Jimenez is proof Raymond can wait

Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez
Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez
Billy Mckenzie with the Spanish Amateur trophy. Picture: Adolfo Luna, Spanish Golf Federation

Mckenzie in dreamland after ‘unbelievable’ win

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A portly 48-year-old with a frizzy ponytail who enjoys a good bottle of Rioja and a quality Cuban cigar may not be your typical golfing inspiration.

But Neil Raymond is using popular Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez as proof he can wait another year to turn professional.

The England amateur international from Titchfield saw the Ryder Cup star become the oldest winner on the European Tour – just five weeks short of his 49th birthday – when he claimed the Hong Kong Open recently.

And while Raymond is eager to join the paid ranks, he is determined to do it when the time is right, after seeing some of his amateur rivals struggle after turning professional too soon.

Raymond, who defended the Brabazon Trophy – the English Open Amateur Strokeplay Championship – last summer, will head off to Australia in January for a fourth year running to mix it with the cream of the Aussie amateurs.

But the 26-year-old insists he cannot allow his age to influence his decision when to turn pro, so his sights remain fixed on selection for next year’s Walker Cup before making the jump.

Raymond explained: ‘It would be pointless turning pro because of a number on my birth certificate.

‘It’s about turning pro when your game is in the right state to earn some money.

‘Miguel Angel Jimenez has just won his fourth European Tour title over the age of 40. Ernie Els won The Open at 42. I’m not saying I am them but if I have to wait to turn professional until I am 27, I will still have plenty of years to get to where I want to get.

‘There is no real age limit. One of the reasons I didn’t turn pro last year was that I felt it was just too soon for me.

‘I still had skills to learn and I want to do it when I can make as much money as possible and not struggle by turning pro too soon.

‘I would love to earn some money but, at the end of the day, I don’t want to go backwards before I go forwards.

‘I need to be in the right mindset to turn professional.

‘I truly believe that if I work hard enough, I will get to where I want to be and will do very well.’

Another successful year in the amateur ranks would certainly do his chances no harm, although Raymond did miss out when he tried his luck at Tour School this year.

He said: ‘I missed out by two shots at the first stage of Tour School.

‘It wasn’t too disappointing because it just meant I could focus everything on staying as an amateur for next year.

‘But I’m looking forward to getting some warm weather and playing some good tournaments in Australia. It has made a massive difference in recent years.

‘Hopefully I can do well over there and then have one more good year as an amateur next year.’