JAMIE McLEARY returned to his golfing roots last week to support a new Scottish winter series.
But it’s back to business today for the Bonnyrigg-based player when he competes in the opening event of the 2016 European Tour campaign.
McLeary, pictured, has made the long journey to Malelane in South Africa to play in the Alfred Dunhill Championship starting today at Leopard Creek.
It marks the 34-year-old’s return to the top circuit after being the last of the 15 Challenge Tour graduates from the 2015 campaign.
“I can’t wait to get going,” admitted McLeary, who joins Craig Lee, David Drysdale, Scott Jamieson and Bradley Neil in trying to get the new season off to a flying start.
“I loved Leopard Creek the last time I was there in 2014 and feel like it’s somewhere I could compete around. It just depends on whether or not my golf will be there.”
While delighted that his play over the season was rewarded with a step up, McLeary’s putter turned cold in the final couple of events.
“I putted terrible at the end of the season there, so I’m hoping that it turns around quickly,” added the Marriott Dalmahoy man.
“I’ve had time to read about greens to make it better. That’s definitely one thing I noticed between Leven and Oman/China.
“The greens back home break so much less than the Bermuda grass greens. I probably just need to spend a bit more time getting used to them, so that’s what I intend to do.”
McLeary, who is quietly confident he can improve on his 152nd finish in the Race to Dubai two seasons ago, returned to Leven, his old home club, during his short break between one campaign ending another one starting.
It was to play in a Scottish Pro Winter Series event at the Fife course, where he finished second behind West Linton’s Gareth Wright.
“I felt like I should support it since I’ve been asking for something like this to happen in Scotland for a while,” said McLeary.
“Unfortunately, I finished bogey-bogey to lose by one shot but I enjoyed my day.
“Leven was in decent shape and it was good to see my old clubmate Eric Walker, who has just become the first professional there in my life time.”
McLeary is among nine Scots holding full European Tour cards for 2016, the others being Marc Warren, Richie Ramsay, Stephen Gallacher, David Drysdale, Craig Lee, Paul Lawrie, Scott Jamieson and Andrew McArthur.
McArthur also graduated from the Challenge Tour while the others all finished inside the top 110 in last season’s Race to Dubai.
“It was a shame to see none of the guys get through Tour School,” said McLeary of eight of his compatriots failing to pass that stage at last week’s final in Spain.
“I was hoping to have more friends for dinner and travelling in 2016, but hopefully more guys can get out for 2017.”
A strong field at Leopard Creek is headed by major winners Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel and fellow South African and defending champion Branden Grace.