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Aussie golfers finally back in business

Seventeen holes since January.

That’s all the golf Japanese Tour regular Adam Bland has managed this year.

Bland, the 2015 Japanese PGA Tour Champion, is the first to admit the year has been a long one away from the course, and not just because of the COVID-19 lockdown.

“I’ve basically had a nine-month break,” he said on the eve of his golf comeback at the North Coast Open at Coffs Harbour, a time-honoured tournament with legendary names like Gary Player, Kel Nagle, Norman von Nida, Bruce Crampton and Billy Dunk on the honour board.

“I played Singapore in January. I played 17 holes and pulled out and haven’t played since,” Bland said.

“I wasn’t there mentally. I had struggled for most of the year (in 2019).”

For an Aussie dedicated to forging a career on a foreign tour, playing without status in Australia has always had its pitfalls.

So instead of chasing starts in the Victorian and NZ Open, Bland stepped away from the game during February and March, then COVID came along.

“I wanted some time away from the game then COVID made me wait another six months to get back into it,” he said.

“Now I’ve probably got at least another five months until Japan starts up again.

“It isn’t ideal, but it could’ve been the break I needed.”

Bland, like most of the other professionals in the field for this week’s North Coast Open, is simply glad to be back and ready to go. The South Australian is one refreshed player.

“I have no expectations this week. I could go and shoot 62 or 82 this week,” he said.

“I’ll go through some stuff, see where my game is at.

“Obviously If I come out and shoot 62, 62, 62, 62 these next four rounds then obviously my game’s in good shape.

“I’ve got no expectations. But we aren’t in this position because we expect to fail though are we?”

Expectations aside, if the week needed to start on a positive for Bland, it did so when he arrived and got his first look at the Coffs Harbour layout.

“It’s a great golf course. I hadn’t heard about it before. Yeah, maybe Bonville down the road, but no one has mentioned it before.

“It’s a beautiful golf course, unbelievable condition. The greens are some of the best I have putted on on this side of the country. They are shaved they are quick, it’s a great layout.”

The field also boasts no less than 21 recent winners on the ISPS Handa PGA tour of Australasia.

Some of the stars competing this week include European Tour winners Mike Harwood, Marcus Fraser and Sam Brazel, and four recent past NZ Open champions in Victorian Matt Griffin and NSW trio Dimi Papadatos, Jake Higginbottom and Jordan Zunic.

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