Bland’s dream of becoming a European Tour winner finally came true at the age of 48 and at the 478th attempt in May’s BetFred British Masters at The Belfry.
Beating Guido Migliozzi in a play-off made him the oldest first-time champion in Tour history - only Malcom Mackenzie had made more starts before winning – and was followed by him becoming the oldest player to lead the U.S. Open at the halfway stage as the greatest season of his long career continued.
Yet the search for a title almost ended back in 2002. Winner of the Challenge Tour Grand Final the previous season, he fired closing rounds of 63 and 67 to be part of a four-way tie for the Murphy’s Irish Open. Dane Soren Hansen won that and it would be eight years before Bland registered his next top-three finish and a further six before he had another.
Then in 2017 he finished a stroke behind Andres Romero at the BMW International Open, a month later tied for 22nd in what was only his second Open Championship start (his first was way back in 1998) and last November came joint-second at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa.