginning his talent grew rapidly. He was good enough at amateur play to earn a scholarship to Boise State, and in 2005 and 2006, he was a member of the Canadian National Amateur Team.
After turning professional, he performed his game on the Canadian Tour, winning three events in two years. In 2009, he successfully passed the grueling qualifying school for the PGA Tour, finishing in eighth place. From that moment on, DeLaet never lost his card, a testament to his perseverance.
“Doing the PGA Tour was something that, if you ask me when I was 20, I probably wouldn’t have thought that was a reasonable thing to do,” DeLaet said. “But I’ve never lost my card, I think it was too big. Because it’s not easy, especially your first year there and then playing painfully and playing pretty minimal schedules throughout my career. So, I never lose my card like the one I can hang My hat is on her.”
As the years went by, he made dozens of top ten spots, and several times came close to achieving his first win. rose to 26The tenth He was awarded the official golf world rankings and was selected in the 2013 Presidents Cup, an event in which he was on full display. He finished two matches – a singles against Jordan Spieth and a four-way match with Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley – with shots from outside the green.
“I had a great partner on Jason Day, one of the best guys in the world,” DeLaet recalls. “From an actual golf point of view, maybe that’s the most memorable thing, I think. Shot that bunker against Jordan to score two goals on 18 and pierce a small shot into the field, which ended up cutting the game in half against Phil and Keegan, those things are ingrained in my memories.” And you’ll never leave. I can almost see it like a video clip still on my head.”
Three years later, DeLaet walked into the Olympic Stadium in Rio wearing Canadian colors. It was golf’s return to the games after being absent since 1904. As the title holders were Canada, with Toronto’s George S. Lyon winning the gold 112 years earlier, DeLaet was selected for the competition’s opening tee. He finally ended up 20The tenth.
In addition to golf, there is also a charitable aspect to DeLaet’s career. For years, he hosted Graham Slam in his hometown of Saskatchewan and, later, at his adopted home of Boise. It was a huge event and golf party, something he and his wife Robbie have worked hard on. Over the years, the event has raised nearly $2 million to support children’s health and wellness.
For the next chapter, DeLaet is still thinking about it. He joined TSN as an analyst for its coverage of major golf events and quickly proved just as good in front of the microphone as he was with the golf club. “It works well in small doses,” he said.
“The main thing for me is to be able to go home and spend time with my kids,” he said of his six-year-old twins Roscoe and Leila. “I don’t want to have a full-time job where I work 20 or 30 weeks a year and travel. Because I did. And that was great, but my family is more important.”
He would still play golf too, although it would be for fun these days, and he would take a cart. There’s no looking back for DeLaet. As he has always done, he will move forward on his next adventure with the positivity and determination that have made his golf career such a success.