Algarve golf legend Christopher Stilwell dies suddenly, aged 63

The Algarve golfing fraternity is in mourning today following the sudden death of Christopher Stilwell – an enthusiast for the game whose dedication to developing golf and golf tourism in the Algarve has brought effusive tributes.

Stilwell died yesterday morning, the victim of a major heart attack. His funeral went ahead this afternoon (Friday) at the Santo André Chapel, at Penina – alongside the region’s first golf course, developed by his father John Stilwell in the 1960s.

Regional tourism boss Desidério Silva has lamented Christopher Stilwell’s premature death saying it leaves “a gaping void in the golf tourism sector”.

Stilwell was one of the “major promoters of the region’s golfing industry” and a “personality of great human dimension”.

As Silva explained in a statement, the Stilwell family pioneered the Algarve’s golfing industry. The construction of Penina was “the important first step” for a region which today has 40 courses and more than a million players returning year after year. This is also part of the Stilwell legacy in the region”, he added.

Christopher Stilwell, born in Lisbon, “but with his heart in the Algarve”, began as resident director of Hotel Alvor Praia in 1980, and then became a director and later president of Alto Golf – in which capacity he was involved in Portugal Opens played at Quinta do Lago, Vale do Lobo and Penina.

He was vice-president of AHETA, the region’s association representing hotels and resorts, president of Vilamoura golf, a director of the Oceanico Group, and a key player in the organisation of the Portugal Masters.

A racing enthusiast as well, Stilwell was connected for years with the organisation of Formula 1 speedboat races in Portimão and in 2005 in the Jetski World Championships.