If you want to play golf in the sun, just a few days before Christmas, in a competitive and relaxed atmosphere, in luxurious courses and in a format that allows any player to shine, from a 30 handicap to an elite golfer, the answer can only be one – The Grande Troféu de Vilamoura, in Portugal.
In December 2017, from the 6th to the 9th, in the Algarve, the 30th edition of this historic competition was held for amateurs of all ages and levels of play, and for the second consecutive year, it was sold out.
Jorge Aires, a former vice-president of the Portuguese Tennis Federation, for many years now converted to golf, used to get in the car every year, leave Porto, drive some 600 kilometers and play the event. This time he stayed at home. “When I wanted to sign up I was already sold out,” he regreted.
John Kokolay – Winner
Luís Correia da Silva, the CEO of Dom Pedro Golf, owner of the five Vilamoura golf courses, in his closing speech at the awards ceremony, held at the Hilton Vilamoura As Cascatas Golf Resort & Spa, said: “If you want to play the next year, you’d better decide early and sign in on time”.
The XXX Grande Troféu de Vilamoura attracted 280 players from 15 countries, divided by four categories of handicaps and distributed in three of the five Dom Pedro Golf courses in Vilamoura: the Victoria Golf Course, home of the famous Portugal Masters of the European Tour; the Pinhal Golf Course, which has already hosted the PGA National Championship of Portugal; and the Old Course, for many amateurs, the most charismatic and beautiful course of Vilamoura.
John Kokolay – Winner
Players praise every year the quality of the courses and even in drought years as happened in Portugal in 2017, tees, fairways and greens are immaculate.
“We have our own water for irrigation, so we could better combat this year’s drought, but it is also true that the rain that fell a few days before the tournament started made the courses appear even more beautiful,” Romeo Gonçalves explained. He is former player of the national team of the Portuguese Golf Federation, and now, for some years, he is the director of Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course.
If we play on dream golf courses, the hotels are not far behind. Players stay in some of the best hotels in the Algarve, such as Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort, Tivoli Marina Vilamoura Algarve Resort, Hilton, Vila Galé group and, of course, Dom Pedro hotels.
The sun shines almost every day and every year, and, in addition to the tournament, there are several social activities, from the welcome cocktail to a fashion passerelle, with the highlight of the Vilamoura Casino gala, which includes dinner and a cabaret show. Everything ends later in a cocktail, during which several dozen awards are delivered.
The Englishman John Kokolay, 65 years-old, with a handicap of 14.5, was crowned the 2017 champion, by winning the net general standings. He is a regular of the tournament:
“It was my fourth time here. I came here to have fun, play, sunbathe, because for me Portugal has the best sun and the best people, and this year I brought with me ten more people, which turns out to be a good deal for Portugal. Maybe next year, now that I’m the champion, I’ll bring some 50 people with me. This tournament is good for your tourism. I have met new players, I have made more friends, I like to know where they come from, what they do for a living, and this friendly ambiance is the most important thing.”
It was a surprising win because he had broken three fingers of his left hand shortly before the tournament, forcing him to even change some swing and putt technique in the Algarve:
“I’m shocked, delighted and I feel so many emotions … I’m a civil engineer and I ijured three fingers four weeks ago. I had to play here with different gloves and I opted for a baseball and not golf grip, but maybe it’s a good idea for the future to keep this new technique.
If John Kokolay was the tournament champion, the best player, that is, the overall gross winner, was Gonçalo Teodoro, the national Under-16 champion, who a week later was making his debut in the main national team of the Portuguese Federation of Golf, in the Manuel Agrellos Cup, to face the selection of the PGA of Portugal.
With a handicap of 0.1, it is natural that his goals are quite different:
“I like this tournament not only because we play in several courses of Vilamoura, but also because of the excellent organization and conviviality that it has with that dinner in the Vilamoura casino. I came to the tournament with the goal of winning, I won and it gave me a loto f joy to know that some of the best Portuguese amateurs ever had already won it before, and also that there are always about 300 or more amateurs in this tournament ».
The success of the Vilamoura Great Trophy led Dom Pedro Golf to seek to replicate the formula at other times of the year, responding with more supply to the demand manifested by several markets.
For instance, this January, from the 13th to the 20th, the 20th Dom Pedro International Golf Classic will take place with five rounds of golf on the Dom Pedro Golf Collection: Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course, Dom Pedro Old Course Golf Club, Dom Pedro Millennium Golf Course, Dom Pedro Pinhal Golf Course and Dom Pedro Laguna Golf Course.
In Vilamoura, you can breath golf all year round.
Golf Writer of the daily “Record” newspaper