John Bland, the South African who won more than 30 titles around the world, has passed away at the age of 77.
Born in Johannesburg, Bland was a leading player on the Sunshine Tour for over 20 years while plying his trade on the DP World Tour – then 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 – where he held off the challenges of Major Champions Bernhard Langer and Seve Ballesteros, respectively.
Bland, a good friend of South African golfing legend Gary Player, was a more consistent performer than his win tally may suggest, finishing 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 Legends 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 PGA TOUR Champions, the first of five titles Stateside.
His London Masters victory saw him become only the second player after Antonio Garrido to win on all three European Tour group-sanctioned tours.
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.
Keith Waters, Chief Operating Officer of the DP World Tour, said: “John Bland was one of the first South African players to come to Europe and play on our Tour, and he helped forge a pathway for some great champions over the years.
“John was a great golfer, amassing more than 30 victories across his career, and his love of the game was infectious to those around him. Above all that, however, he was a great person with a special sense of humour often disarming any unsuspecting individual. Everyone who played with John enjoyed spending time with him and he will be sorely missed by all who knew him.”
The thoughts of everyone at the European Tour group are with John’s family and friends at this difficult time.