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The 2011 Iberian Golf Tour (IGT) teed off at the Pestana Gramacho course near Carvoeiro on Wednesday.

Inaugural IGT champion and PGA Portuguese order of Merit No2 Ricardo Santos will be the hot favourite to defend the title he won at the end of last season.

“It’s always positive to play tournaments in Portugal,” the four-time 2010 victor said ahead of the new challenge.

“In 2011 I hope to play the first IGT tournaments, move on to the Challenger Tour and still qualify for a few European Tour events.”

Another Algarvean, Antonio Sobrinho, finished runner-up last year with Northern Ireland’s Noel Murray in third ahead of Spanniard Alberto Doniga-Lara.

This week’s Gramacho opener will be followed by the Pestana Silves Classic next weekend, a Carvoeiro Pestana TGC Pro-Am (January 22), a similar event in Castro Marim on February 5, the Pestana Alto Golf Championship (February 9-11), the Pestana Vale da Pinta Finals (February 16-18), a Pro-Am at the same course the following day, and Pro-Am Suisse and Open in Vilamoura between February 28 and March 4.

Competitors from 11 countries including Britain, Germany, Holland and South Africa among others are competing for prize money totalling €60,000 in what is proving to be a truly innovative regional golf circuit.

Meanwhile, the Benamor Golf Club hosted the 5th Algarve Ground Staff Golf Tournament last weekend.

The two Penina pairings of Bart Van Der Wind/António Miranda and Francisco Faustino/Marco Rosa came out on top of the 76 competitors with 81 Stableford net points earning the Le Meridien Penina Golf & Resort the right to host the 6th edition of the event next December.

The Carvoeiro and Vale do Lobo teams occupied second and third places respectively.