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Graham Delaet of Canada hits the ball at the 15th hole during Round 2 of the Omega Mission Hills World Cup golf tournament in Dongguan, southern China's Guangdong province, Friday, Nov. 27, 2009. (Kin Cheung)
Graham Delaet of Canada hits the ball at the 15th hole during Round 2 of the Omega Mission Hills World Cup golf tournament in Dongguan, southern China's Guangdong province, Friday, Nov. 27, 2009. (Kin Cheung)

Lorne Rubenstein

DeLaet has bigger goals than just keeping card Add to ...

For Graham DeLaet, whose fans in his native Saskatchewan have been trying to follow his every swing in his two-week-old PGA Tour career, the first task is complete. He won his PGA Tour card in qualifying school last December, so he's out there and ready to compete in this week's Farmers Insurance Open in La Jolla, Calif.

But there's a second task, at least as hard and probably harder than winning a PGA Tour card. That's keeping his card. Only 30 per cent of Q school graduates since 1990 have kept their cards.

"It's obviously difficult to get your card," DeLaet, 27, said this week after a practice round on the South layout at Torrey Pines Golf Course. "But keeping it is tough because there are so many talented players. The calibre of play is amazing."

DeLaet will need to finish in the top 125 money winners this year to retain his card. Recently, fellow Canadians David Hearn, Jon Mills and Jim Rutledge haven't passed the exam - whatever their route to the PGA Tour.

"That's the test," former PGA Tour player Richard Zokol, who lives in South Surrey, B.C., said yesterday. "It's one thing to get your card, another to keep it. But no Canadian has ever come out of the blocks like Graham has."

DeLaet, who led the Canadian Tour's money list last year and won in South Africa, isn't thinking about just keeping his card. He's thinking about winning.

His performance supports his self-belief. DeLaet tied for 25th at the Sony Open in Hawaii two weeks ago, and for 18th at the Bob Hope Classic in La Quinta, Calif., last Monday. He's won $94,186 (U.S.) and is 51st on the money list. The money is a help, given that he and his wife, Ruby, whom he met while they were students at Boise State University, have just bought their first home. The home is in Boise. DeLaet hasn't seen it.

"I felt I should have top-10ed both weeks," DeLaet said. "I was 12th going into the final round in Hawaii, but I played poorly that round. Last week [at the Hope]I couldn't get anything in the hole. I think I had more lip-outs then ever in one event."

DeLaet's a throwback player for somebody who grew up square in the technological age where golfers and coaches dissect swings frame by frame, ad nauseam and often ad mega-confusion. He doesn't work with a swing or a mental coach.

"I'm not into mechanics," DeLaet said.

Meanwhile, he knows where he's gotten the most help. First, there are his parents, who live in Saskatoon. (DeLaet was born in Weyburn, Sask.) His father once held a scratch handicap, and his mother breaks 80 frequently.

DeLaet hasn't been back to Saskatchewan for a while, but he and his wife plan a return trip soon. His sister just gave birth to a son, and the new uncle wants to see him.

Besides his family, the Royal Canadian Golf Association's player development program helped DeLaet. He was on the RCGA's national team in 2005 and 2006.

"That was a big part of my development," he said. "I played in Japan, Australia, England and Argentina. I wasn't a great player then, but it helped to mix it up with some players who are on the PGA Tour now."

DeLaet was wearing his Canadian colours, well, not on his heart but on the inside of his right leg. That's the location for a tattoo of a Canadian flag. He had it put on before he went to Boise State on a golf scholarship, where he won 10 collegiate tournaments. He also has a Canadian flag on his golf bag.

"I would never want to get it off," DeLaet said of the tattoo. "We live in Idaho, but Saskatchewan will always be my home. I will always be a Saskatchewan boy."

"Graham is the total package," George Sourlis of Mississauga-based Landmark Sport Group said this week. Landmark's president Elliot Kerr signed DeLaet as soon as he turned pro. Kerr looks prescient.

"The support I got from Landmark right when I turned pro was very important," DeLaet said. "They did that for very little return."

The returns on DeLaet's scorecard on the PGA Tour to this point suggest Landmark could get much higher returns on its balance sheet.

"I'm playing to win every week," DeLaet said, "and I think I can win. Right now I'm thinking very well, and I believe in myself."

Why wouldn't he feel that way?

rube@sympatico.ca

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