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Canadian golfer Graham DeLaet putting more than just name behind kids program

06/09/2015 05:44 EDT | Updated 06/09/2016 05:59 EDT
Graham DeLaet wanted to lend more than just his name to the Golf in Schools program when he signed on as the program's ambassador.

So Canada's top men's golfer plans to make some surprise appearances when the program is up and running again next school year.

"I'd love to pop into schools, especially in Weyburn, my hometown," DeLaet said. "I know if I was a kid and we were taking hockey in school and an NHLer came in, it would ramp it up a little bit, so I think being around it ... was important to us."

The 33-year-old was named ambassador Tuesday for the program that brings golf to 2,700 schools, teaching the sport through the physical education curriculum.

DeLaet said he never had the opportunity to pick up a club while in school. He credits his mom and dad — both avid golfers — for giving him his start, enrolling him in a "junior junior" golf program at age three.

"Then after my dad was off work, we'd go out and play three or four holes," DeLaet said. "When you're five years old, that's about all you can handle. That's how it all got started."

DeLaet will appear on the program's promotional materials, including learning resources and videos, and he and his wife Ruby — who's expecting twins in December — will raise funds for the program through their charitable foundation.

"I just look at where I am now in life, and I couldn't be here without golf and the people that helped me along the way," DeLaet said on a conference call from Chicago, the morning after taking in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final. "And I just think it's common sense and a no-brainer thing to give back to what got me to where I'm at.

"I think this is the greatest game in the world and it teaches kids so many good values: honesty and integrity and sportsmanship ... the more kids we get playing golf I think, the better."

DeLaet, who currently holds the No. 86 position in the world rankings, made the announcement the day after withdrawing from U.S. Open sectional qualifying in Columbus, Ohio. DeLaet said he withdrew to avoid the toll the qualifying would take on his body, especially with rain forecast for the event.

"There was some weather coming in and 18 holes is hard enough on my body these days, but a 36-hole qualifier might have been a little difficult, especially in some rain," said DeLaet.

Despite the withdrawal, he feels he's finally rounding into form after a frustrating start to his season that was hampered by nagging injuries, including neck problems.

"It isn't how I drew it up at the start of the year," DeLaet said. "It's frustrating to stand over a ball and try to do what I know I'm capable of doing, and my body just doesn't move properly. But the last three weeks I felt like I've gained a little bit of confidence, I've been feeling really well and I think it's starting to show.

"The biggest part of this game is feeling good but being confident and letting things snowball."

He finished in a tie for 26th place at the Memorial Tournament last week, tied for 22nd a week earlier at the AT&T Byron Nelson, and finished in a tie for 53rd a week before that at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

He said over these last three weeks, he's finally felt in contention again.

"Obviously you look at the scores and where I finished, and you may not think that," he said. "But a golfer always knows inside when he's playing well, and right now I am playing well and that's the main thing for me is now I can finally get some confidence and a bit of belief in myself."

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