Vaughan Willmore tells of how former professional golfers Elisabeth Esterl and Neil Webb are ‘shaking up the golfing world’ and helping to improve animal welfare in the Algarve.
There are people who dream of representing their country in a sport they love. Others dream of running their own business and of helping people less fortunate than themselves. Then there’s Elisabeth Esterl who, together with her partner Neil Webb, has done all these things and is now helping to train and feed cats and dogs in the Algarve and raise awareness of the plight of the many associations that look after neglected and abandoned animals.
Elisabeth was once ranked Germany’s number one female golfer. She’s the winner of two Ladies European Tour tournaments and has competed in the Solheim Cup, the prestigious tournament for professional women golfers, which is contested every two years between teams from Europe and the USA.
Elisabeth and Neil met in Dubai when Elisabeth was on tour and Neil was working as a golf professional, helping top players improve their game. They shared a passion for golf, travel, clothing, and animals. With Neil looking for a new challenge and Elisabeth retiring from the professional circuit, this likeable couple set about a new challenge of “shaking up the golfing world” with a brand of colourful, practical and affordable sportswear. Within a short time, Esterl Golf was born, servicing the needs of male and female golfers alike.
The couple divide their time between Portugal and Germany, but it is in Portugal that they source their materials and produce and distribute their clothing range. I was intrigued to know why, given the many tales of how difficult it can be to do business in Portugal. Neil describes it differently however, saying, “It was a relatively straightforward decision because having researched so many options it quickly became clear that the quality of clothing manufacturing in northern Portugal was so much better than we could find elsewhere.” It has also helped that they know Portugal so well, with Elisabeth first visiting Tavira over 15 years ago. She explains, “The Algarve has always been a fantastic place to practise during the winter. I was doing this so often that it made sense to buy a property here – and of course, golf is such a popular sport in this region it gives us a great shop window for our business.”
Esterl Golf is going from strength to strength, but their lives in Portugal have not all been plain sailing. In late 2018, while wintering in Tavira, they adopted a lovable rescue kitten named Frankie, who quickly became a much-loved family member. Tragically just a year later, Frankie was killed in a road accident. Elisabeth and Neil were heartbroken. Determined to provide Frankie with a lasting legacy and create something positive from such a dreadful event, they founded the Frankie Foundation.
In the two years since its establishment, the Frankie Foundation has sponsored various initiatives and has worked particularly closely with Cacela Dog Haven, near Vila Nova de Cacela. With the help of local dog trainer Nuno Nunes from Incríveis Tavira, the Frankie Foundation has paid for the training of dogs with the aim of helping them to become calmer and, therefore, more suitable for adoption. The foundation has also paid for the sterilisation and feeding of dogs and cats from throughout the Algarve. They were able to fund much of this work by donating 20% of sales from their animal print polo shirt range to the Frankie Foundation.
As for the future, Elisabeth and Neil will be drawing on their contacts in the golfing world to help promote their sportswear and they will be leading the way in terms of animal welfare by funding whatever initiatives they can and raising awareness of the excellent work of local shelters. Many shelters, such as Cacela Dog Haven, appreciate anyone who can spare a few hours a week to take their dogs for a walk. Closer to home, Elisabeth and Neil will be looking after their ever-growing family, which currently comprises five cats and one dog, all of whom are named after famous golfers!
If you would like to know more about the Frankie Foundation or Esterl Golf, you can contact Elisabeth and Neil via their website.