Jamie McLeary is on the verge of quitting as a Tour professional after finding it increasingly difficult being away from his two young children and also finding the European Tour to be an unfriendly environment compared to the Challenge Tour.
The 35-year-old, who finished 166th in this season’s Race to Dubai in his second crack at the top circuit, is keen to get involved in a mentoring role with an organisation such as Scottish Golf, believing that he can use his own experience to help aspiring young professionals.
“I’ve not decided on what I’m doing next year,” said McLeary, who has left himself in limbo after missing out on the second stage of the European Tour Qualifying School due to it clashing with his wedding to partner Cheryl last weekend. “I’m getting bored of the travelling and missing my kids, Millie and Coben, growing up isn’t easy either.
“We spoke about it a couple of years ago. I spend a lot of time away from Millie and Coben while Cheryl hasn’t really seen me for 12 years. I feel like I owe it to all of them to be more in their lives. It’s not really golf-related. I love playing and I love getting up every day with a chance to play again.”
The Peterhead-born player, who was ranked European No 1 as an amateur, joined the paid ranks a decade ago and has won twice on the Challenge Tour – the 2009 Scottish Hydro Challenge in Aviemore and the KPMG Trophy in Belgium in 2015. He graduated to the European Tour through finishing 15th on the second-tier circuit’s money list in 2013, the same position he ended up two years later, but, on both occasions, McLeary has been unable to retain his place at the top table.
His best finish this season was seventh in the Tshwane Open back in February, with nine cuts in 25 events seeing him come up quite a bit short in his attempt to finish in the top 110 in the Race to Dubai.
“The European Tour has been a little bit of a disappointment both times I’ve been on it,” he said. “It wasn’t what I expected it to be. On the Challenge Tour, it’s nice talking to your playing partners on the way round. On the main Tour, your caddie is your only friend and people hardly say a word the whole way round.
“It’s very weird. It’s just so different than any other level of golf. The things I will miss the most is going to some of my favourite countries. I’m already pouting at not going back to South Africa and Australia.
“I think part of the issue is that I’ve just never played well for a period of time on the European Tour. Maybe I would have felt a bit more comfortable if I could recreate the form I had when I was on the Challenge Tour.
“I feel like I’ve made some mistakes as well the last couple of years. Trying to please too many people is the biggest one I’ve made and not sticking to what got me there. You live and learn, I guess.”
As he ponders his future, the Bonnyrigg-based player believes he could use his own experience in both amateur – one of the highlights was winning the St Andrews Links Trophy in 2004 – and professional golf to help prepare Scotland’s next generation of golfers.
“If I did stop playing I’d love to get involved with coaching with Scottish Golf,” he said. “I think some of the guys would benefit from someone telling them how to play golf instead of how to swing a club. I think it’s something I’d be good at.
“I got to the European Tour without having the best skills. I planned my rounds quite well. I’d love to do something like that, but I don’t know whether people involved in Scottish Golf are that open to the idea. If I don’t get something sorted out with coaching, I may go back to play.”
Meanwhile, Scottish No 1 Russell Knox is hoping to make lots of birdies in this week’s OHL Classic in Mexico as each one will raise money for Jacksonville’s Child Cancer Fund. The Florida-based player is donating $250 for each birdie he makes in the event, as well as $500 for each eagle and $1,000 for a hole in one.
Knox, pictured, who finished runner-up to Graeme McDowell in the PGA Tour event last year, said: “I was introduced to the Child Cancer Fund two years ago while playing in a charity event to support their cause. I have since fallen in love with their mission, and, frankly, the kids I have met through being involved.”
Knox will play the opening two rounds with McDowell, who pipped the Scot and Jason Bohn in a play-off 12 months ago, and Charley Hoffman.