Raymond: I’ve still got much to achieve as an amateur

England international Neil Raymond
England international Neil Raymond
Scott Gregory. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Gregory: None of the pros care I won British Amateur

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Neil Raymond is enjoying his latest taste of international team golf as he admitted: I still have a lot to achieve.

The Corhampton amateur is representing England at The Spirit International Amateur Championship, which started yesterday out in Houston, USA.

The World Health & Golf Association and Texas Golf Association invite 20 countries from six continents to participate every other year.

Established in 2001, The Spirit is a biennial event that alternates tournament years with the World Amateur Team Championships.

The 80 participants then enjoy an Olympic-like experience from the opening and closing ceremonies, international village and competing for medals on the prestigious Whispering Pines course.

Some of the brightest amateur prospects in the world will compete over 72 holes of betterball play, with five separate competitions up for grabs – international team (combined best ball of the men’s and women’s teams), men’s team, women’s team, men’s individual and women’s individual.

Gold, silver and bronze commemorative medals are then awarded to the top-three places in each competition.

Raymond, 25, will be the senior figure in the England men’s team after he was selected alongside 22-year-old Ben Loughrey, while teenage duo Charley Hull and Lauren Taylor are in the women’s competition.

But Raymond – who lifted the Brabazon Trophy in an impressive year – admits there is extra importance in representing your country at such an event, despite his growing experience of playing for England.

He said: ‘It’s always a huge honour to play for your country – but in something like this, it’s that extra bit special.

‘I’ve said that I feel I still have plenty to achieve in amateur golf and experiences like this will be invaluable to me.

‘Younger guys than me have turned professional but I want to make sure I do it at the right time for me.

‘Competitions like this make it that extra bit special and we’re hoping to do well against some of the best amateur players in the world.’

The teams took part in a glamourous opening ceremony on Monday before practice rounds on Tuesday ahead of yesterday’s opening round.

But Ray-mond is following in some impressive footsteps, with a host of major winners and Ryder Cup stars all having participated in The Spirit in recent years.

Charl Schwartzel, Martin Kay-mer, Ross Fisher and the Molinari brothers – Eduardo and Francesco – have all gone on to successful pro careers, having cut their teeth in the same event.