It seemed only natural that a guy representing the country from which the last gold medalist in Olympic golf 112 years ago came from would be a part of the first group, along with Adilson da Silva, representing the host country of Brazil, when the much-anticipated return of golf took place Thursday morning in Rio.
“We do this for a living week-in and week-out, but there was something different about that first tee shot today. It was a different announcement for us, and it was just a really cool feeling,” said Canadian Graham DeLaet.
“I was playing with a Brazilian and that was neat. We had a lot of people out, especially for 7.30 in the morning, more than I anticipated. It was a lot of fun. We said as we were walking off the first tee, `This is pretty cool, first time in over a hundred years, and we’re kind of the lead group.’ It was nice,” he added.
“I shot the low round in our group, so I’m the Olympic leader right now, so it’s pretty neat,” said DeLaet, who was overtaken by Australia’s Marcus Fraser.
After his opening round, five-under 66, DeLaet is tied with British Open champion Henrik Stenson, three shots behind Fraser, leaving DeLaet with some ground to gain if he is to duplicate George S. Lyon, who won the gold medal the last time golf was played in the Olympics in 1904.
“Obviously it’s a stroke play like we play week-in and week-out. Playing for the flag, I think is a little bit different than playing for cash or points or your family, or whatever it is. I know that I’ve got tons of support up in Canada week-in and week-out, but this week, I think, is a little bit more special,” said DeLaet.
It’s nice to get off to a good start. I’ve been doing this for a long time, so I know that I’m only 25 per cent done, so I’m not getting too far ahead of myself. It’s definitely better to shoot five under than gfive over to open up,” he added.
“I think it was pretty special for Addison to lead things off. I don’t know if it’s because we are the defending champions or how I ended up there, but it was a nice tee time too, because we played the front nine with not much wind. There’s always a little bit of wind out here but we definitely had a good tee time,” he said.
“Our last five or six holes, it started pumping pretty good and it was bouncing around a little bit and it was nice to get in early,” said DeLaet.
DeLaet took advantage of that calm front nine, with birdies on the third, fifth, sixth and eighth holes. His lone bogey of the day came on the par four 11th, but he put up another birdie on 13, before finishing up with one on 18.
“I missed – I’m not sure the total – only four greens all day. A couple of them were just on the fringe, but yeah, my speed was really nice today. I really like these greens. They roll super true. Every time you look up, it’s pretty tight on the ground. You know, it felt good. The putter has been feeling better the last few months, and hopefully I can keep it rolling,” said DeLaet.
DeLaet, like all the Canadians – male and female – picked to the Olympic golf team, chose to compete over withdraw as several marquee players, mostly on the men’s side, chose to do, and he’s been having fun since he got to Rio.
“We went to the Canada House on Tuesday night and the Rugby 7s girls were with us on the bus going over there and they got their bronze medals when they got there,” he said.“We got to hold it. We took a picture with the girls and that’s when it really kind of became real to me how amazing it would be to get that chunk of medal. Obviously, gold would be incredible, but I think bringing home anything would be really, really special,” said DeLaet.
“I know that countries always count medals, so to be able to add to what Canada can rack up would be pretty awesome,” he added.
David Hearn was two over on the day and tied for 42nd.