Boise State University men’s golf coach Kevin Burton receives e-mails every day from young golfers all over the world asking how they might become part of his program. Two of Burton’s former players are particularly to blame for the stuffed e-mail inbox: Troy Merritt and Graham DeLaet. These recent alums and Bronco standouts used the university’s golf program as a launching pad for promising young careers on the PGA Tour.
TROY MERRITT'S BREAKOUT CAREER
After transferring from Winona State University in Minnesota, Troy Merritt played for two years at BSU under Coach Burton. In 2008, during his senior year, his trajectory (aimed at the stars) became clear. He finished first team All-Western Athletic Conference and turned pro the same year.
“He’s a very raw talent and very natural, but his best attribute is between his ears,” Coach Burton said. “He’s a competitor, and that’s why he succeeds so much. To work with that much talent was a lot of fun.”
Playing on the Nationwide Tour in 2009, Merritt won the Mexico Open. That first professional win propelled him to an even bigger victory at the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, also in 2009. Merritt won that tournament by one stroke to become only the third golfer to medal at PGA Tour Qualifying School by leading every round.
“After Q school ((PGA Tour Qualifying), which Troy won, it gave Boise State a lot more notoriety for their golf program,” DeLaet said of his alma mater. “That can help with a little bit of recruiting, and hopefully it can help build BSU into a top golf school nationally as well.”
Coach Burton also pointed out that Merritt still wears the BSU Bronco on his golf bag.
Merritt and DeLaet never played together while at Boise State, but the two played together often after Merritt’s collegiate career.
“Troy is a great putter, and he’s so strong mentally, that’s got to be his greatest asset,” DeLaet said of his fellow Bronco. “We’re both proud alums and both do our best to put the Boise State name out there in the golf industry.”
THE MAN FROM MOOSE JAW
Graham DeLaet arrived at BSU from Moose Jaw, Canada, in 2001, after his parents hired a recruiting firm in hopes of drawing attention to their son’s talent. The best offer they received was from BSU and then-head golf coach Mike Young. Young coached DeLaet for three seasons before the leaving the program in 2004.
WhenBurton took control of the team in the summer of 2005, he immediately noticed DeLaet’s physical strength and competitiveness.
“He has a lot of club speed. That kid can hit it a mile, and he has a lot of natural talent,” Burton, a former PGA Tour player, said. “Graham can really kill it. I’ve never seen anyone be able to hit long irons so high.”
During his powerhouse career in Boise, DeLaet won ten collegiate tournaments and came to love the city just as much as the university that put him on the map.
“I love the city first and foremost,” DeLaet said. “But I never missed one tournament the entire time I was at BSU, and I knew I was going to be playing a lot. The more tournaments and competition you play against, the better you become as a player.”
After Boise State in 2006, DeLaet went on to play in the Canadian and the Sunshine Tours, where he won a combined four tournaments. In the fall of 2009, he took his career to another level by entering the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, where only the top twenty-five finishers are granted PGA Tour cards.
DeLaet finished tied for eighth place and secured his spot as a rookie on golf’s most prestigious stage, playing alongside some of the best in the world. DeLaet credits Coach Burton for preparing him not only for the pressures of professional golf, but also teaching him to believe in himself.
“The guy’s a great coach, and he’s got a good name for himself, not only in Boise and in Idaho, but nationally,” DeLaet said. “He’s a great guy who’s taught me a lot about course management and what it takes to be a winner.”
Now, DeLaet and Merritt both try their best to come back to Boise when their PGA schedules allow. Burton, the proud coach, still plays with them regularly on several of Boise’s courses including Crane Creek, Falconcrest and Warm Springs.
Recently, DeLaet bought a house near Boise and lives there with his wife. He says he doesn’t get as much time as he’d like to spend in the City of Trees, but hopes that will change in the next few years as he starts choosing his own tournaments.
“I won golf tournaments and everything, but when I think back on
my time at BSU, I’ll remember the friends that I made and the closeness I
had with my teammates,” he said.
Photography Boise State Athletics
Text Trent Lootens