Wearing a bright red shirt, it was hard to miss Callum Macaulay as he made his way off the Craighead course at Crail after booking his spot in the last 16 of the Scottish Amateur Championship.
He was also recognisable, though, from the warm smile that has returned on a golf course since calling it a day as a Tour professional after a spell playing on both the European Tour and Challenge Tour.
Bidding to repeat his 2008 title triumph at Carnoustie, Macaulay produced two solid performances on the Fife coast as he made ominous progress in only his second event since being reinstated to the amateur ranks.
“So far this week I’ve driven the ball really solid, struck the ball really well in the wind, given myself a lot of good chances and kept the pressure off my short game,” said the Ralston member, who now takes on Craigielaw’s Angus Carrick.
A member of Scotland’s historic Eisenhower Trophy-winning team in Australia in 2008, Macaulay finished runner-up in the 2009 Madeira Island Open, storming home in 28 – one outside the European Tour record – in only his fifth event on the circuit.
However, he called time on his professional career eight years later due to life in the paid ranks having become a “burden financially” and, though some people saw that as a negative step, Macaulay views it as exactly the opposite.
“I made the decision three years ago that I didn’t want to pursue pro golf any more and it’s been good for me,” said the 35-year-old, who now works as a sports consultant with FirstPoint USA, a Glasgow-based consultancy which aims to help place youngsters with US colleges.
“It was a positive decision but a realistic one as well. And it was for my own sanity and my family’s well being because I could be an angry man at times. When you’re away spending £3-4k a week and coming home on a Friday night you’ll be miserable. And it’s not fair on anyone else. So I thought, let’s just cut ties with it. I’ll never lose my love for golf. I’ll enjoy it and see what happens, just go round by round.”
As well as having his dad Harry caddying for him this week, Macaulay has been joined on a family holiday in the East Neuk by his wife, Clare-Marie, and their two boys, four-year-old Evan and two-year-old Lucas.
“The main reason I stopped playing professionally was that I couldn’t compete at that level,” he added. “I had moments when I had great weeks and still finished 30th. It got to the point where I said to myself, ‘am I worth just letting this go, and go back to the level I enjoyed’.
“Even though it’s been a few years, I am starting to enjoy it a little again. Nothing substitutes going out and making birdies and finishing decent positions. When you’re battered and bruised and missing cuts every week, it’s a killer.
“Towards the end of 2016, I felt why not use ten years’ experience I’ve got and go back to play as an amateur and at least enjoy it? I had started a family then and I just wanted to get back to the stage where it was fun again.
“I’ve noticed even this week the difference in hitting bad shots. Obviously everyone’s going to hit bad shots, but there’s not as much pressure. It’s ‘ach well, just brush it off’. It’s not ‘I’m going to miss the cut and figure out how to pay the mortgage’. If I missed the cut here, I still go back to the family, I’ve still got a job on Monday.
“There’s a lot less pressure, and ironically I feel like I’m striking the ball better than I have in a long, long time. There’s no pressure in my hands and I can release the club better. My worse shot was a block right and that’s because my hands were freezing.”
Macaulay was joined in the third round by a posse of youngsters but also another experienced campaigner in Matt Clark, who was nine under par for 16 holes in beating former Scottish Boys’ champion Will Porter 3&2 in the second round.
“It is awesome to see Callum back in the amateur ranks and also doing well,” said the Kilmacolm man. “He was one of my favourites a decade ago because he was always his own man. He doesn’t swing it like a Tour player but is an incredible talent.”
Others still standing include Australian-based duo Joshua Greer and Louis Dobbelaar, the former making his presence felt in this event two years after reaching the final of the Scottish Boys Championship at Scotscraig.
“I was eight-under through 11 holes in my first round,” reported the Joondalup Country Club 18-year-old, who beat Min Woo Lee, who is now playing on the European Tour, en route to the last 16 in the Australian Amateur two years ago.
Eligible through his mother’s Scottish ancestry, Dobbelaar, 17, is playing in his first event on Scottish soil, having tied for fifth in last week’s English Boys’ Stroke-Play Championship.
“I’ve been playing well so far and not made too many mistakes,” he said. “It is cool to see a couple of Aussies still standing here.”
