Success within reach

JOHN HERBERT -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:58 AM ET

Alan McLean finally sees light at the end of the tunnel.

"Otherwise I would already have thrown in the towel," said the 36-year old Scottish-born, South African-raised golfer who made London his home a year ago. "I believe I am cut out to play this game."

Since turning pro 11 years ago, McLean has been living out of suitcases, travelling Europe, Asia, South Africa, Canada and the U.S.

With a breakout year behind him, his dream of playing the PGA Tour and big money may just be on the other side of that tunnel.

- He played in the Canadian Open, shooting 71-71, but missed the cut.

- He won US$46,915 at the HSBC tournament in Shanghai. He led Tiger Woods through 30 holes and played with Colin Montgomerie and Luke Donald in the final round, finishing 29th.

- He pocketed US$27,863 a couple of weeks later, tying with Ernie Els for eighth place at the Dunhill Championship in South Africa, and US$13,139 the following week in the South African Airlines Open.

- He just missed qualifying for the final stage of the PGA Tour qualifying school last fall, finishing 24th. The top 19 and ties went to final-stage qualifying.

- He won about $17,000 on the Canadian Tour and Ontario-based Great Lakes Tour. "I'm riding a wave of confidence,'' McLean said before heading to northern California for a Canadian Tour event this month, the first of six he will play during the next two months in California and Mexico.

"I've had 11 years of trying and suffering, but I didn't expect success to come overnight.''

Later in the summer, he hopes to qualify for the U.S. Open and a few Nationwide Tour stops in the northern U.S and play seven European Tour events, including the Russian Open.

Since settling in London, his golf game has clearly hit a crossroads. "My wife asks why if I'm so talented, I haven't achieved,'' he said.

That, he said, is a difficult question to answer when you are struggling week to week to pay the bills.

McLean, his wife, Laura, and daughter, Grace, moved to London last spring from Thunder Bay. For McLean, London was a better golfing area with easier access to pro tournaments.

The family is living in a condo in Berkshire Village and RiverBend has extended playing privileges.

Playing golf for a living is stressful, often accompanied by financial hardship.

McLean has made enough money since last September -- about $125,000 -- to square up some debts, but keeping money in reserve to go out on tour again this summer is important. Lacking sponsors, McLean has been scraping to make ends meet.

He said it's difficult to stop dreaming. "How many people in the world do you know are doing exactly what they want to do? I love what I do and I know I want to play golf the rest of my life . . . I have to believe I have the game to compete.

"But where do I draw the line? I'm 36. I'm not getting younger . . . I don't own anything and sometimes I feel life is passing me by.''

McLean said it would be easier if he had a sponsor.

But he understands he is a relative unknown here and can't expect the business world to pony up $100,000, as they did for 23-year-old Londoner Andrew Parr, who is just starting his pro career.

McLean's life began in Glasgow, Scotland. His father was a printer with the Glasgow Herald newspaper.

As the newspaper business changed during the 1970s, McLean's father took the family to Cape Town, South Africa, and set up a photo developing business.

South Africa is where McLean took up the game and played alongside Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Tim Clark, Rory Sabbatini and Trevor Immelman.

He came to North America in 1995 and met his wife on the Canadian Tour.

McLean says for him, it all comes down to putting.

"I have the passion and the drive for the game and my best years are ahead of me. In fact, your peak years as a golfer are 35-45. Mike Weir was in his 30s when he won. Vijay Singh has won 31 times since he turned 40.''

McLean's play under pressure in China and South Africa last fall not only was good for his confidence and bank book, but it puts him in a good position to play in European Tour events.

Those events count for the 2007 tour. He has US$87,908 in winnings on the European Tour and some exemptions. McLean figures he needs another $40,000 to gain full playing status.

Before he heads back to Europe, he hopes to qualify for both the U.S. and Canadian Opens, some Nationwide events in northern U.S. and when he's home in London, possibly some Great Lakes events to keep the rust out of his game.

"I have a plan and at the end of the plan hopefully there's a PGA card and success, he said. "I have to believe I can do it.''

THE MCLEAN FILE

Personal: The six-foot, 220-pound McLean was born in Glasgow, Scotland, but grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, where he learned golf.

Family: Wife, Laura, and daughter, Grace, live in London.

Pro career: Played on the Nationwide Tour in the U.S in 2005; joined the Canadian Tour in 1997 after losing his Nationwide card.

Career winnings: US$231,000.

Best finish: Won the South African Sunshine Tour's Dimension Data Pro-Am in January 2006. Best Canadian Tour finish was second in the 1999 Telus Edmonton Open.

This year: Playing events on the Canadian Tour, European Tour and trying to qualify for some Nationwide Tour events, the Canadian Open, U.S. Open and attend the PGA Tour qualifying school in October.


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