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Friday, 19 March 2010
England's Richard Bland produced the round of his life to not only win the Challenge Tour Grand Final in Bordeaux but also to secure his card for next year's European Tour.

Bland carded a closing 63 at Golf du Medoc, his lowest ever Challenge Tour return, for an 18-under-par tally of 266 and a five stroke winning margin from Philip Golding, who signed for 66, with two more Englishman, Gary Clark and Andrew Marshall joint third on 272.

It was a day when everything Bland touched turned to gold. After starting a shot behind Marshall, he edged ahead by the turn but it was over the homeward stretch that the Hampshire man sealed his victory.

Five birdies and an eagle-three at the 14th saw him cover the 3,569-yard back nine in 29 strokes and the rest were left to battle for the other places.

"I couldn't have dreamed of playing like that when I got up this morning," he said. "It's the best round of my life and to produce it in such an important event and to get my card is incredible.

"I came into the tournament knowing that only victory would secure my card and I just went for all my shots. Fortunately they all came off."

Some would say Bland’s victory was pre-ordained. Two weeks ago he was ranked 61st but in the previous tournament in Padova he holed from 40 feet on the final green for birdie to climb to 44th and book his place in the restricted field Grand Final.

Then, in the sunshine of south west France, the 28 year old played perfect golf, setting up his victory with a third round 66, climaxing that performance with a last hole birdie.

“Maybe it was meant to be,” he said. “I had a feeling that putt in Padova meant something.”

Golding, one of the oldest men in the field at 39, birdied the last from 50 feet for 66 to snatch second place on his own, which allowed him to climb to third on the rankings and secure a return to the European Tour.

Clark also shot 66 with six birdies but knew he stood no chance of earning his first title in the face of Bland's magic. "I hit one bad shot and one poor putt," he said, "but Richard's performance was awesome. However, I've got my card for next year so it's been a good year."

Marshall, also seeking his first win and with a card safely in his grasp, kept in touch with Bland until the turn but then saw his hopes fade away. "I missed a couple of chances when Richard was only one ahead but you can't compete when someone shoots 63. I would have had to score 64 to force a playoff."

The race for the No.1 spot on the rankings was won by Mark Foster. A closing 69 saw him finish joint seventh on 275 while close rival Jamie Donaldson, who needed to finish a couple of shots ahead, signed for 70 and 278. "I couldn't hole a putt and I hit some shocking shots," he said.

Foster said: “I did what I had to do. It’s difficult when you are leading a tournament or the rankings because you tend to get overtaken. But I produced a professional performance to cap a fantastic season.”

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Tournament Leaderboard

PosPlayer NameNatHolePar
1BLAND, RichardENG18-18
2GOLDING, PhilipENG18-13
T3CLARK, GaryENG18-12
T3MARSHALL, AndrewENG18-12
T5ROESTOFF, AshleyRSA18-10
T5DE VOOGHT, DidierBEL18-10
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