In the third round of the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Golf Club, Graham DeLaet stepped on to the par-3 13th hole and hit a crisp iron that flew at the pin, rolled past the cup, and stopped four inches from the hole, narrowly missing a hole-in-one. After tapping in, he went to the par-4 14th tee and again drilled his tee shot precisely towards the green. It landed on the front, rolled up to the pin and bounced off, just missing the exceptionally rare one on a par 4.
“Every part of me always wanted to keep playing and keep doing what I’m doing,” DeLaet stated. “I love the game. I love the competition and everything but every time I tried to ramp it up and get practicing again, I would just go backwards. It just got to the point where it wasn’t worth it because it was affecting my life with my family and things I wanted to do around the house with my kids and all that kind of stuff. So, eventually, after multiple decisions and a lot of tears, Ruby [his wife] and I came to the realization that it was probably just time to move on.”
The 40-year-old has been battling his wonky back since he was 15. When it was good enough to let him play, he could hit a ball with such precision that it would make a unique sound coming off the clubface, a crisp click that would send the ball off like a bullet and turn heads on the driving range from his peers.
When it was bad, he would spend hours getting treatments before and after his rounds, relying on chiropractors and physiotherapists to bend him into some sort of shape that would allow him to tee it up. When the pain became too much, he endured back surgeries (he had a microdiscectomy long before Tiger Woods), stem cell treatments, cortisone shots, cryotherapy and, more recently, nerve ablations.