Alan McLean is the first to admit the past couple of years have been a struggle.
The Scottish-born, South African-raised golfer has journeyed around the world trying to make a living at the game.
A former member of the European Tour, the 43-year-old spent several years as a Thunder Bay resident in the mid-2000s, when he earned a berth on the Nationwide Tour, finishing six strokes shy of full PGA Tour status at the 2004 qualifying school tournament.
Since then he’s bounced around, finding some success on the European Tour, including a third-place finish in 2007 that netted him about $131,000, the single-largest cheque he’s ever cashed.
He spent most of the next two years with status in Europe, but didn’t take advantage of the opportunity, landing in the top 10 just once in 25 events.
McLean, back in Thunder Bay this week for the Staal Foundation Open, where he shot a one-under 71 on Thursday, good for a tie for 52nd, said it’s been a frustrating few years.
“I never really established myself. I’ve never been able to get fully exempt. The last few years have been pretty lean,” he said.
“I’ve struggled to get out of my own way and for one reason or another haven’t been able to deliver. It’s been pretty neat this year, when you’ve lost all your playing privileges, for lack of a better word, get kicked in the (groin).”
Two summers ago McLean found his way back to the winner’s circle on the PGA Tour Canada, capturing the Jamieson WFCU Windsor Roseland Charity Classic, although he only made three cuts in nine events in 2013.
But his game is starting to take form again, he said.
“I feel like my game has been coming around a little more, whether it be concentrating more or whatever. I’m looking forward to the future. I feel like my game is rounding into shape.”
Nineteen years into his professional career, what keeps him going?
It’s simple, he said.
“I love the game. I really do. I have a huge passion for the game. I love competing. I know that I have the ability to compete. You can only really give yourself an opportunity at the highest level,” he said. “To say take six months off and go to Q-School, well that’s not going to work.
“You’ve got to work at it week in and week out and ultimately prepare for that one shot a year, which is tour school.”
As for his opening day round at Whitewater Golf Club, his one-time stomping ground, McLean said he left a lot of shots out there.
“And if 71 is my bad round, then we’re in good shape,” he said.
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