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Tucked away from the noonday glare in Sir Harry's Bar in Albufeira, on Portugal's Algarve coast, you can ease the pain with a pint of genuine British bitter, but you can't escape the situation outside for long. "Just imagine some great lumbering hardhat in working boots, hacking his way across the greens at St. Andrews," says an expatriate drinker. "Doesn't bear thinking about, eh? But it's the sort of thing poor old David Green's had to put up with over at Vilamoura. Shockin'. Shockin'."
Sir Harry, glorious in the kind of handlebar mustache once popular in Britain, nods mournful agreement. "All different here now," he tells you. "Wife and myself used to help organize a bit of flat racing at Easter, bit of show jumping, trotting, that kind of thing. Never made a penny on it except for the profits on the soft drinks, but it made a bit of interest, something to pass the time." He yawned profoundly. "We even had Baron Beck's fox-hunting crowd down here a couple of years ago. Had to bring their own foxes with them, of course, but it was all good fun." Sir Harry's yellow Labrador shuffles behind the bar. "Get out of there, Major!" he orders. "Think you've got a bloody work permit, do you?"
Compared with the troubles now assailing the Portuguese as their happy revolution of April 1974 lurches increasingly leftward, the sporting problems of the �migr� population settled along the Algarve are not earthshaking, but they provide a striking microcosm of what happens when a regime based on extremes of privilege and poverty breaks up.
"Don't believe all the talk you hear in bars," Sir Harry says in farewell, but it seems worth investigating what has occurred at the golf and marina complex at Vilamoura, a few kilometers up the road. David Green is golf manager of the rolling course cut out of scrub and umbrella pines, and it turns out to be no mere bar talk that he is in trouble. He is a lugubrious, gentle-mannered Englishman in his late 50s who woke up one morning recently to find EXPEL GREEN FROM PORTUGAL painted on the wall. Like many of the British, who make up a large part of the �migr�s on the Algarve, he sold out at home and invested everything in Portugal. That was eight years ago. He has a villa, an orange grove and a job, and he doesn't know if he can keep any of them. He has had two visits from the army or, more properly, the Campanha Dinamizac�o Cultural, members of the Armed Forces Movement who descend (sometimes literally by parachute or helicopter) on rural areas, instigating lightning campaigns to bring almost everything from literacy to sport to the neighborhood. Wouldn't it be nice, the soldiers asked Green, for some of the locals to learn how to play golf, as well as the rich European and American tourists? The cultural commandos were polite, but they made their point firmly, even though Green noted the attendant difficulties.
Nothing happened for a while. Then, last month, army trucks turned up at Vilamoura and disgorged 60 kids, 12-and 13-year-olds. They plunged joyfully into the hotel swimming pool, then lined up expectantly for their golf instruction. Green is anxious to be fair. "They were well-behaved," he says. "Their bottoms weren't hanging out of their trousers or anything like that. But I had to explain that what the army was asking was impossible. Too dangerous for a start." Green made a fast phone call to headquarters, and the officers who came to speak to him were, he says, reasonable and called the kids off. But a holding action, a disciplined retreat, is all that Green seems to think is possible.
At least he is staying where he is, negotiating with the Workers' Committee, which now controls Vilamoura. No such stand was made last month at the most prestigious of all Portuguese golf resort hotels, Penina, near Portim�o, which lies farther west along the Algarve. Less than 10 years ago the Penina course was a rice paddy. Today its formal beauty is such that it could have been designed for Marie Antoinette. White villas are glimpsed through green copses made up of the 360,000 trees, Portuguese and alien, that Henry Cotton planted before the course opened in 1966.
Henry Cotton is now 68, but his name is still revered, in England especially. He was a three-time winner of the British Open, and Penina is his creation, rating above the three other Algarve championship courses—Vilamoura, Vale de Lobo and Quinta do Lago—as one of the showpieces of the European golf circuit.
The Portuguese, however, no longer hold Cotton in high esteem, and what brought this about, or at least sparked it, was a little matter of lost golf balls. The one thing the Penina course lacks, golf buffs will tell you, is hills. To compensate for its flatness Cotton introduced an abundance of water hazards. Naturally, these absorb many golf balls during a season, an average of 55,000 according to the present Workers' Committee at Penina, which was incensed to discover that Cotton was making a 400% profit on recovered balls, paying groundsmen about 15� apiece and reselling them to guests at 75�. This fact emerged when Cotton's secretary, Rosa Ghia, opened up the books to the committee. Other discoveries followed. Cotton, it is alleged, was also taking 10% of the greens fees, 10% on the sale of villa plots and 12� per diem on every guest. Altogether, with one thing and another, Cotton was making around 5250,000 a year from Penina. "Profiteering through exploitation," the committee labeled it, and asked Cotton where were the 36,000 golf balls they reckoned he had in stock. Cotton and his Argentinean wife Toots exploded. There was a rare shouting match with the caddie master, Francisco Jer�nimo, and an appeal to the British consul, a Mr. Ben Battle, who advised Cotton to seek the process of law. After seeing an attorney, he stormed off, and the committee was left with the self-imposed task of counting the golf balls. It took them four days.
The Penina course is now run by the former caddie master on a somewhat more modest salary than Cotton's: around $240 a month. Jer�nimo is no extreme leftist but a composed, well-spoken man who has worked on courses in Holland and Germany. He is aware that his living and those of his fellow workers depend on golf tourism, and he'll tell you frankly that this depends on rich foreigners. "The trouble is," he says, "that our old customers can't accept what has happened. They see it the wrong way. In their countries people have always had their rights. We had no rights at all—to speak, to say anything. Now, this revolution didn't cause any dead people. There's no reason for people to be too frightened to come over and use our hotel. Our plans for golf are exactly the same as before. We don't want to spoil the place. We want to conserve it. We want to manage it better than it was, maybe even make it cheaper. Before, there was too much money being taken away from the hotel. Mr. Cotton had everything and the rest nearly nothing. A caddie was getting only $36 American a month, plus his tips. Now he is paid $175.
"Some people say that because there has been a revolution there is no law. That is not true. We are still willing to respect Mr. Cotton's contract. Nobody has touched his house. He could have stayed and talked things over, but he ran away. If we had wanted to do him harm we could have denounced him to the government. It is said he brought things into the country illegally. There are a lot of rumors, one that Mr. Cotton is in Lisbon, another in Vila Real [just inside the Portuguese-Spanish border]."