Neil Raymond has spoken of his honour at winning a prestigious amateur tournament at the home of golf.
The Titchfield man claimed his latest coveted title in the St Andrews Links Trophy, storming to a two-stroke win and rolling in a winning putt on the 18th green at the Old Course – the venue where the game was first played centuries ago.
Raymond came from seven strokes back at the midway point to claim victory, after rounds of level par and one-over at the Jubilee and Old Course.
But then he found top gear at the world-famous Open Championship venue, shooting rounds of 68 and 69 to blaze through the field and get his hands on the trophy with a six-under-par winning total – two clear of his nearest rivals.
‘To win at the home of golf was an absolute honour,’ said Raymond.
‘A few people have said to me “not many people have won tournaments at St Andrews on a Sunday” and it’s great to follow in some of those footsteps.
‘But I didn’t look at the scoreboard until I had finished and saw I was leading so that was a really nice feeling.
‘I stood behind the 18th green for about an hour watching the other players come in and that was pretty frustrating because there’s not a lot you can do about it.
‘So I was just relieved and delighted to get another international win.’
While the Corhampton Golf Club star found himself well down the field after the first two rounds, he was confident he could make a run for the title.
He said: ‘I played pretty terribly on day one and got it round in level par so I was quite happy with that. On day two, I played alright at the Old Course but double-bogeyed 17 and finished one over par.
‘But I knew it was close.
‘So I thought I had a chance going into the last two rounds.
‘I putted really well and it was just nice to get the putter working.
‘I work hard on my putting because it has not been a strength in the past but I’ve put a lot of time into it.’
And it was his work on the greens that saw Raymond reach his winning score in style – although the infamous 17th nearly ruined his hopes. He said: ‘A few putts lipped out in the final round but I just kept thinking to myself “this is so close”.’
‘I kept plugging away. Then I three-putted 17. It’s a great golf hole but I hate playing it – it’s so tough.
‘But I hit a nice wedge into 18 to about 15 feet and gave myself a bit more time on that putt.
‘I just thought if I holed it, who knows what could happen?
‘Thankfully it went in.’
The double Brabazon Trophy champion now looks a certainty for Walker Cup selection before he turns professional in September.
He said: ‘To win the event in Walker Cup year was fantastic. It’s not done my chances of selection any harm.
‘The Walker Cup captain Nigel Edwards followed me for the last round and hopefully saw I had the bottle to win.
‘I’ve always loved that tournament and it’s great to win it at St Andrews in the last time I’ll ever play it as an amateur.
‘Hopefully I can win there again as a pro one day.’