Life, they say, begins at 40. Others will say it actually begins at 50 or perhaps even 60? But let’s just say that it begins at 40 for the sake of this tangled introduction because Craig Lee is 40 and he is seeking a new beginning. The problem is, he’s not quite sure where to start.

When playing golf is all you’ve ever known, it can be tricky teeing-up something else. “I’d still like to open up a driving range and do the full shebang with coaching and custom fitting but the nasty bank manager said I didn’t have enough money to do that,” explained Lee as he mulled over one or two irons in the fire.

“I’ve always wanted to run a B&B or hotel, too, because I’ve stayed in so many down the years that I think I’d know what to offer. But the bank manager said I didn’t have enough for that either. He’s becoming a bit annoying. I’ve taken the hint that, whatever I do, I have to start small.”

Lee came within touching distance of making it big on the European Tour when he lost in a play-off to Thomas Bjorn for the European Masters title back in 2013. Five years on, his touring days are over.

Having lost his full card by a slender margin at the end of 2016 after missing the cut in his last event by a single shot, Lee, hampered by a niggling wrist injury, made his final appearance on the circuit in Spain

last October. He’s not picked up

a club since.

“Towards the end, it was hugely frustrating with the wrist,” he reflected. “The carrot was still dangling but almost tormenting me.

I still had the game but I didn’t have the stamina to play over four days. Those were low days while losing my card in Portugal, and the manner

in which I did it by making a bogey

on the last hole, will haunt me for

a while.”

Lee’s original rise on to the European Tour at the end of 2007 was something of a fairy tale; a golfing Cinderella story combined with a bit of Steptoe & Son.

“I had thought the tour had passed me by and it was only when my friend who was a scrap merchant kindly gave me the entry fee for the qualifying school that I gave it a go,” recalled Lee, who came through all three stages that year and graduated with flying colours.

“When I got my card, I was ecstatic. One person immediately burst my bubble and said ‘the only thing you’re guaranteed to do next year is spend lots of money’. And he was right.

That stuck in my mind. I don’t think people appreciate just how expensive it is to travel round the world and compete.”

Lee’s original stint at the top table was fleeting, and he dropped back to the third-tier of the professional game only to haul himself back up again and enjoy five unbroken years of active service on the main circuit, a run illuminated by a career-high finish

of 59th on the rankings in 2013.

“I had a tax bill that year which was six figures,” he noted of a campaign

in which he earned over £500,000.

“A couple of years later I also lost a good chunk of my hard-earned cash

in an investment in a wind-turbine business.

“I thought it would be a relatively straightforward investment but the company went bust. Whatever I do next, it will be something I’m 100 per cent involved in and in control of.”

The winds of change are blowing for Lee even if the chill of some biting January blasts has him pining for the old routine.

“This is my first winter in Scotland for nearly 10 years,” he said. “Usually at this time of the year I’m getting packed up and heading off to South Africa to get going. It’s a great place. The weather is good, the food is good, the wine is good . . . and cheap.

“I’ll miss the quality of the competition and the standard of the courses. It doesn’t get any better and every week was a different challenge. I’ll not miss the travelling.

“But I’m missing the weather already and obviously I’ll miss the camaraderie among the other players. We were all individual sportsmen looking to make our own way but

we all got on.

“When you’re in your bubble and playing week-in, week-out, you get wrapped up in it all and don’t appreciate what you did.

“Now I’m out, I appreciate what

I achieved. I can reflect and be proud. On the tour you are surrounded by some of the world’s best players.

“You come back to normal life and see people who aspire to get to that level and you think ‘well, I have been there’. It’s back to square one now.”