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Bland set for emotional week at The Belfry

Bland set for emotional week at The Belfry

Richard Bland admits there may be a tear in his eye as he makes his first defence of a DP World Tour title in his 500th start at the 2022 Betfred British Masters hosted by Danny Willett.

Richard Bland

The Englishman created one of the stories of the 2021 season 12 months ago at The Belfry as he beat Guido Migliozzi in a play-off to win his first DP World Tour title at the 478th attempt.

The following 21 events saw him become the oldest 36-hole leader in U.S. Open Championship history, finish a career-high 11th on the DP World Tour Rankings in Partnership with Rolex, have his best Rolex Series finish at the Dubai Desert Classic and make it to the last-16 of the WGC - Dell Technologies Match Play, breaking into the world’s Top 50 shortly after.

All that must have seemed a long way away in 2019 when he became the oldest-ever European Challenge Tour graduate after losing his card, and the 49-year-old admits he is in for an emotional week in the Midlands.

"I can still remember pretty much every shot," he said. "Certainly the back nine, most of the last day. This place now is somewhere that will always be very, very close to my heart.

"How I'll feel on the first tee tomorrow morning, not too sure. Probably be a tear in the eye, I would think. I'm going to have all my family here with me. So it's just a very special tournament, not only for me but obviously for the DP World Tour and yeah, it just feels great to be back.

"Obviously with what went on, 12 months ago, it's a dream come true. Something I had worked for for 20 years."

He added: "I thought I had it in me, of course, but when you lose your card at the age of 46, a lot of people are writing you off. So to come back the way that I've come back, when I finish playing, whenever that will be, that will probably be something I'm most proud of.

"Because I think a lot of people might just go, 'you know what? That's it, I'm done'. I never thought that. It took a lot of hard work but I guess it's made it that much more special to be doing this when probably at my age, I probably shouldn't. So yeah, I'm certainly enjoying it."

Laurie Canter recently joked in an on-course interview that Bland was now "big time" but the man sitting fifth in DP World Tour Rankings in Partnership with Rolex revealed the friendship of those with whom he has shared his long career is one of things that means most to him on Tour.

"I want them to treat me as the Blandy that they knew 15 months ago before I won," he said. "And the same as what they treat me now. I still hang out with Howler (David Howell) and Ollie Wilson and Richie McEvoy.

"Great to catch up with them last week, not seen them for a little bit. We had dinner just the four of us every single night. We have our WhatsApp group on the Senior Tour. That's what our WhatsApp group is.

"We all text to say well done to Mac last week, finishing third, so pleased for him. We are sort of close-knit the four of us. We have been out on Tour for God knows how many years.

"But what was nice was up until last year, I was the only one with a zero by my name. It was nice to get that by my name. The four of us were all winners and we all still have the same kind of banter. That's one thing that I think is very, very special out here, is we kind of are like a big family really. That's one thing I love about the DP World Tour."

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