Richard Bland stood on the 18th inexperienced on a cloudy Saturday at The Belfry, his arms on his hips, eyes welling and head down, as Sky Sports reporter – and Bland’s teacher – Tim Barter slowly slid a growth mic underneath his chin.
“Try and describe your emotions,” Barter requested.
“I can’t,” Bland responded, earlier than offering a short second of levity. “Next question.”
After a couple of fast chuckles, it was evident that Barter wasn’t transferring on. It had taken Bland, a 48-year-old European Tour veteran from England, practically 20 years and 478 begins to realize this second. So, after defeating Guido Migliozzi, who’s half Bland’s age and already a two-time European Tour winner, in a playoff for his first profession victory on the tour, Bland collected himself as soon as extra and took one other stab on the query.
“Yeah … just … I’ve done it,” he mentioned. “I’ve done it.”
Two years faraway from once more clawing his method again from the Challenge Tour, which he had first graduated from in 2001 after what till Saturday was the one title in his 25-year professional profession, Bland ensured himself the form of job safety he’s by no means had along with his breakthrough win Saturday on the Betfred British Masters. He drained a 25-foot birdie putt on his 72nd gap for a final-round, 6-under 66 to tie the younger Italian, who had three-putted his penultimate gap, at 13 underneath after which parred the primary additional gap to change into the oldest first-time winner in European Tour historical past.
“This is going to be pretty tough,” mentioned Bland, who made only one bogey all week earlier than sinking a 3-footer after Migliozzi’s three-putt from 6 toes within the playoff. “I don’t know, just had a couple of things this week. Howeller [fellow English pro David Howell] said to me he had a dream, I think it was on Wednesday, that – not this tournament – but I was going to win a tournament. And a friend of mine in America texted me after the second round, “One shot at a time, one hole at a time,” and I simply had that in my head all day, simply make the dream come true.”
Until Saturday, Bland had amassed 32 top-10s on Europe’s premier circuit, together with a playoff loss on the 2002 Irish Open. He practically cracked the highest 100 within the Official World Golf Ranking in 2016, getting as excessive as No. 102, earlier than plummeting exterior the highest 1,000 in 2019. But 4 runner-up finishes on the Challenge Tour that 12 months helped him get again to the large tour final 12 months.
“What was I going to do for the next three, four years?” Bland mentioned of preventing again after that almost all latest relegation. “I’m getting fat as it is and it’s only going to get worse. Just get your head down and do the job and get back to where I felt like I belong.”
Just a few well-deserved pints Saturday evening – and a celebratory lamb roast dinner again dwelling this Tuesday – doubtless gained’t assist any weight-loss makes an attempt.
Eddie Pepperell might be part of him if Bland breaks into the wine. Pepperell, the occasion’s 54-hole chief, shot 73 to drop to T-11 together with a listing of notables that included Danny Willett, Matthias Schwab and Chris Wood, a former Ryder Cupper who practically missed on his first top-10 end in three years. Wood, a top-25 participant on this planet in 2016, began the week at No. 1,107.
Wood does not need to look far for inspiration to by no means quit.
After his post-round interview, Bland was led to a video monitor. On the decision was his household, together with his dad and mom.
“You OK, mom?” Bland requested.
“No,” she answered. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long.”
To which Bland responded: “You and me both.”