Switzerland's number one golfer Paolo Quirici has announced his plans to retire from the sport at the end of this season. The 33-year-old from Ticino made the revelation after failing to make Friday's cut at the European Masters in Crans-Montana.
"This year has been very difficult for me," Quirici told swissinfo after an emotional press conference. "Thoughts of retiring had come into my mind a few times, but I always tried to push them away, because I've been doing this job for so long now and I feel like I belong in this world.
"But when I look at the results and how I'm feeling," he continued, "I don't think I'm in the right place anymore."
Quirici is currently the only Swiss golfer on the European Tour and his achievements have made him easily the country's biggest name in the sport. After becoming the first Swiss to qualify for the Volvo Masters in 1998, he went on to finish the season in 54th place, the highest ever ranking by a Swiss player in the European rankings.
One year later, he achieved his best individual result by finishing second in the 1999 World Sarazen Open in Spain. Among the other highlights were two top four finishes, including one here in Crans-Montana in 1989.
Recalling over 13 years as a professional golfer, Quirici insisted though that it wasn't the performances themselves that he'll remember with most affection.
"What I'll look back on most will be the people who I've met and the experiences that I've had," he insisted. "Performances are a part of that but not everything. To me it's about the friendships I've made with other players and how they have come to recognise me as a player. That's what I'll take away with me."
Wiping away tears, Quirici said he had hoped to leave the sport on a high. Instead he will remember his last professional season as one of the toughest of his career. The missed cut in Crans-Montana was his 14th in 20 tournaments, and has left him languishing outside of the top 180.
"To be honest," he told swissinfo, "I've been thinking of ending my career for a couple of years now. After my finish in 1998, I set myself a goal of finishing in the top 50 every year. That hasn't happened and now I have to take my age into consideration. As well as being a golfer, I'm a husband and a father and I have a responsibility to look after my family."
Quirici has not made any firm plans about his future yet, but said he hoped to be able to find work developing the careers of younger players.
by Mark Ledsom, Crans-Montana