What-ifs, maybes and might-have-beens? Golf is full of them. Whether you’re lamenting that little tiddler that birled round the cup and stayed out or cursing that 7-iron that came up short when you knew “it should’ve been a bloody six”, this fickle old game never ceases to tease and torment.

Amid all the timorous putts, dodgy club selections and mischievous meddlings from those pesky golfing gods, however, there can be cruel twists of fate that are far, far more serious.

Watching his supremely gifted young client, Robert MacIntyre, complete another thrilling European Tour season in the money-soaked DP World Tour Championship this week, David Burns has every reason to feel happy with his lot.

“It’s a dream come true for me to be involved in these type of events,” said Burns, who has been MacIntyre’s trusted, guiding hand through the Oban lefty’s wondrous rise into the lofty echelon of a tour champion and to the brink of the world’s top 50.

As a teenage golfer of aplomb back in the day, Burns had his own heady ambitions. A scratch handicapper at “15 or 16”, his contemporaries included such terrific domestic talents as Lee Vannet and Colin Brooks. Burns played in a Scottish boys’ team against an English side featuring Paul Broadhurst, Peter Baker, Steven Richardson and David Gilford. “They all went on to play in the Ryder Cup,” reflected the 55-year-old.

Burns’ own giddy aspirations would be swiftly extinguished, however. “I had a horrendous time with my health and I never played serious competitive golf after the age of 18 really,” he said. “The diagnosis was ME but then, a few years later, the blame was put down to mercury poisoning from fillings in my teeth. My weight was going up and down, I had memory problems, I felt like I had a constant flu.

"For a couple of weeks I had tests and I was told to expect the diagnosis to be MS. I was in a hell of a state. I remember playing a Craigmillar Park Open as a teenager and after 12 or 13 holes I thought ‘there is no way on earth I can complete 72 holes’.

"I went down south for tests on everything; hair, skin, urine. The mercury levels were something like 30 times higher than what the body could cope with. At least it was good to know I wasn’t going off my head.

"But I’d lost the incentive to play competitively though as I was out for so long. Coaching had always interested me. I was always very analytical. Teaching eventually took over and I put all my energy into it. Golf was all I’d known since I was six or seven. I had high expectations as a player but they disappeared very quickly.

"The coaching is the next best thing. It’s given me opportunities I never thought I would get.”

Having earned the European Tour’s rookie of the year prize in 2019, MacIntyre was, in Burns’ eyes, “treading water” in 2020 until the young Scot switched caddie, got the tools of his trade tweaked to perfection and moved up the gears. “You can’t compete when your irons aren’t going the distance you expect them to go,” added Burns of this overdue fine-tuning.

“It was like a flick of the switch. After that, he finished third, then won. Did I have a tear in my eye when he won? Yes, I did. It’s not changed him, though. He’s still just Bob. And he still gives me plenty of cheek. The last month or so has been the best I’ve ever seen him play.”

The bond between Burns and MacIntyre remains as strong as an industrial rivet. In a year riddled with coronavirus concerns, though, the global to-ing and fro-ing that tour golf demands has posed many working challenges. “I have asthma as well and Covid terrifies me,” admitted Burns. “Bob went to the US for two majors this season. I would do anything for Bob but, at the time, I told him I was pretty scared to travel. But I went to the US PGA. It was his first major out there, he was struggling a bit and I got the emergency call from him. ‘I need your eyes’, Bob told me. So I went.”

Burns will have his eyes on his star pupil in Dubai over the next four days but he is already looking to the future. “I can’t wait to get back home so we can make more improvements together,” he said. “You can’t be the finished article at just 24. It’s a constant work in progress. And that’s the exciting part.”