Gazette Matchplay finals from Portugal: Diary and video

From left: Ian Wharmby (sponsor, Blacktax), Ken Friel (runner-up), Gareth Betts (winner), Phil Barker (sponsor, Airport Transfer Group)
From left: Ian Wharmby (sponsor, Blacktax), Ken Friel (runner-up), Gareth Betts (winner), Phil Barker (sponsor, Airport Transfer Group)
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Sports reporter Craig Salmon reflects on his stay at the golfing paradise of Penina in Portugal for the finals of The Gazette / Blacktax Matchplay tournament.

Players can step on to the first tee within moments of leaving their hotel room at the five-star Penina Resort.

With a beautiful, sunny-all-year-round climate, golfers - young and old, male and female - can take advantage of the hotel’s idyllic setting.

With designated storage place for clubs, several restaurants and a swimming pool, everything is catered for away from the course.

Then it’s all about mastering the 18 holes!

The quality of golf throughout the two days of competition in Penina was generally high, although Ken Friel and Warren Beardsmore will want to forget the 11th hole of their semi-final on Friday.

The pair halved the hole ... but only after taking nine shots each! Friel put himself in trouble after landing his tee-shot in a waterless dike behind trees, while Beardsmore smacked his second shot out of bounds.

The emotional and physical strain of winning the 2015 Gazette Matchplay Golf tournament certainly took its toll on winner Gareth Betts.

The 28-year-old champion was naturally in the mood to party on Saturday after clinching his first big competition victory.

After three days of hard graft on the course - a practice round, a semi-final and final in successive days - Betts was keen to savour the moment with a few celebratory drinks around the lively bars of the nearby Portuguese fishing town of Alvor.

However, by the early hours of Sunday morning, the exertions of the previous three days caught up with the Fairhaven member.

He was discovered dozing in a bar and was packed-off back to the hotel in a taxi for a well earned sleep!

The par three 13th hole at Penina has been named among the top 500 holes in the world and it is easy to see why. The fairway snakes around a water hazard on the right and is perfect for those players who like to fade their tee shot gently from left to right.

Stray balls which find the pond on the right of the par four 14th can sometimes be seen perched on top of tightly-packed leaves and weeds which cover the surface of the water.

However, golfers be warned, while it might be tempting to see your ball and hit your next shot from there, no player can walk on water…. no matter how well they might be playing on that particular day.

Highest handicapper of the weekend Ken Friel (19) certainly showed his ‘fighting qualities’ in reaching the final in Penina before losing to eventual champion Gareth Betts.

Mind you, what did you expect from someone who outpointed Chris Eubank in the boxing ring as a junior before the Londoner went on to become world super middleweight champion.