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South Africa’s first winner: John Bland

South Africa’s first winner: John Bland

With over 30 victories to his name in a 40-year professional career, John Bland is one of the most successful South African golfers of all time.

John Bland

Born in Johannesburg, Bland was a leading player on the Sunshine Tour for over 20 years while plying his trade on the European Tour during the northern hemisphere’s summer months. 

He claimed two wins on the top tier – the 1983 Benson and Hedges International Open and the 1986 Suze Open – but he was a more consistent performer than his win tally may suggest. 

Bland, a good friend of South African golfing legend Gary Player, finished inside the top 20 on the Order of Merit no fewer than six times and also achieved a career high of 48th on the Official World Golf Ranking in April 1991. 

It was shortly after he broke into the top 50 in the world that his maiden European Challenge Tour victory arrived. 

The Martini Open in Italy, was the setting for Bland to make history as the first South African to win on the Challenge Tour, laying the foundations for many more to follow in his footsteps in the years to come.

Aged 45 at the time of his victory, Bland was heading into the twilight of his European Tour career and soon after celebrating his 50th birthday, he began competing on the Staysure Tour (then the European Senior Tour).

Just two weeks after becoming eligible to compete on the over-50s circuit, Bland won the London Masters by four strokes, then won two weeks later in the United States on the Senior PGA Tour. 

His London Masters victory saw him become only the second player after Antonio Garrido to win on all three European Tour-sanctioned tours, a list which now comprises just 12 names. 

Bland’s over-50s career produced a further two victories on European soil – his 2009 Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open title ended a near 14-year wait for a victory, while also finishing second at The Senior Open Presented by Rolex three times. 

The 74-year-old now resides in Knysna, South Africa, and has great memories of a golf career spanning four decades. 

Many South Africans have since enjoyed success on the Challenge Tour – including Major Champions Trevor Immelman and Louis Oosthuizen – but it was all started by one man; John Bland.

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