Portugal Sun Shining on Nations Cup

Mid-September it may be but that hasn´t stopped the temperature soaring in the Algarve for this weeks second edition of the Portugal Nations Cup. England set off in blistering midday sunshine for yesterdays first practice round over the Ocean Course here at Vale do Lobo and the golf promises to be just as hot with strong teams from several European countries vying for the title won last year by England.

Ireland must start as favourites this time round, after a string of fantastic summer performances. What a summer they have had; European Champions once again, Home Internationals holders in both mens and boys events, all spurred on by the achievements of Padraig Harrington in the professional game.  Defending Champion Shane Lowry leads their challenge with fellow Eisenhower team member Paul Cutler and young gun Alan Dunbar making up a strong threesome that lost out only on countback last year to England.

All four home countries are present with Scotland making their debut in the event. Palmer Cup and Home Internationals player Gordon Yates leads their team who will be hoping their first experience of Vale do Lobo is a memorable one. Wales could also challenge, Zac Gould being the most experienced team member in a young side.

Of the continental teams present, France catches the eye more than most. I had a close up view of Mathieu Bey at the international match between France and England and despite struggling a little with the putter this could be his week in conditions he will surely be comfortable with. Other individual stars on show include both British Amateur Champions, Renier Saxton for Holland (mens) and the highly impressive Pedro Figuiredo (boys) of Portugal. Both will need team support if they are to challenge for the main title.

As for England, the week threatened to start off disastrously with Eddie Pepperell falling victim to a virus on the eve of the flight to Faro. However, Sam Hutsby stepped into the breach at extremely short notice, he made it from the practice ground at Liphook to Gatwick Airport in about five hours, surely some sort of record for ‘last-minute´stand-ins.

Today (Wednesday) sees team members and captains (gulp!) compete in the Am-Am, a curtain raiser for tomorrows main event. Luke, Jamie and Sam will be finalising their preparations in an environment surrounded by sponsors and members, providing an excellent opportunity to give something back to our superb hosts whose warm welcome and hospitality are an equal match to the warm welcome afforded by the Portuguese sun.


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