Raymond after some Turkish Delight

Neil Raymond. Picture: David Cannon/R&A
Neil Raymond. Picture: David Cannon/R&A
Harry Ellis. Picture: PA Images

Ellis crashes out of US Amateur Championship

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Neil Raymond will bid to rise to his latest challenge next week as he aims to hit the ground running during the early part of the season.

The Titchfield-based golfer turned professional last September after an impressive career in the amateur ranks.

He was Brabazon Trophy champion twice and played for Great Britain & Ireland in the Walker Cup last year.

But his plans were rocked by a disappointing display at Qualifying School where he surprisingly failed to make it through to the final stage, which left him with no playing privileges on either of Europe’s top tours.

Raymond has been putting in some intensive work on his game in USA in recent times, staying with Matt Blackey and practising at The Grand Golf Club in San Diego.

But he has now gained invites to four Challenge Tour events, starting with next week’s Turkish Airlines Challenge in Antalya.

Events in Austria, Czech Republic and Canary Islands will then follow in quick succession before he gets a shot at the Hydro Challenge in Scotland and the Aegean Airlines Challenge in Germany in early July.

And Raymond is keen to make the most of his opportunities.

He said: ‘I’ve got four events on Challenge Tour coming up, starting with Turkey next week.

‘I will try to get a few things in place and have a good run of tournaments to see where my game is.

‘I’ve been lucky enough to get a few invites but I feel my game is getting in really good shape and I need to make the most of the chances I’ve got.

‘I know a lot of my season will depend on how well I do in these tournaments.

‘Hopefully from those six events, I can unlock enough money to play for the rest of the year. But I’m not putting all my eggs in one basket.

‘I don’t want to think too far ahead. I want to give it my all for these events but I don’t know what will happen after that just yet.

‘I’ve just got to go out and play the kind of golf that I know I can play but I feel optimistic and confident.

‘I’ve never been someone who tries to make things happen too quickly.

‘So I am prepared to be patient to get to where I want to be.’

The 28-year-old played several tournaments on the German-based EPD Tour recently and showed some decent form.

And he continues to concentrate much of his practice on his putting as he bids to improve.

He said: ‘I played in a few events on the EPD in Morocco and Egypt.

‘I struggled in Morocco but then I played in Egypt and finished fourth and then had a top-20 finish.

‘As soon as a few putts start dropping, I know I will be competing.

‘It’s something I have worked on and worked on but it’s an ongoing process and I will keep at it.

‘But my putting seems to be improving, which is nice.’

Meanwhile, Raymond could yet enter some of the tournaments on the Europro Tour – the third tier of European golf.

But that will depend on how he fares.

He said: ‘My main focus is on the Challenge Tour.

‘To be perfectly honest, I don’t want to play Europro but if that’s where it ends up being for a few weeks, then so be it.

‘I’m not too proud to play in anything that gives me a decent standard of competitive golf on a decent course.

‘I’d be quite happy.’