PINEHURST, N.C. – It’s a crazy couple of weeks again in the Sandhills region of North Carolina for swing coach Jim McLean.
He is getting used to the drama that always seems to follow his visits to Pinehurst No. 2, if not the jail time.
Ah, yeah, the jail time.
McLean wasn’t planning to come to the U.S. Open last week, but he is close friends with Erik Compton, who uses his facilities at Trump Doral. After Compton got into the hunt to win last weekend, McLean jumped a last-minute flight out of Miami to Raleigh-Durham to follow him in the final round.
Though McLean was in a rush driving from the Raleigh-Durham airport to see Compton, there was no way he was going to speed. Not after what happened back in 1977, when McLean was playing the final stage of PGA Tour Q-School in Pinehurst. A heavy foot on the accelerator of his car landed him in a Southern Pines jail back then. He almost missed the second round of Q-School because of it.
“I was staying with a friend after the first round, and I drove out to buy some steaks to throw on the grill,” McLean said.
McLean said a police officer out of uniform pulled him over for speeding. The officer was in a T-shirt.
“He said I was going 55 in a 30-mile per hour zone,” McLean said. “I was young, and I mouthed off to him. I said some things I shouldn’t have said. I don’t think it helped that I had a car with New York license plates back in those days, and he took me in. When we got there, I said something I shouldn’t have said to the sergeant on duty, or whatever he was. He didn’t like it, and he says, `You’re going to jail son.’ It was ridiculous, but I was stupid, and they threw me in jail.”
McLean’s friend couldn’t get him bailed out until 2 in the morning.
“I had to play the next day,” McLean said.
McLean didn’t make it through Q-School, but he made it to Pinehurst No. 2 last Sunday in time to see Compton tee it up at the fifth hole. The fun continues this week. McLean is swing coach to Lexi Thompson, winner of the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the year’s first major. He's also friends with Cristie Kerr, who once worked in his office answering phones as a kid. And he also helps Lucy Li, the 11-year-old who is the youngest player to qualify for a U.S. Women’s Open. She attends McLean’s school in Miami every winter.
“Jim, he's a really funny guy,” Li said. “I remember the first lesson I had with him. He put balls everywhere, and he had me hit them standing in one place, lefty and righty and one-handed and stuff. So it was a lot of fun. He keeps the game really natural and fun for me.”
McLean will be doing his best to keep it fun again this week while also keeping it under the speed limit.