What must it be like to be among the best at your occupation and not be able to pay the rent?
That’s the issue that constantly confronts Alan McLean, an occasional playing partner of mine who missed getting through the second round of Q-School by two shots. He’s won an event — the Dunhill in South Africa — and recently made $50K playing an event in China. By the time he’s paid his caddie, paid for a series of upcoming flights to South Africa and covered his costs, that money will be gone. It’ll be back to square one.
Such is the life of the marginal touring pro. Not that McLean appears marginal — he hits the ball very long and straight. But that’s not good enough when the putts don’t fall.
“I think I only had one 3-putt all week,” he told me on the phone this morning from his home in London, Ont. But they still must not have reached the bottom of the hole in time, I replied. Indeed, that’s the case.
“They lipped out, they rolled around, they didn’t fall,” McLean said.
If you are in McLean’s spot, the tough thing to get your head around is the “what could have been” element. What might have happened if that putt on the second day in Texas found the back of the cup? What if I didn’t bogey the first hole twice?
I pointed out to Alan that short hitting David Morland of Aurora managed to get through to the final round, despite playing on a course where no one in the field broke par.
“I don’t know how he does it,” McLean replied. He’s right — I can’t figure out how Morland does it either. But it appears if you hang around the fringes of the PGA Tour long enough, you eventually get a shot. Morland has had his opportunities, and maybe he’ll have another one.
Of course McLean isn’t the only Canadian (or kinda Canadian — McLean is listed as being from Scotland, though he lives in London, Ont.) who didn’t make it through. Highly touted James Lepp didn’t make it through. Neither did Chris Baryla. Surprisingly, Ian Leggatt, a former PGA Tour winner, couldn’t find a spot in the final round of Q School either.
McLean says it is easier for Leggatt though. The Cambridge golfer will get into a handful of events because he’s a past tour winner. McLean could be back playing the Canadian Tour — with its mixed bag of scattered events all over North America.
Alan seems to focused on that not happening. He’s off to South Africa to play in the events that are co-sanctioned with the European Tour. If he can make as much money as the 115th player on the European Tour, he’ll gain status in Europe. Since the HSBC event in China, where he won $50K, is part of the European Tour, he’s already off to a strong start. McLean will play and visit his coach, who also happens to be Trevor Immelman’s brother. With some luck, he could return to Canada with a fine Christmas present — a European Tour card.