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Calum Hill pauses for thought, reflecting on nearly 12 months of injury hell.

“There was a period there, which I think is a normal thing, where your mind goes to the worst-case scenario and you think ‘this is going to be the end of everything, what am I going to do with myself?’,” he says.

“You can’t do anything about them. All they are is thoughts and they have no meaning behind them. As long as you surround yourself with good family and friends they’re not overly problematic. But there were definitely a few times where I thought bad things.”

The 27-year-old has, to put it mildly, been through the mill. A seemingly innocuous insect bite led to an infection, with the UK’s top medics left scratching their heads.

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After several false starts in his attempt to return to competitive golf, Hill was eventually diagnosed with nerve hypersensitivity – and he has fought to battle back ever since.

Now, as he prepares for his long-awaited return at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship despite being, by his own admission, only 70% fit, the Kirkcaldy native revealed the true scale of his long-running nightmare.

“The original issue was from an insect bite then I got a few other infections on top of the first one and that has all just ended up causing the nerve-related problems,” Hill says.

“I think I was just a bit under the weather and my immune system was weakened by the original infection. That led to my system being a bit weak and opened the way for a couple of other ones.”

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“Anatomically I’m fine, but they couldn’t put a finger on it and with Covid everything was delayed, weeks to get results and weeks longer to get appointments,” he adds.

“But it turned out to be nerve damage, or nerve hypersensitivity is the right phrase.

“It causes the muscles to go into spasm the more they get used. There’s no relaxation and it just gets more and more contracted, that’s what causes the pain, and that’s what meant I wasn’t able to play.”

Although he is back in the game, Hill freely admits his appearance at Kingsbarns, Carnoustie and the Old Course is purely to see “how the body holds up”.

“This will be the first time I’ve played in a long time,” he says. 

“We’ll just see how I handle the load and see how I hold up. Golf-wise there’s not a huge amount of expectation because I’ve not being doing anything.

“This is just a stepping stone.”

Struck down, Hill has had to watch from afar as fellow Scots Ewen Ferguson and Bob MacIntyre led the charge on the DP World Tour.

But rather than hold a grudge when he could have been in the mix if not for his horrendous luck, he has instead cheered on his friends from the comfort of his sofa.

However, he remains determined to make up lost ground and rediscover the form which saw him smash his way into the world’s top 100.

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“Last year was a nice year so I’d have liked to keep pushing on but I’m still on the younger side and I’ve got plenty of years of European Tour golf left,” he says.

“I’m quite happy it’s happened now and not a few years later when more important things might have come along. There’s plenty of time to catch up.

“From when I had to withdraw from Qatar there was acceptance that was an acceptance that I was probably going to be out for quite some time. I was out the game completely so when you’re watching your pals have success it’s brilliant. I’ve been watching quite a bit of TV, and when they’ve been in contention I’ve watched and supported.”

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