Cut-price entry to golf competition

TO enter the 2007 Evening Star Sunshine Challenge for a cut price £10 - an offer open until the end of this month after which the entry fee increases to £15 - you should fill in the form in Tuesday's Evening Star without delay.

TO enter the 2007 Evening Star Sunshine Challenge for a cut price £10 - an offer open until the end of this month after which the entry fee increases to £15 - you should fill in the form in Tuesday's Evening Star without delay.

A postal entry to Bill Goff Travel is advisable this week because the website for entries may not be up and running until later in the month.

All competitors for this well-established matchplay event, now in its 16th year, will receive a quality golf shirt. As a special incentive anyone who can introduce three new entrants will be given free entry.

It seems strange that ladies in the region have been shy of entering. They are, however, more than welcome.

Competitors must have a bona-fide club handicap, maximum 24 for men and 36 for ladies.

Matches will be played off three-quarters handicap. It was suggested by the organisers that the event should be played off full handicap difference. I made it clear that, if that were to become the case, the Evening Star would no longer be involved.

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The Evening Star champion will take on the winners of the other regional newspaper competitions in England and Scotland for the prize of a long weekend for two at Penina, the first course planned by Sir Henry Cotton on the Algarve.

Courses to be used on this year's trip, between November 4 and 11, will be Alamos, Morgado, Palmares, Pinta and Gramacho. The tournament headquarters will be the four-star Tivoli Almansor Hotel at Carvoeiro.

Last November I decided to drive to the Algarve for the Sunshine Challenge week. I could hardly pretend that it was cost effective compared with a cheap flight to Faro and a hire car, but it was certainly an experience.

You learn from your mistakes. Firstly, if you are booking the Eurotunnel via the internet, make sure that Folkestone to Calais is the outward journey and not the inward one. They allow you to change, but the prices increase dramatically nearer the date of departure.

First golfing stop was Seignosse, an excellent course just north of Biarritz. It is tree-lined, rather like Woburn, and well worth playing.

Confusing Santander with Salamanca in my mind meant a few extra miles in Spain, but it was scenic in the mountains in the north although an overnight stay at Valladolid did not represent rapid progress for a day in the car.

Satellite-navigation, purchased specially for the trip before the prices came rocketing down around Christmas, was great at finding golf clubs and hotels. Annoyingly it always located toll roads. With no rush the original roads, through towns, were far more interesting.

It used to be simple to phone home from European public call boxes using cards. This is no longer the case, so be warned. I have several unused cards as I never got the hang of the new system via some private company.

A long drive from Valladolid to Tavira, mainly through Portugal, produced one costly mistake. Going through an unmanned toll entrance without taking a ticket produced a fine of some 30 euros at the other end.

There was the biggest thunderstorm I have ever seen and the most spectacular lightning driving into Tavira. Maximum speed was no more than five miles as hour as the rain lashed down on the windscreen.

The streets were flooded a foot or so deep. The only way to reach the Hotel Vila Gale was to paddle. Having not booked in advance it was a relief that they had a room. All the nearby courses (Quinta de Cima and Quinta da Ria) were closed the following day which left a hotel full of frustrated Irishmen who were in the midst of a tournament.

A couple of nights at Four Seasons Fairways at Quinta do Lago with friends, and a game at San Lorenzo, preceded the Sunshine Challenge week.

It was time to catch up with Kevin Eagle of Rushmere, the Evening Star winner, who had flown to Faro from Stansted, the sensible option.

The week has already been well documented. Gradually the courses dried out, but it was in Carvoeiro that I discovered that I had no idea of the pin number on my second debit card which made it unusable until I returned home.

Fortunately my regular debit card and a credit card made enough money available for the return journey that included a couple of games at Aroeira, just south of Lisbon, and two nights at the coastal town of Caparica. There was always the fear that the money and the petrol might run out.

A roadside hotel in Northern Spain and another on the outskirts of Blois south west of Paris were the stopping points on a return journey when it became colder and wetter as Calais drew closer. One tip, it's good to avoid Paris. Driving under all those tunnels at a busy time of the evening is not for the faint-hearted. The car remains undented.

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