Here’s an unusual confession: it’s exactly fifteen weeks since I last watched television. Well if I’m honest that’s not entirely true as I’ve occasionally watched golf on the clubhouse TV at Beloura, but I haven’t sat down in front of the box at home since Mrs B and I went to the Algarve in mid-August. I didn’t feel the inclination to watch anything whilst on holiday (I rarely do) and during our three weeks there I simply got out of the habit.
And I certainly don’t miss it. In fact not spending hours in front of a TV screen every week has given me the opportunity to catch up on the daily news via the internet (admittedly in front of an iPad or PC screen) and to read books which have been awaiting my attention or required another visitation; I’ve just finished reading Bill Bryson’s brilliant At Home for the third time.
However, before I start waxing lyrical about Bryson’s writing, I’d like to share a couple of environmental news items which caught my eye over the past few weeks and, through sheer coincidence, they’re both water related.
The first one concerns a study conducted 5 years ago but only recently published (I’ve no idea why it took so long to be released into the public domain but at least it’s finally out there) by a team of biologists from Aveiro University. In 2011 they counted more than 750,000 objects (the majority of them plastic based) floating in Portuguese waters. Now that’s an awful lot of rubbish bobbing about off our coastline and I must admit it came as quite a shock to me because, as anyone who’s visited Portugal will testify, the coastal waters here are generally crystal clear and the beaches are widely recognised as some of the finest and cleanest in Europe.
But here’s the thing – the reason we don’t see all of that man-made detritus on our beaches, or floating about close to the shoreline, is because thankfully it’s between 50 and 220 nautical miles away from our coast. Even so, it does make Portuguese territorial waters some of the most polluted in the world – similar in fact to the North Sea – which is rather worrying.
It certainly makes you wonder just how much additional rubbish is lingering in the depths of the world’s oceans and seas – a colossal amount no doubt.
And that rather conveniently brings us to my second item – and this one comes with a golf twist. During a recent six month period two young Californian divers, Alex Weber and Jack Johnston, went diving in just one cove situated below the famous Pebble Beach Golf Links in Carmel Bay and recovered over 5,000 golf balls. In anybody’s book that’s a staggering number and to get a better understanding of how they look littering the sea floor (imagine white rugs amongst green kelp) check out this moderately disturbing video.
And let’s not forget, these two budding ecologists were surveying just one relatively small area, so goodness knows how many more Titleists, Callaways and Top Flites are polluting the Monterey peninsula. Indeed, some of the errant golf balls were so old that their rubber band core had become exposed and started to unravel. Unfortunately that rubber band mass is consumed by unsuspecting fish who mistake it for edible sea grass; once it’s been consumed the fish feels full, stops eating and effectively starves to death.
Apparently the Pebble Beach Company, owners of the world famous links, are now working together with a team of researchers, scientists and professional divers to collect the remaining golf balls in an effort to clean up the Carmel coast. And the PBC has also provided two $500 scholarships to enable Alex and Jack to attend The Island School, a marine science and sustainability study programme based in the Bahamas. It sounds like a generous gift until you realise that $500 is more or less the green fee for a round at Pebble Beach!
And in case you’re wondering, we don’t really have any courses in Portugal located that close to the sea unless there’s an unusually high tide. The closest would probably be Oporto and Estela in the north, Praia del Rey in the centre and the Vale do Lobo courses in the Algarve – and an errant shot on any of those golfing gems would normally have to clear a significant stretch of sandy beach before entering salty waters.
It’s been a globe trotting few weeks for Ricardo Gouveia. Following his terrific 3rd place finish at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa and a satisfactory showing in Dubai at the DP World Tour Championship, he was competing last week in Melbourne, Australia with team mate Filipe Lima in the ISPS Handa World Cup of Golf. Incidentally, the World Cup was last held in Europe (2005) at the Victoria course in Vilamoura: Wales triumphed. This time the victorious nation was Denmark and the Portuguese duo finished a slightly disappointing 26th.
And finally some very good news for European golf. It seems that Chief Executive Keith Pelley read my recent blog regarding the challenges facing the European Tour, because a couple of weeks ago he announced the 2017 Rolex Series: a total of seven events all with a minimum prize fund of $7m. This $50m tournament series is without doubt a huge step in the right direction if Europe is going to stop it’s biggest stars from playing full time on the US PGA Tour.