The Balaia Golf Village held a special golf competition last week, culminating in a fantastic barbecue, with prizes for participants and a spectacular late night show. The good news for amateurs was that the competition was not cumulative – instead, awards were given to players who performed the best individual shot and reached nearest each hole.
Balaia Golf has staged competitions every Wednesday for the last three and a half years. But, last week’s tournament for 120 players, offering nine fabulous prizes, was only the second of its kind at the resort – it was generously sponsored with some of the proceeds from the event going towards deprived children.
Maria José Pinto, Balaia Golf director, says she has had the privilege to play alongside some great people during her time at the club and that golf remains her abiding passion. “It’s a fantastic experience – you have to keep your head down and show humility when playing. We have an expression – a family who plays together, prays together!” she says.
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Among the prominent local celebrities taking part were Mário Barruncho, a former professional golfer and manager of Quinta do Lago golf course for 30 years. Also on the green was António Sobrinho, eight times Portuguese Open champion, a resident of Quarteira and Mario José’s close friend. “I always do everything I can to encourage people to play golf. We don’t have public golf courses in Portugal – it can be expensive, so we definitely need some more subsidised golf courses,” Sobrinho said.
Resident reporter Gabriel Hershman discussed how to tap the talents of the country’s budding golfing prodigies with José Lisboa, chief executive of the Quinta da Ria golf course in Vila Real. José Lisboa is also the director of numerable other courses, including São Lourenço and Pinheiros Altos, and acted as mentor to Sobrinho when the young golfer was a teenager.
He says golf must not remain exclusively a rich man’s sport. “Politicians are always talking about subsidised golf courses, but I think it’s a bluff. You really do need entrepreneurial backing because municipal courses seldom have the quality of other courses. We started a scheme in Quinta da Ria whereby kids can play golf twice a week as part of the school curriculum, instead of doing physical education. Tavira and Vila Real câmaras supply the transport for children to come and play at the course. We had one child who later went on to win competitions. This kind of thing cannot be left to politicians alone.” And José believes that subsidised golf should be taken one stage further: “Owners of courses should be compulsorily obliged to have free golf for children – you have to make an investment in the future generation if you want to reap long-term rewards,” he says.
There is more good news for golf fans. José Lisboa revealed that American golfing legend Jack Nicholas has designed two new 18-hole golf courses, near Quinta da Ria on the main road to the Spanish border. To those who believe the Algarve already has a surfeit of courses, the golfers The Resident spoke to had only one answer – more courses will mean more competition and, hopefully, reduced prices.