XXXI Great Trophy of Vilamoura
Dreams of amateurs and professionals
Michael Ewings is a retired shipping broker. He recently sold his company, where he remains as a consultant, and now has more time to play golf. For several years he has been playing, with his wife and friends, the Great Trophy of Vilamoura, but now he has the time to enjoy it even more.
Fergus Foley, another Irishman, owns a hotel in his own country and because he can only afford to shut it down in the winter, he enjoys his vacations at this time of the year, and the Great Trophy of Vilamoura immediately seemed to him a pleasant week.
I played with both and any of these entrepreneurs have a reasonably evolved golf technique. You can see they have been playing for a long time, although they only belong to the Fourth Category.
Both came to compete at the 31st edition of one of one of the oldest Portuguese golf tournaments through the purchase of packages in recognized national tour operators specialized in golf.
Another important asset, emphasized by both Fergus and Michael, was the extremely competitive rates of the packages, with a varied offer of hotel units, rental cars or transfers, golf clubs, and even the air flights were considered cheap. Of course the main thing is “the wonderful good weather”.
“I honestly do not like to play too much in the rain,” admits Michael Ewings, whose connection “with the Tee Times Golf Agency has been around for a long time” and intends to “return in January to another tournament in three Algarve courses, in a more smaller but nice tournament”.
About Portugal, especially regarding the Algarve, he emphasizes “the quality of the courses, the good weather, the good hotels and the friendliness of the people” and in the specific case of the Great Trophy of Vilamoura he adds “the good atmosphere created by all the players“.
In 2018 Dom Pedro Golf improved the social program of the event. In addition to the usual dinner at the Solverde Casino in Vilamoura and the cocktails at the opening and the award ceremonies (this one at the Hilton as Cascatas Golf & Spa), there was another dinner – sumptuous I must say – at the Dom Pedro Forum.
The secret is simple yet tremendously effective and consists of treating any amateur as a special golfer and tourist.
What makes the success of these 31 editions of the Great Trophy of Vilamoura, now organized by the Dom Pedro Group? The chance of players from various age groups and of several levels – there are four categories in competition – can enjoy some of the most famous courses in this country, that has consistently collected prizes of the World best golf destination in international forums.
This year three Dom Pedro Golf jewels were selected: The Victoria, stage of the Portugal Masters of the European Tour; the Old Course, former course of the Portugal Ladies Ladies Open of the Ladies European Tour; and the Pinhal, that once held PGA National Championship of Portugal.
Valdemar Afonso, one of the most respected Portuguese golf writers, wrote in “GolfTattoo” that the 31st Grand Trophy of Vilamoura had “271 players from 28 countries” and “36 trophies were distributed, of which only six to Portuguese players”.
Anyone can win prizes at the Great Trophy of Vilamoura. Last year, wrote here, on this Tee Times Golf Agency blog, about the win of English veteran of Indian origin, John Kokolay, who has a handicap of 15 and plays in the Third Categories.
This year, on the other hand, the champion was a youngster of 14 years old (he is now 15), Jamie Mann, with 1 handicap, who gave himself the luxury of being the best, both medal net and stroke play!
In the long history of the tournament, there are not many cases of players who have simultaneously won the gross and the net, the most famous being João Pedro Carvalhosa in 1988, Henrique Paulino in 1989, José Correia in 1992 and Ricardo Santos in 2000. Carvalhosa was an amateur national champion and national vice-champion of professionals; Paulino was national champion of professionals; Correia is the current president of the PGA of Portugal; Santos has already won a European Tour tournament.
“I did not know that players as good as Ricardo Santos had already won this tournament. Of course I know who Ricardo is”, Jamie Mann told Tee Times Golf.
Jamie is the perfect ambassador for the Great Trophy of Vilamoura. He has lived for 11 years in the Algarve, where he has studied at the Nobel International School, and represents the perfect symbiosis of being born in Scotland, the Home of golf, and living in the Algarve, the European paradise for this sport.
“I’m from Aberdeen and it’s great to live in the Algarve, where there are such good golf courses. The weather is very good, much better than in the UK, and I can play here every day”, said Jamie, that in stroke play made 73 on the Old Course, 68 on the Pinhal, and 73 on the Victoria, for a total of 214 strokes, 3 under Par.
«At the Old Course on the first day I leveled Par, in the Pinhal I played -4, and in the Victoria I had 1 over Par. So I was very pleased with my 3 under for the tournament”, confirmed the Vilamoura Golf Club player, younger brother of Greig Mann, another of the good players of the local club.
Jamie Mann beat the 2nd place the Englishman Sandy Bolton (75-76-78) by 15 strokes. In the net standings, Jamie totaled 212 (74-67-71) and the 2nd was Columb Harrington with 221 (71-77-73).
Alice Carlota, of Dom Pedro Golf and tournament speaker, highlighted in the prize-giving ceremony, how special it was to have Columba round. He is the brother of the famous Padraig Harrington, the Irishman who has already won the Portugal Masters in Vilamoura, in a fantastic career of successes, including three Majors and the Ryder Cup.
Jamie, too, wants to become a golf pro, but he knows the long road ahead. For now, it was already a great victory being selected this year “to the two teams of Vilamoura in both National Club Championships, both the U-18 and the main team”.
“He’s still too young to be able to tell if he’s going to be a great player, but if I tell you that this year I decided to put him next to Vitor Lopes in foursomes in the National Club Championship, that already gives you an idea of the value I think he has. In fact, it is enough to see that here he won both the gross and net with a +1handicap. It is not easy at all”, said Joaquim Sequeira, the prestigious coach of Vilamoura, who has been producing lots of champions in the last decades.
Note that Vítor Lopes won the Portuguese International Amateur Championship at the beginning of this year and at the end of the season he turned professional, having already won a tournament on the PGA Portugal Tour. “I learned a lot, playing alongside Vitor”, Jamie said.
“I want to get a scholarship to go to the United States. And then, all I want is to become a professional after College in the United States. I dream of playing one day for Scotland”, admitted the youngster, who by keeping his nationality of birth, faces some limitations.
“I am a member of the Portuguese Golf Federation and not of the Scottish Federation. It would not make sense because I only play one or two tournaments a year in Scotland. But here I cannot be a national champion or to play the Final of the Drive Tour, but I can play the remaining Drive Tour tournaments and I have done it, although this year I could have played better”, said Jamie, who a couple of years ago triumphed in the U12 of the Oceânico World Kids Golf, the most prestigious international junior tournament in Portugal, in which his brother Greig won in the U18.
The Great Trophy of Vilamoura has this charm to please both amateur seniors, who only want to enjoy all the good things golf has to offer them in the Algarve, as well as young guns with dreams of winning on the professional tours.
Hugo Ribeiro / Tee Times Golf