Raymond to start Salver quest

Neil Raymond
Neil Raymond
Scott Gregory

Gregory upbeat after another agonising cut miss

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Neil Raymond will bid to go one better in the Selborne Salver this weekend after missing out in remarkable circumstances 12 months ago.

The Corhampton amateur, who plays off a handicap of plus four, was runner-up in the prestigious Hampshire Golf Union event last year, with eventual winner Andy Sullivan carding an extraordinary round of 60 – narrowly missing out on the magical 59.

Raymond, who went on to win the Brabazon Trophy – the English amateur strokeplay crown – just a few months afterwards, would have walked the title in any of the previous 10 tournaments with his impressive rounds of 66 and 65.

But even though he had to settle for second place last time, he believes it stood him in good stead for the campaign, and is looking for the same kind of form at Blackmoor on Saturday.

Raymond, the lowest handicapper in the competition, said: ‘It always helps to get off to a good start to a season and I’ll be looking to do the same again.

‘Even though I didn’t win, I was happy with my performance last year and it gave me confidence going into the other big competitions.

‘I’ve been happy with my game recently and I’m looking forward to getting out there.

‘I had a good winter spell in Australia where I worked on a few things in my game but I’m looking forward to the new season.

‘It seems like it’s been a long time in coming.’

It could well be the Titchfield man’s last year in the amateur ranks and he will be looking to end his stint in the unpaid ranks on a high.

But just three Hampshire players have won at Blackmoor in the past decade.

Ryan Henley (Stoneham) 2005, Mark Thistleton (Hayling) 2007 and Mark Burgess (Blackmoor) 2009 triumphed in the competition that attracts many of the top amateurs in the country.

In a busy weekend, Raymond will also be among those attempting to follow in the footsteps of Justin Rose to win the Hampshire Hog at North Hants Golf Club on Sunday.

Rose, who came up with a storming late run in the US Masters recently to claim a top-10 finish, lifted the title aged just 14 in 1995.

And he is one of just three Hampshire players to lift the title since 1957, with Lee-on-the-Solent duo Steve Richardson (1988) and Russell Tate (1996) the others to taste success.

Raymond was awarded the John Nettel Trophy by the Hampshire Isle of Wight & Channel Islands Golf Union for an outstanding contribution to amateur golf after his Brabazon Trophy win at the end of last season.

He will be looking for pointers on his form ahead of the Lytham Trophy in early May, which is one of the top events on the amateur circuit.