They may not sound like inspiring numbers, but they do encapsulate the story of one of European Tour’s longest serving journeyman professionals. One of those tournament professionals who grinds it out year after year, rarely has a TV camera pointed at him because he’s never really been in contention to win a championship. Slogging away, travelling Europe eking out a living.
But then at one of Britain’s most iconic golf venues, The Belfry, a 48 year old has defied age and become the oldest first time winner in the history of the European Tour. He turned professional in 1996 has lost his tour card 10 times, meaning that he’s had to go back to tour school to reapply for his position. Out of the 478 events that he’s played in his career he’s had now one win, three second places, two thirds and 26 top 10s.
He has not had a sniff of a Ryder Cup place, in fact the best Order of Merit position he’s ever achieved was in 2016 where he finished 27th in the Race to Dubai. You would think that his career would be considered excuse the pun, quite bland. Yet his career earnings to date is the 5,886,007.
Which is quite a startling amount of money and really shows how the European Tour has become a serious bank for its long-serving players, especially when you consider something that Nick Faldo said in the mid 90s, which was that you had to be world class, a major winner, to become a millionaire.
Richard Bland wins first Tour event at age of 48 | Round 4 Highlights | 2021 Betfred British Masters
It also reminds me of a very heated players’ meeting which occurred in the States in the early 90s, where Lanny Wadkins, was chairing the meeting and was totally opposed to the tabled idea that the winners of events should get less money and the money should be more trickle down to the lower end of the leaderboard. Lanny famously said we should be developing champions with a champion mind set rather than rewarding mediocrity. From the floor came a derisory comment, where he was accused of having a privileged position because he won tournaments. To which he said, “exactly my point, I won those tournaments, nobody gave them to me.”
Back to Richard Bland, he had to earn his victory through a play off and after the customary Tim Barter interview, he was asked what he was going to be doing this evening, to which he said he was going to be dropping off Oliver Fisher at Gatwick Airport, and then was dropping off a toiletry bag to David Howell. Not exactly the actions or celebrations of the European Tour’s latest winner.
But why would his actions be any different? It was his 478th tournament on the European Tour, he was tied for 12th spot going into the last round and three shots off a proven winner in Eddie Pepperell, of course he was going to be making plans to head South after the round.
However, a 66 on the final round, low round of the day and a par on the 1st play off hole sealed the deal. With tweets coming in from all over the world, and a new two year exemption on the Tour. Life has never been so good.
He was due to be with his parents on Tuesday and put in a request in for some roast lamb for dinner. His father saying, “you can have whatever you want!” with a heightened level of pride. Things have changed and he can now call himself a winner on the European Tour.
Nothing bland about that!