Craig Lee, Scottish golf’s forgotten man, has mixed emotions about making his first competitive outing in exactly five months and isn’t totally convinced that he is ready to put his heart and soul into getting back on the European Tour.
The 39-year-old Stirling man spent five seasons sitting at the top table in European golf, during which time he lost out in a play-off to Thomas Bjorn in the Omega European Masters in Switzerland and was the leader when he partnered Phil Mickelson in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
However, Lee has fallen off the radar since agonisingly losing his card by one spot at the end of last season, finding himself back on the Challenge Tour, which gets its new season underway in Kenya this week, and having to try and climb back up at that ladder once again.
“Yes and no,” replied Lee to being asked if he was champing at the bit to get back playing again, having last swung a club in anger in the second round of the Portugal Masters last October. “I am looking forward to getting back out there just to see how my attitude is about golf as I am really struggling to get back into it at the moment. I either don’t have the time or the enthusiasm for it.
“It really is quite a strange one, to be honest, because the only thing that used to be on my mind - and I was relatively selfish about this - was golf. It was all I lived and breathed for. But I’ve got a wee daughter and a family now and life definitely revolves around those things rather than golf. It has taken a back seat, that’s for sure.”
Lee, who finished 14th on the second-tier circuit’s money-list to graduate to the main Tour at the end of the 2011 season, has headed to Nairobi along with Ross Kellett, Bradley Neil, David Law and Chris Doak for the Barclays Kenya Open, which starts at Muthaiga Golf Club on Thursday.
“I am just going to play it by ear,” he added. “I’m not expecting huge things this week because of the fact I’ve not played for such a long time. Hopefully this event will trigger a switch about what I need to do to get back to doing my job again. I will soon find out what I need to do if I want to get back to playing my A game.
“If I feel it’s not for me, though, I won’t be playing a full schedule as I don’t want to spend the entire year trying to find something that maybe isn’t there any more. Yes, of course, it would be great if I get the golfing bug back and I can get back on the main. However, I just need to wait and see how my attitude is towards being out there again.
“I’ve got other things in life at the moment, which I am really enjoying. You spend so much time preparing for golf when you aren’t actually playing that it can consume your whole life. It’s been nice to have some of that back and that’s the biggest problem at the moment. Do I want to keep enjoying that or try and find whether or not I enjoy my job again?”
Lee finished just £1,365 behind Graeme Storm in last season’s Race to Dubai, yet the pair now seem worlds apart. After initially fearing he’d also lost his card, Storm earned a reprieve due to Patrick Reed not fulfilling the membership criteria. In his third outing of the 2017 campaign, the Englishman beat Rory McIlroy in a play-off to win the BMW SA Open, securing an exemption until the end of the 2018 season.
“It is quite incredible,” reflected Lee. “If I’d been on the other side of the line I’d have played six or seven events by now and not thought any more of it. One spot on the other side of the line, though, and your whole life changes. Fair play to Stormy, though, for going out and making the most of his reprieve. It’s about grabbing the breaks when they come along and he certainly did that.”