While Tom Lewis, the newly crowned Portugal Masters champion would understandably concur, it is nevertheless the feeling of everybody connected with the country and the sport at this present moment that there is a genuine feelgood factor surrounding golf in Portugal. And why not?
Everyone fortunate enough to have enjoyed the wall-to-wall sunshine at the glorious Oceânico Victoria Golf Club in the Algarve last week relished not only witnessing the arrival of new golfing star in the eventual champion Lewis, but also the performance of a rising star of Portuguese golf Pedro Figueiredo.
Although still an amateur, the 20 year old produced a stirring showing over the four days to finish in the top 25 with a 14 under par total of 274 to prove he was more than comfortable in such exalted company.
Indeed, his final round partner was no less than the vastly experienced World Golf Championship winner and Ryder Cup player from Italy, Francesco Molinari, who admitted afterwards he had been hugely impressed by the towering Figueiredo, who outscored him by three shots – 67 to 70.
The young Portuguese’s performance continued a memorable recent spell for the country which began back in July when Ricardo Santos captured The Princess by Schuco tournament on the European Challenge Tour becoming, in the process, only the second Portuguese player to win on Europe’s second circuit.
The win has helped guarantee the 29 year old’s place in the top 20 of the Challenge Tour Rankings at the end of the season, meaning he will take his place by rights on The European Tour in 2012. However, he might not be alone.
Thanks to his third place finish in last week’s Roma Golf Open on the Challenge Tour, José-Filipe Lima moved from 28th place on the Rankings to 19th and he will head to the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final in three weeks’ time intent on cementing his place in the top 20 to join Ricardo. Should he do that, it will be the first time that two players from Portugal have graduated from Challenge Tour in the same season.
Yet the success does not stop there. Ricardo’s elder brother Hugo – who recently won the PGA’s of Europe Championship in Bulgaria – comfortably progressed through Stage One of The European Tour Qualifying School last month and the 32 year old will line up in Stage Two at the beginning of December. Come through that, and the Final Stage at PGA Catalunya Resort, and Portugal will have three stars to cheer on Tour next year.
Before then, of course, the Santos brothers have the small matter of representing their country in the Omega Mission Hills World Cup in Hainan Island at the end of next month, having bravely battled through the qualifying tournament in Estonia in August.
While matters might be rosy inside ropes for Portugal, positive strides are being made outside the ropes as well as was illustrated during the week in Vilamoura when the National Council of Golf Industry (CNIG) in the country took advantage of the Portugal Masters to present the Visit Portugal Golf website - www.visitportugalgolf.com.
To be launched in 2012, with a budget of €500,000 funded by Turismo de Portugal, the website will be a portal for online booking of golf rounds and will link virtually every golf club in the country.
The official presentation was attended by Secretary of State for Tourism, Cecilia Meireles, the president of the Portuguese Golf Federation, Manuel Agrellos, the president of CNIG, Diogo Gaspar Ferreira, as well as the host, manager and president of Ocean Golf AlgarveGolf Christopher Stillwell.
“It is important to invest in new means of distribution and there is no question that this this portal and this website is innovative internationally,” said Cecilia Meireles, who later joined European Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady and Gerry Fagan, CEO of Oceânico Victoria Golf Club on the 18th green as part of the presentation party for the Portugal Masters itself.
George O’Grady said: “It was a magnificent day at Vilamoura. All present were so fortunate to witness the first stunning victory of Tom Lewis. I am so delighted that instead of resting on his laurels, he is honouring an invitation he accepted to play in this week’s Castelló Masters. Furthermore, Pedro’s performance shows the talent at all levels throughout Europe.”