Raymond seals emotional Brabazon success

Neil Raymond with the Brabazon Trophy. Picture: Tom Ward/EGU
Neil Raymond with the Brabazon Trophy. Picture: Tom Ward/EGU
Scott Gregory. Picture: Andrew Griffin

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Neil Raymond dedicated the biggest win of his golfing career to his grandfather after his remarkable victory in the Brabazon Trophy.

The 25-year-old from Titchfield Common turned in a quality display of golf to win the coveted English Amateur Strokeplay title by one stroke at Burnham & Berrow Golf Club in Somerset and succeed Rowlands Castle’s Darren Wright as champion.

But after firing his fine opening round of 70 to lead the field at one under par, Raymond got the shock news his grandfather Eric had died at the age of 76.

Raymond said: ‘It was fantastic to be leading after day one but then I got the phonecall on Thursday afternoon from my dad and it was one of the worst phonecalls I’ve ever had.

‘I was in a great mood, leading by two and the only person to shoot under par, but to get that call changed everything.

‘I thought of pulling out but I’m glad I didn’t, so I dedicate this victory to him and to my parents.

‘Everyone says how proud he would have been and I think he would, too.’

Leading by two after the first day and with the news still raw, it was perhaps an even more remarkable achievement the Corhampton star shot a three-under par 68 on day two to maintain a two-stroke lead over eventual runner-up Alan Dunbar.

After a third round 74, he still enjoyed a five-stroke lead going into the final day and while that disappeared on the front nine, he eventually edged out Andy Sullivan, who finished in joint second.

But Raymond believes a new sense of perspective helped him to find some stunning form.

He said: ‘I just tried to take each step as it came along.

‘I didn’t really block it all out. Every time I hit a bad shot, I just thought “there are more important things in life”.

‘Having that attitude took a lot of pressure off.

‘I didn’t play very well on the third day and I was just saying “it’s a game of golf. Win or lose, it’s just not that important”.

‘So that gave me a lot of perspective. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in your sport sometimes.

‘It was an emotional rollercoaster, though.

‘I believed I was good enough to win a national event and I just had to do it.

‘To do it under those circumstances, probably made it easier in a funny way.

‘It just took the pressure off because I wasn’t thinking about what winning could do for me.

‘Whatever I did, it seemed to work.’

It also showed how important the support of the tight-knit Raymond family had been after the talented golfer’s parents watched him lift the prize over the weekend.

Raymond said: ‘My parents came up on Saturday morning and we had breakfast together and a long chat.

‘We got a lot of emotion out and that meant I could concentrate on playing golf.

‘It was great to have them there to see it and my dad had just lost his dad so you want to support him as much as you can as well.

‘I love winning but if my mum and dad aren’t there to share it with me, it doesn’t feel the same.

‘They have supported me throughout my career and nothing would have been possible without them.’

Raymond has now given himself a real chance of a late run towards Walker Cup selection later this year.

But he will need to prove his consistency over the rest of the season.

Wright, meanwhile, underwent a bizarre tournament with 17 strokes difference in his two rounds as he defended his title.

He shot a disastrous 15-over-par 86 on the first day but then roared back with a dazzling two-under-par 69 on day two to miss the halfway cut by just one stroke.

Both men will have one eye on the English Amateur Championship at Woburn next month to further their claims for selection.