Craig Lee 'thrilled' to be back on European Tour in Scottish Open

43-year-old called time on life as a tour pro at end of 2017 season

Craig Lee played a practice round at Gullane with fellow PGA pro Heather MacRae, left, and amateur Hannah Darling as part of his preparation for this week's Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open

Just under three years after "calling time" on his European Tour career, Craig Lee is excited to be back in the big time, having secured one of two PGA spots in the field for the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.

"I had written off playing full stop, never mind another tour event," admitted the 43-year-old of bringing down the curtain on life as a touring pro at the end of the 2017 season after deciding he wanted to spend more time at home with his family.

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Lee, who lives in Stirling, held a main tour card for six seasons in a row from 2012, finishing 59th in the Race to Dubai in 2013, the year he lost out to Thomas Bjorn in a play-off in the Omega European Masters in Switzerland.

He's played in 185 events on the circuit dating back to the Gleneagles Scottish PGA Championship in 2001, but this one at The Renaissance Club is probably making him the most excited he's ever been in his career.

"It kind of is a thrill, to be honest," admitted Lee, who is flying the PGA in Scotland flag in the $7 million Rolex Series event along with Paul O'Hara. "When you are doing it full time, you have a job to do and just get on with it. You just have to get over any hurdles that are in front of you.

"But, when you've been out of it for a while, it's quite a strange feeling going back into that environment. It's a proud moment, really. I know that sounds a bit daft when I played on the tour for six seasons, but it is nice to be back there.

"Any tour event would be quite special, but when Rolex are involved and it's in your homeland, it's a triple wow factor. I think the tour has done a phenomenal job to keep Rolex involved this year. It shows they have a very good relationship."

In the short time he's been away, Lee, a former Scottish Boys' Stroke-Play champion, has seen a new wave of young talent hit the ground running on the circuit, led by 19-year-old Dane Rasmus Hojgaard, winner of the UK Championship at The Belfry last month.

"I was joking with someone the other day that I've probably been a pro longer than some of these young boys out here now have been alive," said Lee, laughing. "It is a wee bit daunting when you start looking at it like that, but we'll go and give it a bash.

"I would like to think I can make it to the weekend, but whether I can be in contention for four rounds will be up to the old body. I've done serious training and prep for this week. It's as good as it is going to get for me in terms of physical mobility these days.

"I managed to play the last Tartan Pro Tour event without having to take any pills, which was the first time that's happened this year. That was a promising sign. That's the way my conversations go these days with some of my fellow players. "How many pills are you taking at the moment?" is often something you hear being asked. The topics of conversation definitely change as time ticks by.

"Last week when I was down at The Renaissance Club, it felt like tour life for me was decades ago. But, on Monday. I kept bumping into people I know and it felt as if I'd never been away. It was quite strange, really. It's good that there's not going to be any initial naive nerves. It won't be too daunting, but it will still be exciting enough to get the juices flowing."

Lee is hoping that being very familiar with this week's course can prove beneficial. "I was very lucky to be given membership at The Renaissance Club when I was on the European Tour and I've not been kicked out yet," he said. "It is a special place to go down to and it's in phenomenal shape at the moment - the best I've ever seen it.

"My only regret is not having played off the back tips more often. I went down for a game on Monday and it's long off those back tips. Some of the bunkers that would normally be in play I won't be able to reach this week, so hopefully that makes things a wee bit easier."

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