Richard Bland claimed an emotional first European Tour victory in his 478th appearance after the 48-year-old from Southampton overcame Italy’s Guido Migliozzi in a play-off to win the Betfred British Masters at The Belfry.
In a dramatic final day on the famous Brabazon Course , Bland showed incredible bravery twice over to clinch the victory – first at the 72nd hole where he holed a monster birdie putt to finish 13 under par courtesy of a closing 66.
Then, after Migliozzi had forced a play-off thanks to a 68, Bland once again showed his mettle. Having found a tricky lie from his drive in the first play-off hole, the he pulled off a stunning 5-wood approach to leave a makeable two-putt.
Migliozzi, 50 yards further forward on the fairway from his own drive, proceeded to push his second shot to the right of the green. Bland rolled his birdie deftly to within three feet, while his Italian counterpart raced his own birdie putt past the hole on the middle tier of the iconic green.
When Migliozzi missed his par putt, Bland knocked in for his four and for a career-defining triumph after numerous near-misses down the years.
“It’s what I’ve worked for for 20 years,” said Bland, who turned turned professional in 1996, and whose only previous professional win came at the Challenge Tour Grand Final in 2001. “I’ve had a few close calls, and I assume someone up there was looking down on me quite favourably today. It was just my day.
“I kept telling myself on the last I thought 13 under would be a really good score, especially if the weather stayed how it was. To hole that putt on the last, I don’t think I actually saw it go in, but I knew it was good with about a foot to go. I think I turned to the left to celebrate before it had even gone in. I’d have looked silly if it’d missed!”
He added: “Finally I can get off that list of the player with the longest losing run. One of my career ambitions was to play 500 tour events, so this win will allow me to do that, which I’ll be hugely proud of. To play 500 events out here is a pretty good career.
“Losing my card a couple of years ago was one of career low points. It took a lot of guts to go back to the Challenge Tour at 46 years old. You’re probably old enough to be most of the guys’ father. I got my head down, I’m pretty good at that. When I put my mind to something I can just go and do it, and that’s what I did.”
Tournament host Danny Willett capped off a hugely successful week with a 70 and a share of 11th, having also raised £19,000 for Prostate Cancer UK – after title sponsors Betfred pledged to donate £1,000 to the charity for every birdie the former Masters Champion made during the week.
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