Recognition for Algarve golf pioneer

By DAISY SAMPSON [email protected]

When you think of the Algarve you think of golf, but it hasn’t always been like this.

The man behind the very first golf course in the Algarve, John Stilwell, has been honoured by the Portuguese Golf Federation with a Gold Medal of Honour and Merit for his services to golf in Portugal.

While on holiday in the Algarve in 1961, John Stilwell noticed the need to expand tourism in the Algarve and came up with the idea of building a golf course. 

John Stilwell told the Algarve Resident: “There was high unemployment in the Algarve at the time due to the fall in the sardine industry and the government were encouraging the development of tourism. I saw that golf was missing in the Algarve and it could really help to improve winter tourism in the region so I found some land, an architect and was put in touch with Henry Cotton as a designer for the course.”

By 1966, the Penina golf course was officially opened by the President of the Republic and since then has played host to 10 Portuguese Opens.

“As the first course in the Algarve, the aim at Penina was not to sell land, leaving Henry Cotton with complete liberty on the design,” said John Stilwell.

“The course is still considered by the PGA to be the only real Championship course in Southern Europe,” he added, a testament to the quality of the course.

Manuel Agrellos, the President of the Portuguese Federation of Golf, made the presentation of the award to John Stilwell at their annual dinner in a ceremony held at the Casino Estoril in December in the presence of more than 500 guests connected to golf.

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