Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer
Richard Bland the moment he realises he's just broken his title duck at the age of 48 - GETTY IMAGES 

Richard Bland the moment he realises he’s just broken his title duck at the age of 48 – GETTY IMAGES

One day on and still Richard Bland’s maiden victory at the 478th attempt continued to provoke emotional praise, with American Fred Couples joining the top names of Europe golf in sending his congratulations to the Staffordshire veteran.

As the field assembled here in South Carolina for this week’s 103rd USPGA Championship, nobody expected the chatter to concern the final round of the Betfred British Masters at the Belfry on Saturday. But Bland’s play-off victory over Italian Guido Migliozzi plainly touched so many.

At 48, Bland became the oldest first-time winner on the European Tour. Migliozzi, 24, was not even born when Bland became a first professional in 1996, a fact that underlined his extraordinary perseverance to achieve his dream.

He was forced to returned to qualifying school on umpteen occasions but refused to walk away, even as he hit rock bottom when losing his card yet again three years ago. Here was a lesson in never giving up.

“I have seen something that has inspired me and reminded me of why golf is the greatest game,” Couples, the former world No 1, tweeted. “Richard Bland who hadn’t won in his previous 477 professional starts wins the #britishmasters in a playoff on the @europeantour. Congrats @blandy73 on the first and wishing you many more!”

Bland’s compatriots Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood and Ian Poulter, who are here preparing for the season’s second major, publicly expressed their admiration, with the latter telling Bland: “Happy to see that flame still burns. Hard work pays off and you earned every piece of this victory. Enjoy.”

It was not only the golf world who were enthused. Actor Stephen Fry said: “If at first you don’t succeed… Richard Bland has just won the British Masters at 48 years old, his first ever win. 478 tournaments as a professional. Everyone on the European Tour cheering him on. Much weeping. Terrific.”

The £290,000 victory – easily his biggest payday – will see Bland rise inside the world’ top 150 when the rankings are issued on Monday, but a little way off his career high of 102 five years ago.

His next target is to reach the 500-tournament mark and with a two-year exemption he got for the victory he should, barring injury, complete that task. “That was a big incentive for me and this will allow me to do it,” he said. For now, he has mother has promised to make him a lamb dinner on Tuesday to celebrate.

On the Ladies European Tour, Lee-Anne Pace made history on the circuit’s first event of the season by becoming the first player to win the Investec South African Women’s Open for the fourth time. The 40-year-old shot a level-par to finish on two-over at Westlake Golf Club in Cape Town and beat Germany’s Leonie Harm by a stroke in her home province.

“I haven’t won since 2014 so I’m over the moon, Pace said. “As well as becoming the first to win this title on four occasions, I also get in the US Women’s Open and I really wanted that spot.”

Scotland’s Kylie Henry was the leading Briton, in a tie for 20th, 10 off the pace.