Alvaro Salto is eagerly looking forward to defending the Credit Suisse Private Banking Open this week at the Patriziale Golf Club on the shores of beautiful Lake Maggiore in Switzerland for two very good reasons.
The 27 year old Spaniard is not only keen to make a successful defence of the title he won in the rain a year ago but also to prove that he can play better than on that occasion. “In fairness I didn’t play very well because my driving was poor,” he said.
“I didn’t feel comfortable from the tee, so much so that I gave my driver to the lady that loaned me her electric trolley and finished the tournament with my three wood.”
Not that it did Salto any harm as he closed with a 67 for a 16 under par total of 268, finishing a shot clear of Michele Reale from Italy and two ahead of Sweden’s Marten Olander and Stephen Dodd from Wales.
But whatever Salto lost from the tee he more than made up for on the greens. “That week I putted better than I had for two or three years,” he added.
Since its successful launch last year, the Credit Suisse Private Banking Open in Ascona has become an important fixture in the European Challenge Tour. But every one of the 156 golfers who will battle it out for prize money of 105,000 euro will hope for better weather than they had to contend with a year ago. Then, the magnificent tree-lined Patriziale course with stunning views over Lake Maggiore had to contend with three days of rain and coped extremely well.
Last year, the par 71 course was partially redesigned by the golf architect Peter Harradine, and water obstacles were added to heighten the interest. However, the professionals will face no further changes this year. The course record, set by the Frenchman Georges Plumet in 1993, still stands at 62.
All the Swiss professionals will be trying to make their mark in this top class field, and André Bossert, in particular, is hoping to use this tournament as a springboard back to the main Tour. After a turbulent early career, peaking in 1995 in Cannes with the only Swiss victory so far on The European Tour, he was out of action for two and a half years due to back problems. Now, the 37 year old from Zurich is making a comeback on the Challenge Tour the circuit which saw him qualify for The European Tour in 1992.
There will be a large contingent of top Swiss golfers in Ascona. Besides Bossert, Gianluca Patuzzo, Marcus Knight, Steve Rey, new professional Alexandre Chopard, and Dimitri Bieri, who was the best Swiss player at the Credit Suisse Private Banking Open last year, in equal tenth position, will all be competing.
This week’s line-up will include former European Tour players such as Australian Peter Fowler, the England’s Andrew Sherborne, Stuart Cage and Iain Pyman, Dutchman Robert-Jan Derksen, Sweden’s Peter Hedblom and Per Haugsrud from Norway.
The Credit Suisse Private Banking Open is only in its second year, but is well-established thanks to the unwavering support of its main sponsor. The private bank has long been the driving force behind Swiss golf. It is the main sponsor of the Swiss Golf Association (ASG) and the Seniors Open in Bad Ragaz, and the second partner in the Omega European Masters in Crans-Sur-Sierre.