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Petty Officer 1st Class Terry Burnley keeps his golf game in tune at his home in La Maddalena, Sardinia.
Petty Officer 1st Class Terry Burnley keeps his golf game in tune at his home in La Maddalena, Sardinia. (Courtesy of Terry Burnley)

Fame? Not his thing.

Fortune? Terry Burnley can do without that too.

OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But the petty officer first class did pick a life in the Navy over a shot at the professional golfer’s circuit — both on the course and in the pro shops.

Burnley, 47, was a step away from being a club professional — basically the person who runs a professional pro shop, he explained to a reporter who doesn’t know the first thing about the sport.

“Yes, I had aspirations of becoming a club pro and professional golfer,” said Burnley, now an active-duty Navy journalist stationed at La Maddalena, Sardinia.

For years, he worked as an assistant club pro in cities such as Atlanta, Newport Richey, Fla., and Birmingham, Ala., while thinking that one day he’d be top dog at the pro shops.

But the hours were too long.

So he went from togging up in tacky seersucker to donning dungarees — and pulling the occasional 24-hour shift.

Working the pro shops meant a lot of time away from home, said the father of five, whose children now range in age from 1 to 22.

“It was long hours and not very good pay. You’d get maybe one day off a week. Golf courses never close. … They’re open every day except Christmas, and even that’s no guarantee.

“So I joined the Navy — and nothing changed,” he laughed.

“I joined the Navy to start another career and now 19 years later, I’m getting ready to start another one, I just haven’t a clue what it’ll be yet, but I’m hoping it will be golf-related.”

He never strayed far from the game.

For 10 years, he played on the All-Navy Golf Team, both in the open division, until he became an old man at age 40, upon which he enrolled into the senior division.

Can’t tell you if he’s any good, but golfers might be able to discern something from his golf scores: According to the 2003 Armed Forces Golf Championship Scores, his score in the four-day tournament was 312. In 2000, his total score was 297.

Today, Burnley serves as the liaison between the approximately 30 to 40 golfing sailors assigned to the submarine tender USS Emory S. Land, based at La Maddalena, and the local golf resort Pevero Golf Club in Porto Cervo, Sardinia.

First, he makes sure the sailors can pass the “theory test” — which actually has right and wrong answers — that examines applicants’ knowledge of both local and U.S. Golf Association rules.

Then he gives them pointers on the course and how to play it.

Of the “thousands and thousands” of golf courses throughout Europe, Pevero Golf Club is rated in the top 50, he said.

“It’s very demanding and demands accuracy.

“You have to keep you head in the game and any stray shot, any shot hit off line, chances are you not going to find a lot of brush and rocks. It’s not forgiving at all.”

That sounds like good advice, no matter what your game is.

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