Golf: Treble-chasing Cort faces a tough challenge from rivals
Matthew Cort chases a hat-trick of titles in the annual County PGA overseas pro-am at Vilamoura, Portugal, this week.
A group of Leicestershire professionals and amateurs exchange the cool conditions at home for what they hope will be sunshine and warmth on the Algarve.
Rothley Park's Cort has won the title for the past two years, although Whetstone's Craig Shave, runner-up last year and winner in 2009 and 2010, will be out to stop his close rival from lifting the trophy.
Shave also led the winning team last year, but he and Cort will face stiff competition from their competitors.
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Mark Hatton (Willesley Park), the county PGA secretary, said: "It is the biggest field for five years for this 54-hole tournament. We have 13 teams this time.
"We start with a practice round at Pinhal, with round one of the event at Vale Do Lobo Royal, round two over the Old Course, and the final round at Vale Do Lobo.
"Everyone is looking forward to the trip and, hopefully, we will get good weather.
"It has been such a miserable winter, so it will be good if we find some sunshine and get some useful preparation for the season ahead at home."
In addition to Cort and Shave, the other professionals taking part are Ed Martin (Longcliffe), Richard Hughes and Ollie Whitehead (both Forest Hill), Ben Hill (Willesley Park), Danny Spillane (Rothley Park), Will Davies (Melton Mowbray), Bryn Morris (Kibworth), Dominic Fitzpatrick (Glen Gorse), Matt Stephens (Kirby Muxloe), Matt Ulyett and Nick Prentice (both Park Hill).
County golfer Matt Stephens led the winning team in the American Golf Holiday Scottsdale Classic pro-am.
Playing 72 holes over four different courses at Scottsdale, Arizona, Stephens' line-up posted an aggregate of 532 to finish nine shots clear of former Ryder Cup pro Ronan Rafferty and his team.
Kirby Muxloe-based Stephens was fifth in the pro individual section on 290.
County Open champion Ashley Mason finished fifth in the Algarve Winter Series order of merit at Gramacho, Portugal.
The Glen Gorse golfer, a Leicestershire first-team amateur, had rounds of 73-73-74 for his 220 total in the PGA of Portugal event, sharing ninth spot in the final field.
He said: "I had five birdies in my final round, including three in a row from the fourth hole to be level-par through six after a triple-bogey start.
"I had two more birdies, but picked up a double on the 16th. Overall, I played some good golf."