Leading qualifier Stuart McLaren went out in the second round, but his Bruntsfield Links clubmate, Eric McIntosh, is still in the hunt along with George Burns, a Crail member, and Michael Smyth, one of two players to shoot a course-record 60 in the qualifying rounds.
S McLaren (Bruntsfield Links) bt C O’Toole (Craigmillar Park) 3&2; L Reynolds (Hilton Park) beat R MacGregor (Tehidy Park) 1 hole; T Simmonds (Gullane) bt M Naysmith (Dalmahoy) 4&3; J Greer (Joondalup CC) bt L Duncan (Dunnikier Park) 2&1; J Wright (Forres) bt F Milne (Banchory) 4&2; S Blair (Royal Musselburgh) bt J Roberts (Muckhart) 2&1; L Irvine (Kirkhill) bt C Scott (Nairn) 2&1; R Copland (Moray) bt A McNaughton (Caldwell) 19th; A Carrick (Craigielaw) bt R Dallas (Forfar) 4&2; A Davidson (Charleton) bt W Walker (Glenbervie) 3&2; C Leith (Royal Aberdeen) bt A Thurlow (Murrayfield) one hole; C Macaulay (Ralston) bt A Gibson (New Golf Club St Andrews) two holes; W Porter (Carnoustie) bt R Mair (Buckpool) two holes; M Clark (Kilmacolm) bt D Rudd (Longniddry) 5&3; S Marc (Broomieknowe) bt K Cantley (Liberton) one hole; G Graham (Blairgowrie) bt D Smith (Portlethen) 2&1; J Paterson (New Golf Club St Andrews) bt E McIntosh (Turnhouse) one hole; C Pirie (Millport) bt M Napier (Turnhouse) one hole; C Wilson (Castle Park) bt H George (Downfield) 2&1; J Broun (Ayr Belleisle) bt G Brown (Cathkin Braes) 7&6; S Thurlow (Murrayfield) bt M Brodie (Alyth) 2&1; L Dobbelaar (Brookwater) bt A Hall (Kilspindie) two holes; E Wheat (Royal Montrose) bt J Wilson (Balmore) two holes; D Howie (Peebles) bt A O’Hagan (Old Course Ranfurly) 1 hole; G Ingram (Hazlehead) bt M Cowie (Dumfries & County) 3&2; M Rickard (Cupar) bt R Mallon (Kingsfield) 2&1; A Saleem (New Golf Club St Andrews) bt S Graham (Blairgowrie) 3&2; M Smyth (Royal Troon) bt M Miller (Lundin) 3&2; G Burns (Crail) bt G Wright (Bonnybridge) 6&5; D Lawrence (Ballumbie Castle) bt F McKenna (Royal Aberdeen) 7&6; C Daun (Nairn) bt A Fernie (Bruntsfield Links) 4&3; E McIntosh (Bruntsfield Links) bt L Waldron (Royal Aberdeen) 2 holes.
S McLaren (Bruntsfield Links) lost to L Reynolds (Hilton Park) 3&1; T Simmonds (Gullane) lost to J Greer (Joondalup CC) 6&5; J Wright (Forres) bt S Blair (Royal Musselburgh) 1 hole; L Irvine (Kirkhill) bt R Copland (Moray) 4&3; A Carrick (Craigielaw) bt A Davidson (Charleton) 2&1; C Leith (Royal Aberdeen) lost to C Macaulay (Ralston) 4&3; W Porter (Carnoustie) lost to M Clark (Kilmacolm) 3&2; S Marc (Broomieknowe) bt G Graham (Blairgowrie) 3&2; J Paterson (New Golf Club St Andrews) bt C Pirie (Millport) 4&3; C Wilson (Castle Park) bt J Broun (Ayr Belleisle) 4&2; S Thurlow (Murrayfield) lost to L Dobbelaar (Brookwater) 4&3; E Wheat (Royal Montrose) lost to D Howie (Peebles) 4&2; G Ingram (Hazlehead) lost to M Rickard (Cupar) 4&3; A Saleem (New Golf Club St Andrews) lost to M Smyth (Royal Troon) 4&2; G Burns (Crail) bt D Lawrence (Ballumbie Castle) 7&6; C Daun (Nairn) lost to E McIntosh (Bruntsfield Links) 5&4.