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From a stroke to taking on Tiger

Fee makes a remarkable comeback by relearning his golfing skills in just six months

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Tiger Woods labelled his former trainer Hank Haney’s decision to pen an unflattering exposé on him both ‘disappointing’ and ‘frustrating’, at the preliminary press call for this weekend’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship Tuesday
Gulf News

Dubai: A year ago today, Stuart Fee's golfing livelihood lay in the balance with him confined to a hospital ward having suffered a stroke.

But now, in what's been a remarkable comeback for the Jebel Ali Resort and Spa professional, he's the wildcard preparing to take on the likes of Tiger Woods at this weekend's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championships.

That's all provided another hospital visit — this time for that of his wife and first-born child — doesn't stand between him and the tee once more.

Speaking to Gulf News yesterday from a maternity ward with his wife beside him in heavy labour, Fee, 34, originally from London, quashed all claims that those in the health care profession would ever hold him back again.

Having won December's UAE PGA Qualifier to appear at the $2.5 million (Dh 9.1 million) European Tour event, against all odds, Fee said: "There's a practice session tomorrow [Tuesday] and its touch and go as to whether I'm going to make it.

"But my wife should only be four to six hours from delivery [yesterday] so I can definitely still play this weekend. The big problem will just be lack of sleep. I've had three hours in three days [his wife was admitted on Saturday] so if I can double that I'll be alright. This will be the biggest event I've ever played in, and after four or five attempts at the qualifier where only one local professional gets in, I've been a shot off and there or there abouts for years, but I never expected to make it this time due to my stroke — I'd only had four or five rounds in 2011 before the play-off and have only had less than a dozen games in total since the stroke.

"I was giving a golf lesson on January 22 last year — ironically the day my first-born was due this year — when I suddenly lost my vision and the control of my left arm and leg. I was in hospital for a week and off work for three months. I didn't play for five months and had to learn to tie my shoe laces again with endless physio and rehabilitation.

"I'm back to where I was now, but in some of the speed movements where I rely on my left side I still lack a bit of co-ordination. I never found out what caused the stroke despite numerous tests and in a way perhaps it's a good thing that nothing more serious showed-up in the tests.

"I've never been the sort to take things too seriously so this weekend I'm just looking to enjoy myself. I don't have any expectations, maybe I would have done a year ago, but now I'm playing without pressure whatever we score, we score. I wouldn't say the stroke has changed me so much but I do cherish my family time a lot more. I used to take that for granted."

And while his wife will be hoping he misses the cut so he can come home for some baby-sitting, Fee will be looking to top off a tumultuous year extending the benefits of hard work and perserverance by another two days of dream golf.