Having won the ‘Ocean Shot Challenge’ on Tuesday night, local hero Ricardo Santos has now set his sights on gaining more glory at this week’s Portugal Masters.
Santos saw off some stiff competition in the exhibition, which took place in the Atlantic Ocean, in the form of Ryder Cup-winning Captain José María Olazábal, defending champion Tom Lewis, his compatriot and fellow European Tour winner David Howell and Portuguese player Antonio Sobrinho.
Between them, the quintet struck almost 250 shots without success, but, with the light fading fast, Santos punched a perfect four iron from the deck of the catamaran onto another boat anchored 150 yards away, smashing the glass replica of the Portugal Masters trophy with a direct hit.
Santos was born and raised in Vilamoura and learned to play the game at this week’s host venue, the Oceânico Victoria Golf Course, where he is seeking to secure his second European Tour title on some soil this season, having won the Madeira Islands Open – Portugal earlier in the year.
Santos said: “I felt under a lot of pressure – maybe more pressure than when I won in Madeira! But seriously, it was a lot of fun and a great idea to promote the tournament. Now that I’ve won the Challenge, hopefully I can win the tournament.”
Olazábal came mightily close to hitting the jackpot, with one of his attempts missing the target by a matter of inches, but whilst the Spaniard was ultimately unable to add another – albeit perhaps slightly smaller – achievement to his CV following his successful stint as Europe’s Ryder Cup Captain, he thoroughly enjoyed the occasion nonetheless.
Olazábal said: “There was a little less pressure on me than there was at The Ryder Cup – but not much! I’ve never done anything like that before, so it was a lot of fun – but very tough. Our boat was moving and the other boat was also moving at the same time, so it was very hard to keep your balance and even harder to hit the target. But congratulations to Ricardo, it was a great shot.
“It’s very important to do things like this for tournaments in Europe, especially with the tough economic situation we have here at the moment. It was a very good idea, and I’m just happy Ricardo managed to hit it in the end, because it was starting to get dark! It was a great start to the tournament, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the week now.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Lewis, who captured his debut European Tour title 12 months ago at Oceânico Victoria Golf Course on only his third European Tour appearance.
He said: “Everyone really enjoyed it, even though as golfers we don’t like losing, so I definitely wanted to win. It was good fun, even though I felt a bit sea sick at one point! But it was nice to relax and do something a bit different before the serious business starts on Thursday.”