Graham DeLaet recalls quite fondly the three years he spent playing throughout Canada.
And though DeLaet has risen to become one of the best players in the world, and will star on the Presidents Cup team in October, he credits a great deal of his success to his time on the Canadian Tour, now PGA Tour Canada.
“Those years were some of the most fun I’ve had in my life,” said DeLaet, from Weyburn, Sask., who acted as an ambassador for the Dakota Dunes Open in his home province earlier this year.
Given that he’s only a few years removed from his time on PGA Tour Canada – he last teed it up on the tour in 2009 – DeLaet still has friends playing its tournaments and continues to pay attention to their development. He’s paying attention this week to the first PGA Tour Canada Tour Championship at Sunningdale Golf and Country Club in London, Ont., which will see five players graduate to the Web.com Tour.
Players from five to 10 on the tour’s Order of Merit will have conditional status on Web.com, while others will get access to the second stage of qualifying school.
While they might not be well know, DeLaet says there are plenty of great players in the field this week, something reflected in the names that have spent time in Canada – like Stuart Appleby, Hank Kuehne, Paul Casey and Matt Kuchar.
“I think it is a very underrated tour, especially when you see the people who have come through there,” DeLaet explains from his home in Boise, Idaho.
That’s David Hearn’s perspective as well. Hearn, from Brantford, Ont., managed to parlay a strong 2004 season on the Canadian Tour into a win on the Web.com Tour, eventually landing on the PGA Tour in 2005. He’s of the opinion the new system of graduating to the Web.com Tour will likely benefit the best players on PGA Tour Canada.
“It is a testament to that tour that many great players have come off it and had great success on the PGA Tour,” he says. “It is unfortunate that a lot of guys didn’t have the access like they do now, though I think a lot of those guys would have gotten through anyway. On the other hand I’m sure some didn’t. Maybe some would have gotten there sooner, but going forward it is a great position for PGA Tour Canada.”
DeLaet recognizes the new format for PGA Tour Canada that allows the Top 5 to progress to the Web.com Tour has increased the level of competition. DeLaet, who won three times during his time on the tour, says he may have altered the way he approached a season on the former Canadian Tour.
“The only thing I would have done differently is there was a couple of times I took tournaments off,” he says. “That’s the main difference – it’s important to play all the tournaments because of what’s at stake.”
Hearn says there are moments in golf that define every player. In the past, for some, it was PGA Tour qualifying school. As the PGA reworked its qualifying structure, there’s no doubt the Tour Championship could define the careers of some PGA Tour Canada golfers. While two-time Canadian Amateur winner Mackenzie Hughes is already guaranteed a spot on the Web.com Tour next year after winning the Cape Breton Celtic Classic, others far down the Order of Merit have a shot at joining him.
“In golf there are always moments, tournaments, and events that are more meaningful than others,” Hearn says. “And the ability of players to rise to those events, defines them. And you have to play well in those events at some point to have success.”
If you go: PGA TOUR Canada Tour Championship
Where: Sunningdale Golf and Country Club, London, Ont.
When: Pro-Am on Wednesday, with rounds running Thursday through Sunday
What: At stake is a spot on the Web.com Tour for the Top 5 in the Order of Merit. The next five players gain conditional status.