What-if, perhaps, and what-if, could-have-beens? Golf is packed with them. This moody old game never fails to confuse and taunt you, whether you’re grieving the little squirt that rounded the cup and stayed out, or cursing the 7-iron that came up short when you knew it should have been a freakin ‘six.
However, there can be cruel strokes of nature that are much, much more serious despite all the nervous putts, dubious club choices and mischievous intervention from the pesky golf gods.
David Burns has every reason to be pleased as he watches his highly talented young client Robert MacIntyre at the money-filled DP World Tour Championship close out another exciting season on the European Tour this week.
“It’s a dream come true for me to be in events like this,” said Burns, who was the trusted guiding hand of MacIntyre during the miraculous rise of the Oban left-hander to the lofty ranks of a Tour champion and the fringe of the world’s top 50.
Burns had his own ambitious aspirations as a teenage golfer at the time. A scratch handicapper at “15 or 16,” included such great local talents as Lee Vannet and Colin Brooks among his contemporaries. Burns played against an English team that included Paul Broadhurst, Peter Baker, Steven Richardson and David Gilford in a Scottish boys’ team. Both of them later played in the Ryder Cup,”They all later played in the Ryder Cup,”
However, Burns’ own giddy expectations were swiftly extinguished. I had a terrible time with my health and after the age of 18 I never played golf seriously again,”I had a terrible time with my health and never played golf seriously again after the age of 18,” The diagnosis was ME, but it was blamed on mercury poisoning from fillings in my teeth a few years back. My weight went up and down, I had memory issues, all the time I felt like I had the flu.
“I was checked for a few weeks and told that the diagnosis would be MS. I was in a bad position. I recall playing in the Craigmillar Park Open as a teenager and thinking, ‘There’s no way I can do 72 holes’ after 12 or 13 holes.
“To have all checked, I went down south: hair, skin, urine. The levels of mercury were around 30 times higher than what the body should handle. It was nice to know at least that I hadn’t lost my mind.
But because I’d been out of action for so long, I lost the desire to play competitively. I have always been interested in coaching. I’ve always been really analytic. Ultimately, teaching took over and I poured all my resources into it. Golf has been all I’ve learned since the age of six or seven. I had high hopes as a player, but they faded quite quickly.
“Coaching is the next best thing. It’s given me opportunities I never thought I’d get.”
MacIntyre was “treading water” in Burns’ eyes in 2020 after winning the European Tour’s Rookie of the Year award in 2019, before the young Scot swapped caddies, mastered his craft and stepped up a gear. “You can’t compete if your irons don’t go as far as you expect them to,”You can’t compete if your irons don’t go as far as you expect them to.
“It was like flipping the switch. After that, he finished third, then he won. Did I have a tear in my eye when he won? Yes, I had. But it didn’t change him. He’s still the same Bob. And he still gives me a lot of sass. The last month or so has been the best I’ve ever seen him play.”
As solid as an industrial rivet, the bond between Burns and MacIntyre remains. Nevertheless, the global back-and-forth that golf demands on tour has posed many obstacles to work through in a year marked by coronavirus concerns. ‘I have asthma, too, and Covid scares me,’ says Burns. “Bob has been to two majors in the U.S. this season. I would do anything for Bob, but at the time I told him I was pretty scared of traveling. But I went to the US PGA. It was his first major out there, he was struggling a little bit and I got the distress call from him. ‘I need your eyes,’ Bob said to me. So I went.”I need your eyes. So I went.
For the next four days in Dubai, Burns will keep his gaze on his star pupil, but he’s already looking to the future. He said, “I can’t wait to get back home so we can continue to improve together,” “At 24 years old, you can’t be done yet. It’s a constant process to work on. And that’s what’s exciting about it.”