Cormac Sharvin led home the Irish contingent as Richard Bland claimed an emotional first European Tour victory in his 478th appearance after the English veteran overcame young Italian Guido Migliozzi in a play-off to win the Betfred British Masters hosted by Danny Willett.
Ardglass professional Sharvin signed off with a three-under par 69 to claim a tie for 43rd at two-under par. The 28-year old carded an eagle and three birdies in a fine final effort but was left to rue a double-bogey at the last, Sharvin taking home €10,796 for a solid week’s work in Sutton.
He finished a stroke ahead of Paul Dunne who was also left lamenting the final obstacle; a treble-bogey seven resigning the Greystones man to a tie for 52nd at one-under. Clandeboye’s Jonathan Caldwell bounced back from a third round 80, going 15 shots better with a bogey-free seven-under 65 to finish in a share of 65th at two-over.
However, in a dramatic final day on the famous Brabazon Course at The Belfry, it was all about Bland who showed incredible bravery twice over to clinch the victory – first at the 72nd hole where he holed a monster birdie putt to finish 13-under par courtesy of a six under 66.
Then, after Migliozzi had forced a play-off thanks to a four under 68, Bland once again showed his mettle. Having found a tricky lie from his drive in the first play-off hole, the 48-year-old pulled off a stunning five wood approach to leave a makeable two-putt.
Migliozzi, 50 yards further forward on the fairway from his own drive, proceeded to push his second shot to the right of the green. Bland rolled his birdie deftly to within three feet while his Italian counterpart raced his own birdie putt past the hole on the middle tier of the iconic green.
When Migliozzi missed his par putt, Bland knocked in for his four and for a career-defining triumph after numerous near-missed down the years, moving him to 14th in the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex in the process.
“Finally I can go off that list of most starts without a win,” said Bland. “A big incentive for me was that I wanted to get to 500 events, this will allow me to do that, which I’ll be hugely proud of. To play 500 events out here is a pretty good career.
“Losing my card (was a low point). Losing it a couple of years ago. There were a few things going on at home, my brother was ill, so my mind wasn’t on golf for the first four or five months of the year. This is one for him as well. It took a lot of guts to go back to the Challenge Tour at 46 years old. You’re probably old enough to be most of the guys’ father. I got my head down, I’m pretty good at that. When I put my mind to something I can just get my head down and go and do it. That’s what I did.”
The victory also puts him in pole position for a chance to earn a place in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in June. The top ten aggregate Race to Dubai points earners (not otherwise exempt) at the Betfred British Masters hosted by Danny Willet, Made in HimmerLand presented by FREJA and Porsche European Open will earn a place in the third Major Championship of the year.
Tournament host Danny Willett capped off a hugely successful week with a two under 70 and a share of 11th spot, having also raised £19,000 for Prostate Cancer UK – after title sponsors Betfred pledged to donate £1,000 to the charity for every birdie the former Masters Champion made during the week.
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