Familiar faces help Raymond’s Lytham quest

Neil Raymond
Neil Raymond
Harry Ellis. Picture: PA Images

Ellis crashes out of US Amateur Championship

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Neil Raymond shrugged off the notion of bad blood between himself and Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club ahead of tomorrow’s Lytham Trophy.

The England amateur, from Titchfield, has his sights set on Walker Cup selection this year and looks a near certainty to represent Great Britain & Ireland in New York.

But he admits he has struggled in recent attempts at one of the most prestigious amateur events on the calendar.

The course which held The Open last year – eventually won by Ernie Els – chewed up the vast majority of the field 12 months ago, with Holland’s Danield Huizing the only player left under par after four rounds.

His seven-under-par total was good enough to win by a mighty 11 strokes, while Raymond was back in tied-38th place on 17 over.

But the double Brabazon Trophy champion certainly has the pedigree to mix it with the best amateurs in the world.

And he has no fears about the famous links on the Lancashire coast as he prepares for a four-round examination of his game.

Raymond said: ‘I’ve never done well in this tournament in the past and I need to put that right.

‘It’s probably the best I have felt going into the event.

‘I had a bit of a hand injury last week but it feels fine again now.

‘But I don’t think about courses where I haven’t done that well in the past. It’s different every time.

‘Lytham should suit my game. You’ve got to be pretty strong off the tee and driving is one of the better parts of my game. I’ve been driving it really well lately.

‘So if I can suss those greens out a little bit more, then I should do well.

‘Someone once said to me “they are the slopiest flat greens you will ever putt on” and they are dead right.

‘You can’t see much in them but they move all over the place, so I need to do some work to make sure my putting is up to scratch.

‘But it would be good to put a stamp on the early part of the season.’

The Corhampton man will be joined in the quest for honours by Meon Valley Golf Club’s Harry Ellis.

And the duo have been paired in the same group tomorrow.

Raymond is good friends with his 17-year-old county team-mate and believes they could benefit from familiarity in the heat of competition.

‘I’m playing with H and that’s great,’ said Raymond.

‘I’m really happy with the draw because in previous years I’ve played with foreign lads who don’t speak much English. I’m sure we will both feel comfortable playing together.

‘H is a great young talent and we chat a lot. He will pick my brain sometimes and listens – but, to be honest, he doesn’t need much help with the talent the kid has got.

‘I’m sure we’ll have a chat on the way round.

‘If you are out on the golf course for more than five hours, it’s a long time to ignore people. But we all want to beat each other.’

Raymond also has a secret weapon in his support team this week as he bids to claim one of the top amateur crowns on the calendar – his mum Pauline will be caddying for him.

Raymond said: ‘My mum is going to caddy for me. She keeps me calm and she’s done it a few times before.

‘She pushes the trolley along and shuts her eyes when I putt – it seems to work quite well!’