By Mitchell Platts, europeantour.com
Gaston Barras enjoyed his 33rd champion’s presentation as the President of the Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club, where he first caddied in 1939 at the age of eight when the Swiss Open arrived in his home town at the course lodged 5,000 feet high in the Alps, then immediately focused on the future with three special Anniversaries to celebrate in 2014.
For next year the Omega European Masters, which started life in 1923 as the Swiss Open, and the Memorial Olivier Barras, the tournament held in memory of Switzerland’s best amateur player, will be played for the 80th and 50th occasions respectively at Crans-sur-Sierre, and Barras will celebrate his 60th anniversary as the President of the Organising Committee of the tournament.
As President of the Organising Committee, Barras welcomed 2013 champion Thomas Björn, just as he has every winner since 1954, including Major Champions Bobby Locke, Kel Nagle, Sir Bob Charles, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Price, Ian Woosnam, Sir Nick Faldo, Craig Stadler, José María Olazábal and Ernie Els, then said: “Every year it makes me so proud to play our event as part of The European Tour, and also now the Asian Tour, and this is no exception with Thomas Björn so brilliantly winning for the second time in three years.
“We have come a long way since 1939 when the Swiss Open was first played at Crans-sur-Sierre. Then the budget was 5,000 Swiss francs. Today it is 11 million! We are delighted by the reaction of the players to the changes we made to the course for this year and now we will start the second stage to modify the first, second, fourth, fifth and ninth holes for next year.
“For me it is very important that we start planning now for 2014 because it is one of those wonderful coincidences that we will be celebrating two Anniversary editions of tournaments in the same year as I will have been President of the Organising Committee for 60 years which, of course, is very special for me.
“We are fortunate that so many world class golfers return each year, many of them loyal friends who come to visit us with their families at other times of the year, and since 2001 with Omega as our title sponsor we have continued to enhance the event which we hope the many thousands of spectators who attended this week enjoyed.
“I know that the 50th Anniversary Memorial Olivier Barras will be very emotional as the event was started in memory of Olivier Barras, my second cousin, who was nine times Swiss golf champion but lost his life at the age of 32 in 1964 on the Monza motor racing circuit.
“The Memorial Olivier Barras now provides an entry into the Omega European Masters for the leading professional and amateur and over the years many European Tour champions have won the title including Angel Gallardo, our very good friend and Vice Chairman of The European Tour Board of Directors, José María Cañizares, Stephen Dodd, Jeff Hall, Michael Campbell, Raphaël Jacquelin and Felipe Aguilar.
“It really would, of course, be quite something if the winner of the Memorial Olivier Barras also became the Omega European Masters champion in 2014!”