Ross Biddiscombe: Craig Lee - real hero at Crans-sur-Sierre
There are all kinds of winners on the European Tour these days and, occasionally, some players can lose yet somehow still win. Scotland's Craig Lee might have lost the Omega Masters in Switzerland in a playoff to Thomas Bjorn at the weekend, but his is a great story. A third round 61, a runners-up spot and he has secured his playing rights for next year - this is a journeyman golfer who deserved the limelight for a change because he is a player we can all relate to.
I first met Craig Lee in 2007 after he walked off the last green at San Roque in Spain while I was researching my first Q School book. Much to his own surprise, the Scot had just finished 21st in the race for a Tour Card that year and it meant would be playing with the world's best the following season. It was such a shock to him that his face that day was a picture - wide-eyed and not knowing whether to laugh or cry with all the pent-up emotion inside him.
He was 30 years old back then and had virtually given up the dream of ever playing with the big boys. That year he needed a local businessman up in Scotland to sponsor him with £2,000 for his Q School expenses, otherwise he wasn't going to bother.
"High as a kite" was how Craig described the feeling of gaining his card, but it was a tough learning curve because he had to sell his golf teaching business to fund his first year on tour. It was an all-or-nothing kind of move and, when he finished 186th in the 2008 order of merit, it could have finished off many a player.
But when I saw Craig again at the Q School at the end of 2008, he admitted that although he regretted selling up, he was unbowed. "If I re-group and get back on Tour, it won't be a waste of time. If I pack it in now, it will be."
And so began five more seasons of struggle. Craig would return to Q School again, play some Challenge Tour and scrimp and save each year to keep his dream alive. Each year that we talked, you could see that here was a determined pro learning a trade. He had do-able targets - make more good swings, play hard every day, learn from your mistakes. His attitude is a lesson for us all - manage your game and keep it moving forward.
He was 108th on the Race To Dubai before his Swiss near-miss, now he is 55th and could well qualify for the cash-rich end of season World Tour Championship in Dubai which is open to the top 60 players only.
"It's so much better than winning any tournament," Craig said back in 2007 when he came through Q School for the first time. At the weekend in Switzerland, he almost was able to revise that statement and, who knows, maybe there are even better things to come from him in the future. Ross Biddiscombe has written two books about the European Tour Q School under the titles Golf On The Edge. Both books are available on www.amazon.co.uk.
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