For Delahoussaye, PGA Tour is worth the wait

Former Clemson golfer reaches the pinnacle of pro golf after years of hard knocks

01/14/2010 12:00 AM

01/14/2010 12:27 AM

Delayed gratification? Brent Delahoussaye knows all about that.

This week was supposed to be the pinnacle of the Greenville native's professional golf career: his debut on the PGA Tour, following four long years haunting a string of mini-tours and the developmental Nationwide Tour.

The 28-year-old former Clemson player and his bride of less than a week, Ashley, even changed their honeymoon plans, postponing a trip to the Bahamas to be in Hawaii for the Sony Open.

Oh well.

Today when the field tees off at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Delahoussaye will not be in the field. Fifth on the alternates list, his hopes of playing were dashed when a flurry of veterans committed late.

He knew his chance of getting in was "about 50-50," he said, but so what? Those odds pale in comparison to the ones he overcame at Q-school last fall to earn his 2010 exemption.

Every year since 2005, Delahoussaye signed up for the three stages of Q-School. Three times he made it to second stage; once, in 2007, he reached the finals and earned Nationwide Tour status. A year ago, a torn ligament in his wrist knocked him out of first stage.

This time, he needed to rally from an opening 74 in the first of third stage's six rounds at Bear Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach, Fla. He had to shake off a 75 in the fifth round, and needed to birdie his 16th hole of the final round for a 69 that got him into a tie for 23rd - the final man to earn a PGA Tour card.

"It's pretty intense," Delahoussaye said. "It's like you've got to qualify for your job every year. If you don't do well, you're going back to the minors. It's been my dream since I first picked up a club."

Those who know the PGA Tour rookie say his end result should justify all those potholes along the way.

Charles Warren knows the vagaries of the PGA Tour well, having spent five years on the Nationwide Tour before getting back there, then battling the past two years to stay. The Columbia native was at the recent Q-school finals seeking to improve his status; he didn't, but he helped a fellow Tiger get through.

"(Delahoussaye) and Stephen Poole and I went to dinner about every night" in West Palm Beach, Warren, 34, said. "It's such an emotional roller-coaster for six days. It's easy to go back to your hotel, look to the next (round) and get yourself all worked up."

Instead, Delahoussaye had Warren tell him after his opening 74, "You're right there, you didn't blow it," Delahoussaye said. "Something about me was calm all week. The only time I was nervous was on the 18th tee" the final day.

That round, Delahoussaye said he purposely did not ask where he stood until the final hole. His caddie told him a par would almost certainly earn a card. Delahoussaye hit driver, then 6-iron to 12 feet and two-putted for par.

Afterward, he fought back tears of joy, telling reporters, "I've never been that nervous in my life."

To which Clemson coach Larry Penley, would say: Well, not in a long time.

In 2002, Delahoussaye became a poster child in the rivalry between USC and Clemson. He played his first two seasons with the Gamecocks, then said he wanted to be a Tiger instead. Then-USC athletics director Mike McGee denied his request to transfer without penalty, and Delahoussaye sat out the 2002-03 season.

As a junior, he led Clemson to the NCAA finals, finishing a career-best fourth in the East Regional. But he largely stayed under the media radar his final two years to avoid questions about the incident.

Penley is not surprised at Delahoussaye's ascent to the PGA Tour. "He's won on the Hooters Tour, the Tarheel (now eGolf) Tour, and in his mind, he's paid his dues," Penley said.

On the PGA Tour, Delahoussaye will join a Clemson contingent of Warren, Byrd, Trahan, Glover and Kevin Johnson.

"He's one of us, and we love having him," said Warren, who plays offseason practice rounds with him and Glover at Greenville's Thornblade Club.

Delahoussaye looks forward to early-week practice rounds with other former Tigers. But what he likes best so far is what they tell him to expect.

"They all say the same thing: It's golf," he said. "It's just a bigger stage, more money. If you go out, do your thing, play your game, you'll be fine."

Delahoussaye waited a redshirt year to play for Clemson, then four more years to get where he's always wanted to be. What's another week or two?

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