Since its inauguration back in 1972, Quinta do Lago has hosted the Portuguese Open Championship eight times and has been the venue of choice for hundreds of national and international tournaments.
It was Andre Jordan, on his first visit to the Algarve in 1970, who first saw the potential of the site. Standing on a hill next to the ruins of an old farmhouse (now Casa Velha restaurant), he looked out across the pines to the Ria Formosa and was captivated by the landscape.
A master plan, to create a low-density golf resort in harmony with its surroundings, began to take shape in his mind. By 1974, the Quinta do Lago Golf Course (known today as the South Course) and holes 1 to 5 and 15 to 18 of the Ria Formosa (North) Course had been completed, designed by William Mitchell.
1974, however, presented major challenges to Jordan’s project. On 25 April, the Carnation Revolution took place in Portugal, initiating a period of great social and political unrest.
It was the top commander of the revolution, Lieutenant Coronel Otelo Saraiva de Carvalho, who presided over the official opening of the Quinta do Lago course on 1 November 1974. Arriving in great pomp and ceremony, he was accompanied by a troupe of uniformed and armed officers. They enjoyed the mingling with the local high society for a few hours and were even given an introduction to golf at the driving range.
The future of the Portuguese Open, however, was potentially in jeopardy during this period of intense political and financial turmoil. Its future was only assured thanks to the dedication and commitment of a few members of the Portuguese Golf Federation and the Quinta do Lago board, who managed to organize the 1976 tournament at Quinta do Lago with no facilities, clubhouse or even prize money.
Everything in 1976 had to be improvised and military tents were installed for media, guests and players. Following a colossal effort by the Director-General of Tourism, the prize money was amassed and had to be paid in foreign currency.
“This Open Championship has been incredible for us, as there was no infrastructure at all. But it was a tremendous success for both the players and the PGA who congratulated us.” (Mário Barruncho, Quinta do Lago’s Director of Golf from 1974 to 2004)
The first edition of the Portuguese Open had taken place back in 1953 in Estoril, where it ran uninterrupted until 1972 before being moved to Penina. Quinta do Lago is part of the third phase of the Open’s history, which occurs following the creation of the European Tour and the European Circuit in 1973. Quinta do Lago hosted the Portuguese Open a total of eight times between the years of 1976 and 2001.
In addition to The Open, Quinta do Lago has been the venue of choice for a number of other major tournaments, such as the World Senior Golf Championship and the first edition of the BMW Golf Cup World Final. Famous celebrities have often taken part in the highly prestigious national and international tournaments which also take place here each year. Many have come to Portugal for the sole purpose of playing at Quinta do Lago.
Many of the world finest golfers have teed off here over the years including Severiano Ballesteros, Sandy Lyle, Ian Woosnam, Bernard Langer, Sam Torrance, Bernard Gallacher, Christy O’Connor Jr., Ronan Rafferty, Gordon Brand Jr., Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen, Mark McNulty, Tony Johnstone, Eduardo Romero, Peter Baker and Colin Montgomerie
Many of the current European Ryder Cup team played at Quinta do Lago at an early age, including Padraig Harrington, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, David Howell, Nick Dougherty, Trevor Immelman, Paul McGinley, Steve Webster and Paul Lawrie.
99 players failed to make the two cuts of the 1976 tournament, the first ever held at Quinta do Lago. The main star of this Championship was the young Spaniard, Severiano Ballesteros, but victory belonged to his fellow countryman Salvador Balbuena, who scored 283 (69-68-74-72) and was awarded a prize fund of £2,250. Sam Torrance was second, four shots behind, and Ballesteros took 5th place with 289.
66 players made the cut and among those eliminated were Gordon Brand Jr and Santiago Luna. The winner was Tony Johnstone, from Zimbabwe, who scored 274 (70-69-67-68) and took home a prize fund of £9,503. He secured victory with three vantage shots over Englishman, Michael King.
72 competitors made the cut out of an original field of 116. Triumph belonged to Englishman, Warren Humphreys, with a score of 279 (69-68-71-71) and a prize fund of £10,660. This was Humphreys’ only victory on the tour and a few years later he left the competition to become a television commentator. He won the Open Championship with a vantage shot over South African, Hugo Baiocchi. Seve Ballesteros, who was the main star of the tournament, reached 6th place with 282 (69-72-68-73).
This tournament had 127 players, 72 of which made the cut. Victory was secured by Mark McNulty with 270 (66-69-69-66), the best ever result in the Quinta do Lago Open Championships. He scored 18 below par and won £16,660 in prize money. He won with four vantage shots over Englishman, Ian Mosey. This edition saw the Quinta do Lago debut of Welshman, Sandy Lyle, who reached 5th place with 277, while Warren Humphreys, who was defending the title, finished 62nd with 290.
65 players made the cut out of an original 144. The winner was Australian Mike Harwood, who won his first triumph after three seasons in Europe. Victory came after an unbeatable round, with an extraordinary shot from the bunker to the birdie on the 10th hole, followed by two birdies. He finished with 280 (73-70-68-69), 8 under par, and a prize fund of £33,330. He won with a vantage shot over Irishman Eammon Darcy and two over Peter Baker and Des Smyth. In this Open Championship, Scotsman Colin Montgomerie made his debut at Quinta do Lago, finishing 18th with 288. Another newcomer to the course was the Swedish player, Jesper Parnevik (53rd with 294). Scotsman Bernard Gallacher, later European Captain in the Ryder Cup, finished 45th with 292.
For this tournament the prize money rose to £278,668, the largest ever seen in Portugal. Scotsman Colin Montgomerie won his first QDL tour victory, thanks to an incredible last round of just 63 shots (9 under par), a score that remains a record on this course. He won with 264 (67-65-69-63) and was awarded prize money of £45,825. Monty finished 11 shots ahead of the runner-up, Mike Smith, a record difference in score between first and second. Two world-renowned players made their debut at this Open Championship: Vijay Singh, from the Fiji Islands (who finished with 285), and Swede, Robert Karlsson (292).
English professional, Michael McLean, still remembers winning his only victory on the tour at Quinta do Lago. After nine years on the circuit, he won the TPC with 274 (69-69-65-71), 14 under par, and was awarded a prize fund of £45,825 (the largest of his career). He won by a small margin over four players who were to become stars of the golfing world – Gordon Brand Jr. and Mike Harwood (275), Mark James and Paul Broadhurst (276). Colin Montgomerie finished with a total of 280 and Vijay Singh finished with 285.
It was the young Irishman, Padraig Harrington, who took centre stage at this Open. At just 30 years old, he took the lead during the first two days and, in the third round, shared first place with Sven Struver, Stephen Scahill, Simon Dyson and David Gilford, all with 205 (11 under par). In the last round, however, Welshman Phillip Price came from behind to claim the trophy with 273 (72-67-70-64), 15 under par, and took home a cheque for 166,660 Euros. Harrington and the German Struver took second place with 275. It was the first time that Quinta do Lago had fielded 156 players, 82 of whom made the cut.