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Planes, trains and automobiles on visit to pituresque Switzerland

No other tournament on the European Tour has been hosted at the same venue for as long as the one in Crans sur Sierre.  This gives the event a special history and feel combined with its location in the Swiss Alps and the unique style of the course it really is a special week! It was my 6th visit to the event. It's one of those courses where course knowledge is a real advantage.  It's quite a short fiddly course, with narrow fairways and upturned saucer like greens.  It's easy to be playing table tennis across the greens if you miss them with an approach.  The ball also travels about 10% further due to the altitude but this varies as the temperature changes throughout the day!  All in all a fiddly course to get around!

The worst thing about the week is the journey.  It started on the 6:35 flight from Belfast to London, then the 10:30 flight from Heathrow to Geneva.  We had a lot of luggage but thankfully Gerry had taken my clubs with him.  We stopped in Plane Food in T5 for breakfast and Gordon Ramsay was there en-route somewhere, he was being asked for photos etc. but we just got on with our food.  He was a lot taller than I expected in real life!  Then we headed to the flight, we'd traded in air miles and were flying business with Erin.  Harold Webb was the row behind and he was part of a big group of Premier League referees headed to Switzerland for an exam and a fitness test, they were all getting some last minute swotting in!  We arrived in Geneva to pick up our suitcases still staring at the referees only to discover Erin's car seat and pram had been left in London.  We'd seen them unloaded at Heathrow so we knew they'd made it that far!  Off we went to report them missing before grabbing a quick snack and heading to the train for the next bit of the journey.  The train ride to Sierre was uneventful; several guys have had bags stolen on this trip over the last few years so we payed close attention to our remaining items!  The last bit of the journey is a half hour car ride up to the ski resort.  It is a long trip but worth the view every time! Unfortunately Erin hadn't a secure seat as her car seat was still in London and Bev was worrying as to where Erin would be sleeping that night as the buggy still hadn't arrived!  Eventually everything was sorted; we got dinner and fell into bed.

I spent Tuesday morning recovering from the trip then headed to the course for a chipping session with Gerry (my caddy).  Gerry was making me play from horrible scruffy lies all-round the green.  The ball often ends up in horrible places so there's little point practising from lush lies.  It was home for dinner and off to bed to try and stock up on sleep.  I was playing in the afternoon pro-am on Wednesday but had my early start on Thursday so sleep was vital.  Unfortunately there was still no pram so it was another night on the sofa for Erin and Bev, thank you British Airways!  We'd also struggled to find nappies for Erin, she has sensitive skin and was allergic to all the nappies we could find in Crans so Bev and Ken had gone to Sierre earlier that day to try and find some with little success!  The pro-am dragged on until 6pm on Wednesday so it was a quick physio session, a light dinner then off to bed!

The chipping practice paid off on Thursday.  I chipped really well and kept my score to 4 under, and a share of 6th place.  I even had a TV interview afterwards.  The course has a lot of short par 4s and three reachable par 5s so you get very frustrated as a player if you're not shooting 3 or 4 under! but the course is tricky so it can really bite you if you're too aggressive at the wrong time. The club redesigned the 12th and 13th holes after last year's event, adding a lot more water to the course.  I think the 13th in particular will look spectacular on TV!  Gerry and I headed to the chipping area after some food for more bunker and chipping practice, you simply can't do enough short game work.  Then we headed to the putting green where I managed to take 10 francs off Gerry.  This is a tough week for the caddies.  20kgs up and down the hills on the course at altitude is hard work, especially when the temperature hits 27 Celsius

The tournament is always really well run, the players' lounge is great and they also have a great crèche.  I think they've also added to the prize fund, it's a shame more of the events aren't run like this one!

Friday was a strange day.  I'd a very late tee time (14:10) and it was very slow play, well over 5 hours.  We were waiting on all the reachable holes so play slows down!  The course was playing really firm and the ball was going miles; it caught me out a few times!  I was out of bounds on 6 and clipped the trees on 5; my swing was a bit narrow and quick.  It's my default setting and something I have to try hard to improve If it wasn't for the eagle on 9 I wouldn't have made the weekend, as it was I went from a lovely late Saturday tee time to a very early one over the last three holes! I'd played with Thomas Aiken and surprisingly he missed the weekend comfortably!  He had a shocker.  He's a very talented player and normally one of the best putters on Tour.  Our other partner, local lad Martin Rominger, also had a poor finish (double bogey, par, and bogey) to miss the weekend, the course just caught him out!

I'd a 6:15 alarm on Saturday morning and was playing with two Asian guys.  Asian Tour gets 20 spots in this event so many of the European Tour boys don't get in.  It's not fair in my view but many of the events are going this way so sponsors can maximise their investment.  My wedge distances were a little off on Saturday, so even though I hit most fairways my score was poor.  I was three over after seven holes!  All you can do is limit the damage and try to get home and start fresh on Sunday!

My alarm went off at 5:45 on Sunday as I was due off at 8:20.  Unfortunately the fog came in and my start was delayed until 12 in a u draw.  I eventually warmed up beside Bjorn.  He wasn't hitting it great but his wedge distances and spin control were amazing all week.  He eventually won on 20 under in a play off from Craig Lee.  It was unfortunate for Craig but he did secure his job for next year which is huge!

Erin's buggy still hadn't arrived as we left on Monday morning, a week after we'd left Belfast.  Rod my brother in law had located a replacement from Bangor and was trying to get it sent out to us.  The Uppababy buggy we have doesn't appear to be sold in Switzerland so Bev had tried to get a replacement shipped from the UK to no avail.  So she called her brother!  Rod had spoken to Felicity at McCullough's in Bangor who helpfully spoke with the manufacturer and they agreed to send us a new buggy.  Rod had collected it from Bangor and then sent it Friday evening by DHL to Zermatt, our next stop so hopefully it turns up early next week!