Raymond stays in British Amateur hunt

Scott Gregory

Gregory and Ellis key men for Walker Cup mission

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Neil Raymond shows no sign of letting up in his quest for the biggest honours in the amateur game after a gritty sudden-death victory took him into the last 32 of the British Amateur Championship.

The Titchfield talent landed the St Andrews Links Trophy last week and took that scintillating form into the marathon tournament at Royal Cinque Ports and Prince’s this week.

Raymond cruised through the 36-hole qualifier in 10th place with a level-par total after rounds of 72 at Prince’s and 71 at Cinque Ports on the Kent coast.

The top 64 players then entered the matchplay with the defending Brabazon Trophy champion paired up against Max Williams of Cuddington Golf Club.

But what looked like a stroll for the 27-year-old turned into an absorbing struggle that was eventually settled on the 20th hole after the match finished all square on the 18th.

Raymond was in command after a fast start as he went two holes up after three and then extended his lead to three after six.

However, his opponent fought back to reduce the lead to just one hole at the midway point, then squared the match after 12 holes and edged ahead at the 13th.

But the duo could not be separated, even on the first extra hole as Williams putted from 25 feet for an outrageous par, while Raymond missed what would have been a match-winning putt from close range.

The latter took heart from some close struggles in recent years and his victory at St Andrews last week to finish the job off at the next as he flushed an eight-iron approach from 165 yards stone dead.

And while his nearest rival almost snatched another birdie, he missed from six feet to see a relieved Raymond into the next round.

The Corhampton ace said: ‘I dug deep and pulled a lot of memories and confidence from last week and other matchplay events where I have played well.

‘Max is a very good player but I was delighted to get the job done.

‘I thought it might not be my day when he holed that putt on the 19th. That was a real kick in the teeth.

‘But then on the second extra hole, it was the perfect yardage and was probably the best shot I have hit in a long while.

‘To pull it off when it matters was very pleasing.

‘It was a long old day with a three-hour weather delay as well.’

While Raymond saw his lead ebb away, he knew he would be back on track if he could get he putter going.

He said: ‘I was playing nicely, I just couldn’t get the thing in the hole.

‘I had six putts lip out and they were not from long range.

‘It was pretty frustrating but I knew it wasn’t far away.

‘It gives me confidence I can go again. The people left in the competition are all playing well and hopefully there should be some good battles ahead.’

Raymond faces Adam Dunton of McDonald Golf Club in Scotland today in the last 32 with a potential last-16 clash taking place afterwards.

If he comes though those matches, he would face quarter-final and semi-final matches tomorrow with the final scheduled for Saturday.

The Corhampton player will attempt to make history by winning the Brabazon Trophy for a third time in a row next week at Formby.

But he continues to enhance his hopes of Walker Cup selection for the amateur showdown against the USA later in the year before his plans to turn professional in September.

His Hampshire and England colleague Harry Ellis failed to make the matchplay stage.