These days, the incentive of playing with a purpose is much greater, because McLean is pursuing a tour card.
Life is good for Alan McLean. The native of Scotland, who was raised in South Africa, recently married his caddy, Laura. His golf game is, by his own assessment, better than its ever been.
And now, hes on to the next stage of PGA Qualifying School after finishing in a tie for 13th at the first stage at the TPC of Heron Bay in Coral Springs, Fla. But the 32-year-old McLean would not be smiling today if it were not for a pain-in-the-neck experience at a different school a decade ago.
I was studying chiropractics in 91-92 with the goal of becoming a sports chiropractic, he said. I just lost interest when I find out that it is at least at eight-year course. Out of the blue, I said to my dad, You know, I want to play golf.
Everyone kind of laughed at me and said, Youve got no pedigree, nothing to do go on. Why golf?
But it was something I felt I could do.
And so began a journey that has taken him more time and admittedly more effort than a career in chiropractics ever would have. For three years, McLean toiled with his game in South Africa before turning professional in 1995. Success came quickly on South Africas Sunshine Tour, where this son of a professional soccer player earned rookie of the year honors in 1996.
Soon McLean began competing for titles, breaking through in the 1998 Vodacom Western Cape Championship. Then last year McLean got worldwide exposure when he battled Retief Goosen and Ernie Els at the Vodacom Players Championship.
Last year when Ernie was going strongly, I was the guy who bogeyed the last hole for him to win, he said.
Now, McLean has his sights set on competing against the worlds best every week ' on the PGA Tour.
Its something that, as you sit there on the couch every Saturday or Sunday and you watch these guys play ' I know its not going to be easy. Id like to try, and at least I can say Ive given it a shot.
You know, when I can say Ive only been playing serious golf for eight or nine years, I realize that Ive got a lot to learn. Vodacom would be a good second choice. But ultimately, it would be the PGA Tour that Im after, he said.
Theres no question in McLeans mind that he made the right choice when he decided to chase a professional golfing career. The path has allowed him to see places and meet the people in his life that he never would have otherwise. And now, the journey has him just a few steps away from the big leagues of professional golf.
Its a long slog, and hopefully Ill get there, he said.