James remains among leaders to steer career back on course

England's Lee James, close to giving up golf and applying for a job as a postman last year, now finds himself with a chance to win the Irish Open at Adare Manor this weekend.

Fourteen years ago James was British amateur champion at the same time as Tiger Woods was the American title holder. They were both at the 1995 Masters, opponents in the Walker Cup later that year and had dreams of striking it rich in the professional game.

Woods, of course, has already made his first £50m. James, on the other hand, needed 12 trips to the European Tour before he made it through last November and his career earnings on the circuit stand at less than £100,000.

After rounds of 69 and 73, however, the 35-year-old from Poole is two under par and only four behind French leader Michael Lorenzo-Vera in the £2m tournament.

"I was struggling with a little bit of depression last year and a doctor told me to take a couple of months off," said James. "Financially it was hard – we couldn't pay for the mortgage – and I had no interest in going to the club to practise.

"My wife's been fantastic, though, and she suggested that if I felt the same after one more tournament I should give it up.

"I got a few job applications but didn't send any of them off and then I managed to get some sponsorship. Without that I don't think I could have gone on."

Lorenzo-Vera, a rookie, carded a 70 to lead the German Marcel Siem by a shot.

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