Defending champion now focused on PGA

Two-time defending champion Graham DeLaet won’t be competing in this year’s Red Deer Golf and Country Club Skins Game set for June 22.

Two-time defending champion Graham DeLaet won’t be competing in this year’s Red Deer Golf and Country Club Skins Game set for June 22.

And who could blame him?

DeLaet, a Weyburn, Sask., product by way of Boise State University, jumped from the Canadian to the PGA Tour this season and sits 94th on the big tour’s 2010 money list with earnings of $502,405 in 15 tournaments.

“I asked him repeatedly and talked to him by e-mail starting in January. Finally, his agent said he’d really like to be here, but that it just doesn’t work with his schedule,” Red Deer G&CC head pro Ken Frame said Monday.

“His focus is obviously the PGA Tour.”

DeLaet’s teeming talent — he virtually cleaned up each of the last two years — will be missed in this year’s Skins Game, but Frame has managed to put together a field that will easily measure up to any other in the 11-year history of the event.

Slated to tee it up in two weeks time with Frame are current Canadian Professional Golf Tour members Wes Heffernan, Kris Wasylowich, James Love and Mike Mezei.

“Having DeLaet here was nice, but I think this is the best lineup we’ve ever had. These are the young guns, these are the guys that are going to be top golfers and they’re all Alberta boys,” said Frame.

Heffernan currently sits ninth on the Canadian Tour’s money list with $10,130 earned in four tournaments. Mezei is 39th with $3,525 in four events and Love sits 49th with $2,680 pocketed in two tourneys.

Wasylowich, who captured the 2006 Alberta Amateur at the Red Deer G&CC, has yet to compete in a Tour event this season.

Heffernan and Love are from Calgary, while Mezei and Wasylowich, a member of the Canadian amateur team in 2006 and ‘07 and a winner of the national mid-amateur title both years, call Lethbridge home.

All of the scheduled participants are clearly gifted and any one of the four guests could be the next breakthrough player, like DeLaet, whose recent success at the top level has raised the profile of the Red Deer G&CC Skins Game.

“Graham was kind of struggling the first year he came here,” said Frame.

“It was kind of paycheque to paycheque for him, but he’s doing a hell of a lot better now. What he’s been able to accomplish this year is a real feather in his cap.”

The purse for this year’s Skins Game is up $2,500 to $10,500. Toss in the sideline prizes for the longest drive, closest to the pin and birdies/eagles, and the available total is closer to $11,500.

gmeachem@bprda.wpengine.com