Graham DeLaet is inching closer to the area where many Canadian golf observers expected him to venture when first identified as an elite amateur in Weyburn, Sask., almost a decade ago.
The 31-year-old, now based in Boise, Idaho, where he lives with his wife, Ruby, and where he went to college, matched his career-high result on the PGA Tour by finishing third in the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn., on Sunday.
The result earned him $414,800 US yet it was disappointing because DeLaet was in position to win the tournament. But a late bogey on No. 16 and a failure to convert birdies on both the 15th and 17th holes eventually left him one shot out of a playoff.
"I just had a couple sloppy holes there on 15 and 16, which ended up being the difference," said DeLaet, who birdied No. 18 when he stuck a wedge from just inside 100 yards to pull ahead of 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson and into third.
DeLaet is 29th in the FedEx Cup standings and has earned $1,348,387 US so far this season. And at 74th in the world rankings, he is also Canada's best golfer by a fairly substantial margin -- and holds that distinction without having won on the PGA Tour.
Ten Canadians have won on the PGA Tour and two of those were adopted Canadians who developed in other countries. So as that statistic illustrates, it's not easy to win. But in addition to his post-round comments, DeLaet acknowledged a sense of unfinished business until he can claim a PGA Tour victory.
"I won't consider it a breakthrough [for me] until I get my first win," he said prior to the Travelers, words that proved almost ominous given how close he came five days later.
DeLaet's story is also unique for a couple of other reasons. He is a Saskatchewan boy and was wholly developed there before setting off to Boise State. There were no small fortunes to be spent, sending him to some place like Arizona or Florida to work on his game year round. Though that story is fairly typical of most Canadian kids who become tour players, hailing from the Prairies is unique in a Canuck context because most of this country's elite players come from Southern Ontario or B.C.
There are perfectly logical reasons for that relatively narrow disbursement of golfers. Ontario has one of the biggest concentrations of golf courses in North America and the lower mainland of B.C. and Vancouver Island is the lone geographic area in this country where you can play year round.
But that doesn't mean that other parts of the country are indifferent to the game and, though he hasn't lived there for over a decade, DeLaet remains closely tied to his home province, installed as honourary chairman of the PGA Tour Canada's Dakota Dunes Classic slated to tee off next Thursday in Saskatoon.
For proponents of golf in this country, there was a message in DeLaet's close shave and Duke's victory at Hartford. Duke was the Canadian Tour's best player in 1999, around the time that DeLaet was pounding the surlyn off golf balls as a teenager in Weyburn. By the time Duke moved on to the PGA Tour, DeLaet was one of (what is now called) PGA Tour Canada's best players.
'Not classic golf attire'
DeLaet was quick to praise the Canadian loop for his development and accept the tag as ambassador for his home province. In return, Saskatchewan is getting a colourful representative because, aside from his reputation as one of the PGA Tour's best ball strikers, he's also earned some acclaim as a fairly snappy dresser.
"I like to have a little fun," he said of his wardrobe, which tends to be heavy on the bright colours, with a particular preference for loud trousers.
"I realize it's not [always] classic golf attire."
DeLaet, who did not attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open, citing fatigue, has now positioned himself to get into the British Open and PGA Championship, the season's final two majors. A high performance in those or in one or two FedEx Cup playoff tournaments (he was T5 in last year's opening event) and he will likely garner serious consideration for the Internationals in the upcoming Presidents Cup at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, in the first week of October.
DeLaet is currently 15th on that ledger, with the Top 10 earning automatic qualification.
Follow Peter Robinson on Twitter @PRGolfWriter
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