England’s Richard Bland has Belfry in tears after clinching fairytale victory in British Masters to become European Tour’s oldest first-time winner
- Bland won his first tournament on the European Tour at the 478th attempt
- The 48-year-old took the first hole of a sudden-death play-off on Saturday
- Bland and Italian Guido Migliozzi had finished on 13 under at the Belfry
Richard Bland was in tears. His mum and dad were in tears. The Englishman’s coach Tim Barter was in tears. The TV commentators, all former hard-bitten professionals, were clearly choking up as well.
The Belfry, home of Ryder Cup fairytales, came up with another belter on Saturday as Bland, aged 48 years and 101 days, finally won on the European Tour for the first time at the 478th attempt.
Not just any event, either. The Betfred British Masters, first played in 1946. Now his name is on this prestigious trophy, alongside such legends as Bobby Locke and Peter Thomson, Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam, and Greg Norman. No wonder there was not a dry eye in the house. ‘I’ve done it,’ the winner gasped to Barter, before covering his face with his cap once more.
Richard Bland claimed the British Masters title after beating Guido Migliozzi in a play-off
Bland began the day as one of 22 separated by just three shots at the top of the leaderboard. ‘If I won this event, it would be like all my Christmases coming along at once,’ he said, after leading at halfway.
Two years ago, Bland lost his playing privileges on tour but still would not quit, even at 46. He played on the Challenge Tour, the reserve circuit, and fought his way back.
After 12 holes yesterday, he had clambered on top of the pack. ‘Make the dream come true, one shot at a time, one hole at a time,’ he told himself.
Standing on the tee at the formidable 18th, it was clear he would need a birdie to fulfil his dream. His tee shot, over the vast expanse of water, cleared the hazard by no more than 3ft. His approach shot finished 25ft away. Then came the putt of a lifetime, toppling into the hole on its last breath.
The 48-year-old claimed his first European Tour victory at the 478th attempt on Saturday
He thought he had won but Italian Guido Migliozzi holed a gutsy eight-foot putt to force a play-off. Half Bland’s age, he had a massive 53-yard advantage after their tee shots on the 18th, the first extra hole, but he could not make it count. Sometimes you cannot beat providence.
After his opponent three-putted, Bland found himself with a 3ft putt to win. In 25 years as a professional, he had had three seconds, two thirds, and 26 other top 10s, and when the putt fell below ground he finally had a victory as well. He became the oldest first-time winner in European Tour history and had done so by becoming the first golfer to complete 72 holes at the storied venue with only one bogey.
‘To win just once,’ goes the song by Irish band, the Saw Doctors. ‘That would be enough.’
It was certainly enough at The Belfry. Enough to trigger a universal outpouring of emotion. The next event on the calendar is this week’s US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, and even the season’s second major surely won’t come up with a more moving feelgood story than this.
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