For McLean, another chance at glory

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:27 AM ET

Alan McLean is getting another shot at playing in Canada's premier golf event.

The London resident has qualified for the Canadian Open, which starts at Angus Glen next Thursday, July 26. McLean qualified as one of the top six players on the Canadian Tour's order of merit. He's fifth this year, having earned more than $42,000.

It's just another step in what's become a stairway to a dream for the 36-year-old Scottish-born, South African-raised golfer. For the last three weeks he's been in contention in Canadian Tour events and a trip to the Canadian Open will give him a chance not only to raise his profile but also to move toward a major breakthrough.

McLean, who plays out of RiverBend, has scrambled to make a living at the game. He's a talented golfer in a world full of them and his statistics on the Canadian Tour are solid: A 69.60 stroke average, two consecutive second-place finishes and a tie for sixth in last weekend's Manitoba Classic. Recently, he's done a lot of good things.

Last year, he qualified for the Canadian Open in Hamilton. He shot a better-than-respectable 71-71 but missed the cut.

He won almost $50,000 in a tournament in Shanghai, leading Tiger Woods through 30 holes. Weeks later, he tied with Ernie Els for eighth place at the Dunhill Championship in South Africa, winning more than $27,000. Earlier this year, he missed the cut for the final stage of the PGA Tour qualifying school, finishing 24th with the top 19 going on.

"Things are going pretty well," said McLean, whose Canadian Open appearance, alongside Londoner Andrew Parr and Bright's Grove native Mike Weir, gives this area a major presence.

"I reside in London now. First and foremost, to play at home in a big event is exciting. You always like to test your wares against the better players in the world."

And McLean says he likes where his game is headed.

"I'm a little mentally fatigued right now. Three weeks in contention kind of wears you down.

"Physically, I'm as fit as a horse and raring to go. But the game is non-stop (mentally) and I'm looking forward to a little R and R this week. I'll just do a little maintenance (on my) swing and be ready for next week.

"I'm out to Muskoka later this week. Maybe I'll sneak out for one round out there and practise a little. But I like to put the clubs away for a couple of days, especially when I feel mentally tired. That's my plan for the week."

Grind is a word that constantly pops out of the mouths of golfers. They grind to make a living, they grind at practice, they grind to play well and during events they grind out the best finish.

"We are out there first and foremost to win events, especially when you get yourself in contention. You want to take advantage of those opportunities when you get them," McLean said.

"Deep down inside, there's a concern that you know you have to make some money, so there's some pressure. We don't make vast amounts of money on the Canadian Tour. The money goes down extremely quickly after third place so you want to take advantage of it all. You find yourself concentrating and grinding away."

McLean has worked out some kinks from his short game and it's reflected in his play. But he doesn't want to change anything going into the Canadian Open.

"When you are playing well, you try not to fiddle too much. For me it's rhythm," McLean said. "Anytime you are playing well, you find you get into a good rhythm. You just find that groove and you can go from there."

He plans to use the money he won at the Manitoba tournament to finance another shot at the PGA's Q-school and a regular spot on the PGA Tour.

But for now, McLean's focus is on the Canadian Open and Angus Glen, a course he likes.

"It's a different mindset from last year," he said. "I was just starting to play well heading into the Canadian Open (then). As much as I enjoy Hamilton Golf and Country Club, I don't think it's a course that's as well-suited to my game as Angus Glen. I played (Angus Glen) last year and shot three-under in the (Canadian Open) qualifier and lost in the playoff. I've still got fond memories of the golf course. I haven't played it this year but I can't imagine the rough would be any higher or thicker than last year at this time.

"I'm looking forward to the experience."

And maybe, finally, a long-awaited breakthrough.


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