Bathurst 1000 champion Tomas Mezera flat-out refused; Brad Burns didn’t really see any other option.
When you play 75 events on the PGA Tour of Australasia Ladbrokes Legends Tour you’re bound to end up in some unusual locales.
When the travelling circus of senior golfers rolled into Boonah 90 minutes west of the Gold Coast in August, the infamy of the Australian Hotel and the ghost of the 23-year-old woman who supposedly haunts it was too much for Mezera, perhaps on Trip Advisor making his decision for him.
“The ghost tour is really eerie and creepy and some in our group said they could feel a presence,” AmandaAds787 posted in December 2018.
“Tomas refused to stay there because it was haunted but I had no issues,” Burns recalled.
“We get to some weird and wonderful places but everyone is very welcoming and hospitable when we get there.
“They don’t see too many professional sportsmen coming to town so we have an absolute ball.”
The Toyota Hilux that has carried Burns to three Ladbrokes Legends Tour Order of Merit wins in the past three years has travelled some 250,000 kilometres but his journey to this week’s Australian PGA Championship stretches back much further.
A 15-year-old trainee under Mark Gibson at Gladstone Golf Club south of Rockhampton, Burns won the Headland Pro-Am at just 16 years of age and seemingly had the golf world at his feet.
“It was worth $800 and it felt like a million.”
Yet that sudden influx of funds led him down a path that veered away from travelling the world making millions of dollars and instead into a long career as a PGA Professional, winning the PGA Professionals Championship three years straight from 2003-2005 whilst based at Murray Downs Golf Resort that straddles the New South Wales and Victorian border.
Those championships were won at RACV Royal Pines Resort, his return to the Graham Marsh-remodeled venue some 15 years later going some way to completing a career full-circle with a circumference far wider than most.
“Quite seriously I probably started way too young,” conceded Burns, whose career has spanned stints at Gladstone, Dalby, Maryborough, Malaysia and Swan Hill.
“I was 15 when I started my apprenticeship. Myself and Glen Vines were the youngest to go through our time and in hindsight it would have been better to start later.
“I probably wasn’t mature enough at the time.
“I won my first pro-am when I was 16, got caught up with the wrong people and had a great time.
“But I’ve got no regrets whatsoever. Golf’s been generous to me either working or playing.
“You could do a couple of things differently but you choose A or B and see what happens.
“If you look back and you’ve got any regrets then you haven’t done it properly in the first place.”
Days driving trucks for BMA in the mines near Blackwater and a gentle nudge from his wife Jacqui was all the urging required for Burns to pursue a new career on the Legends Tour once he celebrated his 50th birthday.
In 2016 he was named the Rookie of the Year and has been the dominant – and most regular – figure on tour ever since.
He won just over $97,000 this year courtesy of nine victories – highlighted by the Lincoln Place NSW Senior Open at Thurgoona Country Club – and a further 36 top-10 finishes.
When he won his third PGA Professionals title in 2005 Burns stated that “if they ever held the Australian Open there, I would be a chance,” and wants to use this week at Royal Pines to propel himself towards the lucrative Champions Tour in 2021.
His Order of Merit win earns Burns a place at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship in Michigan in May next year and from there he hopes to join some of golf’s greats on a more regular basis.
“I went over to the US last year to play in the Insperity Invitational and now it’s a matter of feeling like you belong in the field, not just making up the numbers,” Burns added.
“I thought I’d hop on the first tee and absolutely shit myself but there were no nerves and I thought, There’s something wrong here.
“Next day, same thing. Played with Tom Kite and Mark Brooks and I felt relaxed.
“You’re seeing all your idols. I was standing next to Bernhard Langer on the practice tee, just watching.
“You see these guys go through all their routines and you probably try and take the better things out of it and add it to yours and see how you go.
“We got to play with Tom Kite, John Daly, Mark Brooks, it was a really good week.
“To stand up there and match it with the guys, all of a sudden you start thinking a little bit differently.
“I’m not going to put a number on it this week but I’m quietly confident.
“I’m not just going to turn up and make up the field. I want to go all right.”