Induction into Boise State’s athletics hall of fame is a welcome pick-me-up for former men’s golfer Graham DeLaet, who is one of seven who will join the hall in a sold-out ceremony Friday night.
DeLaet hasn’t played golf since October because of lingering back problems that have threatened his career and limited his activity with his twin 2-year-olds.
He hopes to return to the tour in time for The Players Championship next month — but he has vowed to take his time with recovery.
DeLaet will join Heisman Trophy finalist Kellen Moore, All-American offensive lineman Nate Potter, track and field national champions Gabriel Wallin and Eleni Kafourou, track and field standout Abigail Ferguson and longtime Voice of the Broncos Paul J. Schneider in the 2018 hall of fame class — the first at Boise State in 11 years.
“I’m starting to realize how amazing it actually is,” DeLaet said of the induction he learned about in February when Athletic Director Curt Apsey called him. “With all the athletes that have come through Boise State — not just athletes, but elite athletes — to be a part of that crew going up on the wall forever ... . I have kids now and I’m thinking of times I can take them through the hall of fame when they’re old enough to understand what’s going on and Dad will be in there. It’s pretty cool.”
DeLaet, the 2006 WAC Player of the Year, is the only Bronco with multiple NCAA regional appearances (2003, 2004, 2006) and he holds career records for top-10 finishes (26), top-25 finishes (37) and wins (10).
He has more than $11 million in career earnings as a pro golfer and, shortly before shutting down last fall, he tied for seventh in the PGA Championship and tied for fifth in the Safeway Open. He’s still searching for his first win but has recorded 33 top-10 finishes since joining the tour full time in 2010.
“It’s getting harder and harder out there,” DeLaet said. “Everyone is coming in younger, more polished. I kind of blinked and all of a sudden I’m 36 years old. ... The thing that’s missing on my resume is a win — that’s pretty obvious. That’s the main goal. But at the same time, I’m proud of what I’ve been able to do. I feel like I’ve been a consistent player for a number of years.”
His accomplishments are even more impressive considering his physical challenges. The former youth hockey player from Canada — and he looks the part when he’s growing his beard — has struggled with back pain since he was a teenager. He had surgery that limited him to just two tournaments in the 2011 season. That procedure relieved the discomfort for a couple seasons.
But in recent years, he has fought with pain that at times makes it difficult to tee up his golf ball or pick up his kids. Dr. Craig Davies, a conditioning coach who has worked with DeLaet since 2011, told The Canadian Press that DeLeat underwent an extensive array of treatments to play in the PGA Championship last August, when he posted a top-10 finish without practicing.
“Truth of the matter is, all of what we did would have been for not if it wasn’t for the fact that Graham has this playoff-hockey mentality where he can play through a lot of pain that a lot of players wouldn’t be able to play through,” Davies said. “And if they could play through it, they wouldn’t have played at the level he could. It’s a massive testament to Graham.”
DeLaet hasn’t swung a club since October, when he withdrew from an event in Korea because he couldn’t hit his driver more than 240 yards. He underwent a stem-cell treatment in December and is determined to wait until he feels strong and healthy to get back on the course.
His children — Roscoe and Lyla — have motivated him to be patient. DeLaet, his wife Ruby and the children split time between Arizona and Idaho but Eagle will be their home when the children begin school.
“I’m good enough right now to play,” DeLaet said last week. “I’ve played the majority of my career injured, but I’m just kind of sick of doing that — especially now that I have kids. I want to be able to play golf with them, play catch with them and just run around and be a dad. When I’m laid out on the couch and can’t get up and when they want up I can’t lift them up, that’s just not much fun.
“... My doctors have said, ‘Listen, man, if you give yourself an extra couple months on this end it might give you two or three more years on the back end of your career.’ ”
The stem-cell procedure — which involved extracting bone marrow from his hip, removing stem cells and injecting them into discs in his back — has helped other athletes feel better in three months and forget they were injured in nine months to a year, DeLaet said. He noticed a difference at three months, too. He’s hopeful the benefits will continue.
“It can be miraculous like that, and some people only get a little bit of relief and that’s all,” he said. “It’s an imperfect science. I hope I’m on that extreme end where I get complete relief.”
The next medical option likely would be a fusion surgery, similar to what has revived Tiger Woods’ career.
“That’s not a fun thing to think about, let alone do,” DeLaet said. “I’d love to play. That’s all I’ve ever done. That’s all I know. I’m a professional golfer and I’ve been a golfer since I was 13 years old. I don’t want it to be over by any means.”
He does have a small business interest on the side — a licensing deal with Bomber Brewing in Vancouver, British Columbia, to produce his own beer. DeLaet owns the recipe to Baard (it’s Dutch for beer), which he recently rebranded from Prairie Baard. It’s a golden ale made with wheat and barley from his native Saskatchewan. It’s only available in Canada but he hopes to at least bring it to the Treasure Valley at some point.
“It’s been gaining a little traction,” DeLaet said. “I’m not getting rich doing it.”
It’s also not enough to keep him busy, so he’s eager to get back on the golf course. His Safeway Open finish gave him a nice jump on retaining his tour card for next season but even if he falls short he’ll get a chance to play 2018-19 events through the PGA Tour’s injury policies.
He’s reconsidering how he schedules — he might have to skip events known to strain the back — and will continue to avoid long stretches without time off. He’s exempt into the PGA Championship this year but probably will skip U.S. Open qualifying because it requires competitors to play 36 holes in one day.
On Friday night, he’ll put those thoughts aside. His parents are coming to town to watch their son join Boise State’s legends in the hall of fame, alongside one of the brightest stars of all.
“I’ve crossed paths with some of the guys but never hung out or had a beer,” DeLaet said. “Hopefully we can do that, and kind of chat. What Kellen was able to do at Boise State, it’s amazing. He’s the winningest college football quarterback of all time. He rightfully should, and probably will, get most of the excitement. The rest of us will be kind of at his coattails with big smiles on our faces as well.”