South Australian Adam Bland has vowed not to let missing the birth of his child be for nothing as he headlines a 14-strong contingent of Aussies at the European Tour’s famed Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland this week.
Bland is one of 10 Australians who earned their place in the field courtesy of their finish on the PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit last year and one of a number still trying to lock down their European Tour card for 2019. Lucas Herbert may have wrapped up his card with his runner-up finish at the Portugal Masters last start, but as he sits in 115th position with three regular-season events left there remains work to be done for Bland.
So desperate was the burly left-hander to retain his card in Europe for 2019 that he missed the birth of his third child in September in order to chase a higher position in the Race to Dubai rankings, a decision he had agonised over for months prior.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do in terms of coming home and being over there and trying to keep my card so I had all of that in the back of my mind,” Bland explains. “I was trying to lock my card up early so that I could have been home for a longer stint but obviously that didn’t work out.
“That last trip was really hard, not knowing where I was going to be and then making the decision to stay over there and try to lock my card up in those five weeks. We had him on the Saturday and I had three more events left. I played and missed two cuts out of the three and played OK (at the KLM Open, finishing tied for 46th).
“It was really hard to make that decision to stay and then not perform, because you’ve given up so much. The amount of times I’ve looked at the photos on my phone when I’ve been flying and thought, Is it worth it? You’re giving up a lot to do it but it’s not all apples on the other side of the fence either. It was definitely a tough few weeks over there.”
Bland was able to spend 10 days at home in Adelaide with baby Cameron and the rest of his family prior to returning to Europe where he will play the British Masters, the Valderrama Masters and then WGC–HSBC Champions tournament in China after this weekend’s Dunhill Links. Good results in the next three weeks in particular will help him make a late play for the Race to Dubai finals series starting in Turkey next month but even if he fails to qualify for the limited-field event, he is determined to play in Europe again in 2019.
Still having status in Japan, Bland described 2018 as something of a “free hit” but after struggling early, he now wants the opportunity to share the experience with his family next year.
“I want to play in Europe now,” Bland says emphatically. “At the start of the year I kind of felt as though I didn’t really. I was missing being at home with the family and spending time with the kids, but then I started to enjoy it and thought about the possibility of bringing them over to Europe next year. I’ve got a bit of a different outlook on it now.”
As for his prospects in Scotland this week in a tournament he hasn’t played in 10 years, Bland had no problem remembering just how tough the triumvirate of St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns can be.
“It’s a great tournament but I find it a very hard week,” says Bland, who has missed the cut in two previous appearances in the Dunhill Links. “It’s long and if you get the wrong course on the wrong day weather-wise, you can be blown out of the tournament.”
The opportunity to play in a full-field European Tour event with prizemoney of $5 million is one that a number of Bland’s countrymen will also be eager to take advantage of. Jordan Zunic, Deyen Lawson, Jake McLeod and James Marchesani all earned starts courtesy of their finish on the Australasian Order of Merit finish in 2017, joining European Tour regulars Brett Rumford, Wade Ormsby, Marcus Fraser, Scott Hend, Jason Norris, Sam Brazel, Jason Scrivener and Andrew Dodt along with New Zealand’s Ryan Fox.
Fox is once again teaming up with Australian cricket legend Shane Warne in the pro-am part of the competition, Warne joining cricket luminaries such as Kevin Pietersen, Jacques Kallis and Michael Vaughan in the field.
Zunic has been paired with Liam Botham, the son of English cricket great Ian Botham, while the world of entertainment is well represented with the likes of Bill Murray, Huey Lewis, Luke Wilson, Ronan Keating and Bon Jovi drummer Tico Torres all teeing it up.