They say every cloud has a silver lining and Heather MacRae is starting to see why. Re-energised after coming out fighting when she was diagnosed with cancer last March, the Dunblane woman has her sights set on securing a return to the Ladies European Tour this season.
She’s among four Scottish hopefuls in the circuit’s Qualifying School pre-qualifier, which starts at La Manga in Spain tomorrow. The final takes place at the same venue next week and those successful will earn cards for a 2020 schedule set to be revitalised following the LET’s merger with the LPGA.
“I can’t be sure that I’d be here at Tour School again if it wasn’t for what happened last year,” said MacRae, who had her life turned upside down after being diagnosed with cervical cancer and had surgery in mid-June, only days after winning the Women’s PGA Championship for a second time. “Life is short, so if there’s something you still want to do and you have the opportunity to do so, then why wouldn’t you?”
“I haven’t been to the Tour School for quite a few years. The last time I went I got my full card and I think I had eight starts, so it was difficult to financially justify going back. But, when I first heard about the merger, it certainly had an influence on my decision.
“I have always wanted to play on the LPGA Tour, so if it means we get more events in Europe and a potential pathway to the LPGA, then I’m all for it. The schedule for this year is looking much healthier than recent years, so getting a tour card this year will hopefully bring much more opportunity.”
MacRae, who joins former Scottish Women’s champion Heather Stirling and amateur duo Alison Muirhead and Kimberley Beveridge in trying to negotiate the four-round pre-qualifier, was nominated for the Inspiration in Sport category at last year’s Scottish Women in Sport Awards after facing her cancer battle head on.
“It is really difficult to explain,” she replied to being asked about her overriding emotions from 2020, which, on the back of that aforementioned title triumph, saw her represent Great Britain and Ireland in the inaugural Women’s PGA Cup in Texas. “It has been such a crazy time in my life, something I never thought for a second that I’d have to deal with, but I am proud of how I have coped and dealt with it all so far. It has been such a rollercoaster of emotions and sometimes it still doesn’t even feel real.
“Spending so much time with my family and friends and winning the WPGA Championship and playing in the PGA Cup certainly gave me some positives and something to focus on and aim for through what was a pretty grim time.”
Has the bubbly former British Ladies’ Strokeplay champion now been given the all clear? “So far so good,” she added. “I will be monitored for the next three years but, of course, it changes your life and I often find myself thinking what if it comes back. But, at least if I am getting checked every few months, it will hopefully ease the anxiety and worry as time goes on.”
MacRae, who has been out at La Manga for the past week getting herself prepared, will have Craig Lee, pictured, the former European Tour player and now carving out a career as a coach, caddying for her in the card battle. “When it comes to a golf coach, I am pretty stubborn at taking advice, but he has so much knowledge and experience of playing on tour It makes it easier for me to listen,” she said, smiling.
“We have spent some time working on my swing but also how to play better, score better and practice better. He has changed how I think about playing golf and we are always trying to find different ways to make changes without having to hit thousands of balls. Recently we have spent a lot of time on having a more versatile and imaginative short game and put in a lot of work on the greens. It’s been really refreshing to have a different take on it.”
MacRae, who has secured sponsorship for her bid to be flying the Saltire on the LET along with Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew, Carly Booth, Kylie Walker, Michele Thomson and Kelsey MacDonald from long-time supporter Eric Herd at Farmfoods and also new backing from Aberdeen-based subsea market intelligence and consultancy Archer Knight, is hoping she has inspired others facing similar health issues with her attitude over the past 10 months.
“I have always tried to be a positive role model to others and while I didn’t expect my life to go on the path it has done, if others can take strength or inspiration from my story then that’s something hugely positive to come from such a negative,” she said.
“There’s been quite a number of people who have got in touch who are going through similar times and I’m just so glad to be able to help, talk, listen and give them something positive to take away. You never know when you are going to need help from others and I was so lucky to have so much support so I’m happy to help others in a similar way if I can.”