Richard Bland defends his British Masters title on his 500th DP World Tour start this week (Tim Goode/PA) (PA Archive)

Richard Bland expects to have tears in his eyes as he begins the defense of his BetfredBritish Masters title and his 500th DP World Tour event on Thursday.

Bland beat Guido Migliozzi in a play-off at the Belfry 12 months ago to win for the first time on the 478th attempt, the 49-year-old having already had to regain his card via the Challenge Tour in 2019.

The victory gave Bland a two-year exemption and allowed him to meet his goal of playing 500 events, a feat that will be achieved this week after careful planning of his schedule.

“It’s very special to be back here,” Bland said. “What happened 12 months ago was obviously a dream come true, something I had worked for for 20 years.

“I knew this week would be very close to my 500th event, so I changed it up a bit and pulled out of the first event in Spain last month to drop it this week. That makes it even more special and something something I’m very, very proud of.

“When you lose your card at 46, a lot of people write you off, so coming back like I came back, when I’m done playing, that’s probably going to be something I’m most proud of.

“It took a lot of work. But I guess it’s even more special to do that when at my age I probably shouldn’t. So yes, I certainly appreciate it.

“I came back here in October to do the Sky documentary (about the win). I still remember pretty much every shot. Definitely the back nine, most of the final day.

“This place is now a place that will always be very, very close to my heart. How I’ll feel on the first start on Thursday morning, not too sure. Probably a tear in my eye, I think. I’m going to have my whole family here with me and it feels good to be back.

Bland’s victory sparked an outpouring of support on social media, with former Masters champion Fred Couples calling it “inspirational” and comedian Stephen Fry admitting “a lot of crying”.

But it’s the messages he’s received from members of the public around the world that Bland treasures the most and has pledged never to delete from his phone.

“In all honesty, I was glad I had a week off after that event because the next four or five days was just a blur, you were shot, left, right and center with media engagements,” Bland added.

“But the messages I got from people all over the world, that’s something I wasn’t ready for and it was quite emotional to read some of the messages, that they were losing faith in the journey that they were doing and that my win was kind of helped them reevaluate and move on.

“I still have the same phone, so they’re all there. I will never get rid of it. They will stay with me forever and that made the win even more special.