By GREG WHITE
SINCE joining Sawtell Golf Club as a junior in 1961, businessman Bob Burns has had an ongoing love affair with his local golf links.
So strong are the bonds, on Boxing Day he's sponsoring the club's biggest yearly event, the R. and R. Carpets Seaside Open Classic, the fourth time he's taken the naming rights.
"For 44 years this club has been part of my life," Burns said.
"I just love the place and being sponsor of the major tournament is a particular thrill."
From the time he established his first business in 1970, Burns has thrown sponsorship dollars towards his club.
"Not that I've been able to win too many of the trophies I've supplied," he said regretfully.
Burns believes he may be close to Sawtell's longest serving player.
"Probably, only Ray Gunn has played longer at the club," he said.
With the origins of the Classic lost in the mists of time, Burns feels it's been around at least 40 years.
"I was very young when I first played the event," he said.
"Actually, I can't think of a year I haven't played.
"That could be a record for you."
While he's never won the event, Burns did finish one year as runner-up.
"It wasn't my own trophy," he laughed, "as the pro shop was main sponsor that year."
According to club captain Frank Mahoney, more than 200 entries have already poured in for the Classic, set down as a 4BBB Stableford.
"It's going to be tough for our regulars to win," Mahoney said.
"We've got people coming from all over the countryside with single figure handicaps including a bloke from the Central Coast who's a one marker."
To share the spirit of giving during the festive season, sponsor Burns has announced a trophy list extending to the 17th runner-up.
"I'd have to be pretty sceptical about the chances of lining up to receive one of my own trophies back," he said.
"There are boys in the field a lot hotter than me but I wouldn't miss it for the world."