Pro ends an 0-for-477 tournament drought on the European Tour
Richard Bland, on average in 2018, finished 72nd in European Tour tournaments, ended up 163rd on the season and lost his playing privileges. He was 45, nearing 46, and had decided to play the lower-tier Challenge Tour, but as his longtime coach reminded him on Saturday, the outlook was as low as his finishes.
“Most people said no way you can come through — it’s just too difficult,” Tim Barter said on Golf Channel. “What gave you the belief? Because you said to me, I still believe I can win; I’m going to go back to the Challenge Tour and give it a go.”
“What am I going to do for the next three or four years? I’m getting fatter as it is. It’s only going to be getting worse,” Bland said. “Just put your head down and just do the job.”
And do the job he did.
At 46, Bland became the oldest player ever to graduate from the Challenge Tour.
At 48 years and 101 days old on Saturday, Bland became the oldest European Tour first-time winner. At the Betfred British Masters, his 478th tournament across a 20-plus-year career, he was finally a champion, after making a 3-footer for par on the first hole of a playoff at the Belfry.
Barter, also an analyst for the tournament’s broadcast, asked Bland seconds afterward to describe his emotions.
“Next question,” he said. “Uh, yeah, just, I’ve done it.”
As Bland would know better than most, it wasn’t easy. He took the lead on a 40-foot birdie putt on the par-3 12th. On 18, after barely clearing the water on his tee shot, he dropped a 30-footer for birdie for a six-under 66 and a 13-under total (and a week that saw him make just one bogey.) Then he waited — Bland had started the day three shots out of the lead, and he watched to see if any of the seven pairings in front of him would catch him. Guido Migliozzi finally would.
But as Bland’s drought was long, the playoff was short. Bland and Migliozzi hit the par-4 in regulation, and when Migliozzi three-putted, it set up the winning 3-footer.
After his interview with Barter, Bland was ushered over to a booth, where his family was on a video.
“You OK, mom?” Bland asked.
“No,” she said.
“I’ve been waiting for this for so long.”
“You me and both,” the 48-year-old first-time winner said. “You and me both.”