WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Graham DeLaet was representing his country in China just three days ago. Now he’s in West Palm Beach for the most important tournament of his jet-setting year.
DeLaet has played on five different tours this year, but is at Q-School trying to find a full-time home for next year. He shot 70 Wednesday at Bear Lakes’ Links Course, and is tied for sixth with five rounds remaining.
The top 25 and ties at the end of the six-round event earn PGA Tour cards.
DeLaet played for Canada at last week’s World Cup. DeLaet and Stuart Anderson finished 25th out of 28 teams, but DeLaet earned $46,000, almost as much as first place this week.
DeLaet arrived in Miami at about 7 a.m. local time Monday. He left Hong Kong International Airport at 11:30 p.m. Sunday, then took a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Miami. Jet lag didn’t seem to be an issue Wednesday, though.
“I pretty much feel like I’m back on track,” he said. “When it comes down to it, if I can’t get excited about the final stage of Q-School, what can I get pumped for?”
DeLaet, 27, is one of three former Boise State golfers in the top 25 after one round. Apparently the school doesn’t just excel on the blue turf of its football field, but also the Bermudagrass of Bear Lakes.
Troy Merritt is the first-round leader after a 67, while Tyler Aldridge is tied for 23rd after shooting 72. All three played Bear Lakes’ Links Course on Wednesday, which played slightly easier than the Lakes Course.
Merritt’s round included a holed 6-iron shot for eagle on the par-5 second hole.
DeLaet played (and won) on the South Africa-based Sunshine Tour and the Canadian Tour this year, and also played events on the PGA Tour, Nationwide Tour and European Tour. He made three round-trips to South Africa and played in Scotland and China.
It wasn’t all work during DeLaet’s travels. He went cage-diving with sharks, and on a safari while in South Africa.
“It was unbelievable,” he said. “Just a big-time adrenaline rush. There was a shark within 2 feet of us, just outside the cage.”
Merritt’s Q-School won’t be quite as stressful. He’s already exempt on next year’s Nationwide Tour after winning the Mexico Open earlier this year. It’s PGA Tour card or bust for him this week.
He wasn’t exactly peaking heading into this week, though. Merritt, 24, didn’t touch a club for two weeks after the Nationwide Tour Championship, played “awful” at the Callaway Golf Pebble Beach Invitational, then took a one-week vacation in Ohio before coming to Q-School.
“I hit some balls on Monday and things were fine,” he said. “It’s kind of an odd game.”
Aldridge, 25, is the only member of the trio with PGA Tour experience. He finished 239th on this year’s money list, earning just $24,370, about half of what DeLaet won last week in Canada’s 25th-place World Cup finish.
“I call him the king of Q-School,” Merritt said. Aldridge earned a Nationwide Tour card via the ‘07 Q-School, then tied for 11th in ‘08 to earn his first PGA Tour card.
None of the three has more international experience than DeLaet, though.
He led the Canadian Tour’s Order of Merit this year, thanks to two victories and four other top 10s in nine starts. He is eighth on the Sunshine Tour’s Order of Merit after a win and two runners-up in five starts. He didn’t finish worse than 12th on that tour this year.
DeLaet is No. 187 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, a leap of 579 spots from this time last year. He played in 16 events this year that offered Official World Ranking points. He finished 12th or better in 10 of those events, including seven top-four finishes.
DeLaet, who’s never had PGA Tour or Nationwide Tour since turning pro in 2006, is making his first Q-School finals appearance.
INSIDE THE CUT LINE (top 25 and ties):
• Two recent Walker Cuppers are in the top 10. Billy Horschel, a member of the U.S. team in 2007, shot 69 and is tied for third, while 2009 U.S. team member Cameron Tringale fired 70.
• Nationwide Tour player Josh Broadaway, who plays cross-handed, shot 70 and is tied for sixth.
• Tom Pernice Jr., who won earlier this year on the Champions Tour, shot 71 and is tied for 11th. Pernice finished No. 140 on the PGA Tour money list. Former Ryder Cup players Jeff Maggert and Chris Riley also shot 71.
• Brian Stuard finds himself in contention for a PGA Tour card for the third time in 12 months after shooting a first-round 72 that has him tied for 23rd. The top 25 and ties will earn PGA Tour cards.
Stuard was tied for sixth with one round remaining at last year’s Q-School before shooting a final-round 74 to miss his card by three shots. Stuard finished 26th on this year’s Nationwide Tour money list, one spot from earning a Tour card.
• • •
OUTSIDE THE CUT LINE:
• Chris Kirk, a member of the 2007 U.S. Walker Cup team, shot 73 and is tied for 35th, as is Jesper Parnevik.
• Four-time PGA Tour winner Tim Herron shot 74 and is tied for 55th.
• Rickie Fowler shot 74 and is tied for 55th. Fowler was 4 over through 13 holes, but made two birdies on his final five holes. Jason Gore also shot 74.
• Former British Open winner Todd Hamilton shot 76 and is tied for 106th, as is 2007 U.S. Amateur champ Colt Knost.
• Ted Potter Jr., the 2009 Hooters Tour player of the year, shot 78 and is tied for 140th, as is Phil Tataurangi, who earned his PGA Tour card at the 2001 Q-School at Bear Lakes and won the 2002 Invensys Classic on the PGA Tour.
• Former PGA Tour winner Paul Stankowski shot 82 and is in last place.
• • •