Richard Bland, a 48-year-old English ‘try, try and try again’ professional golfer, has finally won a European Tour event – at the 478th time of asking.
Bland defeated Guido Migliozzi in a play-off to win the British Masters after parring he first extra hole at The Belfry on Saturday.
After Italian Migliozzi three-putted from long range, it made Bland the oldest first-time winner in European Tour history.
He carded a superb final round of 66 to set the clubhouse target on 13-under par, but looked in danger of cruelly being denied victory by the fast-finishing Migliozzi.
Birdies on the 15th and 16th gave Migliozzi a share of the lead and he then found the green in two on the par-five 17th, but missed from five feet for birdie after lipping out from long range for an eagle.
Migliozzi’s tee shot on the 18th plugged in the wet grass on the edge of a bunker but, after receiving a free drop, the 24-year-old hit his approach into a greenside bunker and got up and down to force extra holes.
“Who knows? Maybe it’s like buses. None come around for ages and then two come along in quick succession,” smiled a disbelieving Bland.
“A big incentive for me this year was to get to 500 events and this will allow me to do that, which I’ll be hugely proud of.”
The lowest point of Bland’s career came when he lost his card in 2018, a situation exacerbated by his brother Heath suffering from a life-threatening illness which saw him placed in an induced coma for a month at the start of the year.
“This is one for him as well,” Bland added. “It took a lot of guts for me to go back to the Challenge Tour at 46 years old when you’re probably old enough to be most of the guys’ father.
“I wasn’t there to make friends – although I did and it was great – but it was purely get your head down, get the job down and back to where I felt like I belong.
“I knew there was unfinished business out here and I’m just pleased that I proved I can do it.”
England’s Eddie Pepperell had taken a one-shot lead into the final round but the 2018 champion could only manage a closing 73 to fall back into a tie for 11th with tournament host Danny Willett.
Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre, the top-ranked player in the field, held a share of the lead after birdies on the second and third, but eventually signed for a 71 to finish joint eighth with compatriot Calum Hill and Edoardo Molinari.
Min Woo Lee, the only Australian to make the cut, finished in joint-21st place on six-under after a final round of 71, which was marred by a triple-bogey seven on the ninth.