Graham DeLaet needed some time away from golf.
The golf star, from Weyburn, Sask., last played in a PGA Tour tournament in September. But given a series of nagging injuries, he stepped away from the game for a while. He went to his caddy’s wedding, went fishing with some friends, retreated from the spotlight.
“I was pretty worn out,” says DeLaet from his home in Scottsdale earlier this week. “I just started to practice in the last few days. It has been a nice little break, but I’m just starting to get going again.”
A fishing trip in Saskatchewan, which took DeLaet and his buddies outside of mobile phone coverage, was part of what he needed. His friends, who knew him well before he became a professional golfer, don’t treat him any differently given his success at events like the Presidents Cup. And that’s exactly how DeLaet wants it.
“Those boys will give it to anyone,” he says, laughing. “They don’t care if you’re a PGA Tour player or selling steel. You’re just one of the boys. We were detached from the world. It was the right time for it. I was pretty burned out.”
The break away from the grind of tour golf was well deserved.
DeLaet, one of six Canadians in the field this week at the Frys.com Open, had seven Top 10 finishes last year, including a runner-up at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, making $2.6-million along the way and moving into the Top 40 in the world. Despite the success, DeLaet is convinced better golf is yet to come.
“I feel like that. In order to win golf tournaments you need to make putts at crucial times,” he says. “But I know I’m going to be there and I’ll have my chances this year. I know it is only a matter of time before I make a chip on Sunday or a long putt to get into the lead, and I really believe it is going to happen sooner than later.”
WATCH: 1-on-1 with Graham DeLaet at RBC Canadian Open
Given DeLaet’s early season success last year, it could start this week. DeLaet finished in the Top 10 in four of his first five tournaments last year. And while he may not be tournament sharp given his long layoff, some of the nagging injuries that dogged him heading into the FedEx Cup have now healed.
Though he didn’t win—something many expect every time he tees it up—last season saw plenty of firsts for DeLaet. He played in his first Masters in April, and didn’t see the weekend at the U.S. Open or the British Open. It was only after he considered his approach to the majors that he finally broke through, finishing in a tie for 15th at the PGA Championship.
“Some guys think they need to play harder and practice more in bigger weeks, but for me the recipe is to treat it like any other week and take the results and move on,” he says, noting that’s what he did at the PGA Championship. “Augusta was the most nervous I’ve been. When I looked back at how I approached it I felt it was a success just to play in it and that’s not how you approach a golf tournament. You haven’t done anything just be being in the tournament. I settled in my second round and I know I can go around and shoot good numbers. Hopefully that’ll be next year.”
As he grows more comfortable with his role as the face of golf in Canada, a role handled by Mike Weir for more than a decade, DeLaet has recognized the need to give back.
As part of Shaw’s Birdies and Eagles for Kids program, the company pledged $100 for every birdie and $500 for every eagle DeLaet made throughout the season for the newly created Graham and Ruby DeLaet Foundation. In total $32,800 was raised with a focus on improving the health and wellness of children and supporting the development of junior golfers at all stages.
The foundation, which involves DeLaet’s wife Ruby, also raised around $376,000 at a fundraiser in Saskatchewan in July. The money is targeted at the new Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan.
“It was really important to us,” says DeLaet of the kick-off event, called the “Graham Slam.” “The Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan brought 15 kids out, and a majority had been battling cancer. It really hits home and we did it before the big auction. People knew how important it was, but when you see them there they dig a little deeper.”
DeLaet says there are more demands on his time now, but that doesn’t distract him from his goal of winning on the PGA Tour. A win could come at any time, as DeLaet has put himself in contention numerous times in the last two seasons.
“I feel like that,” he says. “In order to win golf tournaments you need to make putts at crucial times. But I know I’m going to be there and I’ll have my chances this year. I know it is only a matter of time before I make a chip on Sunday or a long putt to get into the lead, and I really believe it is going to happen sooner than later.”