YOU never know where a golfer will be when you give them an off the cuff tinkle on the phone. Out on the course, at the driving range, in the gym, sprawled on a physio’s table, shuffling through a queue at an airport, getting their palms read by a fortune-teller, setting their clubs on fire in an elaborate cleansing ritual after yet another missed cut?

“I’m sitting in the pub having a Guinness,” gulped Kevin McAlpine as he savoured a nourishing libation after securing a place in this weekend’s Scottish Open Amateur Strokeplay Championship at a pre-qualifier the other day. “There’s no past champion exemption so I managed to scrape through,” he added with a wry chortle.

That champion status was earned back in 2007 when he won the strokeplay title at Dornoch to complete a memorable double whammy, having won the national matchplay crown a year earlier at Nairn. A lot has happened since then, of course. A fruitless, injury blighted stint as a pro was followed by a profitable move into caddying on the LPGA Tour and a marriage to three-time women’s major champion Anna Nordqvist.

Here in 2023, Arizona-based McAlpine has regained his amateur status and is using a holiday in his homeland to dip his toe back into the competitive waters. At 39, he’s not quite Old Tom Morris but in this crash, bang, wallop era of big-hitting young ’uns, even McAlpine feels like some relic of a bygone age.

“I played with a lad in the qualifier whose clubhead speed was 129mph and he hit it miles,” he said. “I plonked one down the fairway and he drove it past me to the front edge of the green. I was thinking, ‘Oh, it’s a different game now.’”

Having scaled the heights as an amateur in the noughties, McAlpine never got out of the foothills as a professional. After injuring his knee playing 5-a-side football in 2006, he suffered another painful setback three years later while training and his career as a pro was one of frustration rather than fulfilment.

“The injuries ruined it, especially on the confidence side,” he reflected. “When you’re out so long and then return, you are constantly trying to get something back in every round you play. You’re trying to find something you had, whether it was the feel, the decision-making processes, everything. It even went down to how I would practice and I almost forgot what my strengths and weaknesses were.

“You can look back and say, ‘If I hadn’t played football then I wouldn’t have done my knee in and if I hadn’t done my knee in then I might have made it as a pro.’ But it doesn’t work like that unfortunately.

“I did fall out of love with golf when I was trying to make it as a pro. My game wasn’t good, my knee wasn’t good and I just couldn’t dig out the form that I knew was in there. But golf is in my heart. It’s always been the thing I’ve done and it gives me purpose.”

He may not have made inroads as a touring player but McAlpine savoured plenty of big moments as a caddie. In his first year on the bag of former world No.2, Lexi Thompson, in 2017, she won twice and had season earnings of almost $2m. It’s fair to assume that McAlpine got more than a hearty handshake and a 30-quid tip for his contributions.

After a brief employment with former world No.1, So Yeon Ryu, at the opening women’s major, the Chevron Championship, in April, McAlpine will return to America next week looking for a bag for the upcoming Women’s PGA Championship and the US Women’s Open. Before that, though, he will be hitting the shots instead of calling them as the Scottish Strokeplay Championship gets underway at Meldrum House.

“Even being involved in the qualifying round the other day was great for me,” he said. “It got the juices flowing again. The fire is still in there. It’s all about getting the head screwed back on and getting into it. I’d love to be in the mix but I don’t know if the game is sharp enough yet. We’ll find out this weekend.”