Raymond on march but birdie blitz is overshadowed

Corhampton's Neil Raymond
Corhampton's Neil Raymond
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Scott Gregory. Picture: Habibur Rahman

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Neil Raymond produced two fabulous rounds of golf but was still outshone as he missed out on the Selborne Salver by just two strokes in the high-quality amateur tournament.

The 25-year-old from Corhampton fired a three-under-par 66 in the morning round at Blackmoor but still found himself six strokes off the lead after his playing partner – Nuneaton’s Andy Sullivan – came within a whisker of shooting a remarkable 59, as his nine-footer narrowly missed on his final hole.

It could have been one of the most dramatic days in amateur golfing history had Sullivan’s putt dropped for what would have been the first 59 in an official world amateur ranking event.

But his round of 60 still smashed the record over Blackmoor’s well-respected heathland course, beating the host club’s Mark Burgess’ best.

It sealed an impressive six-shot advantage over the crème de la crème of England’s amateurs, too, with only one of the likely Walker Cup team to face America at Royal Aberdeen in September absent from the 72-strong field.

Raymond has forced his way into the England set-up with some fine performances for Hampshire, Isle of Wight & Channel Islands over the past three years.

And with Sullivan struggling to repeat a real low one, a dramatic front nine in the second round after lunch saw the gap reduced to just one.

Raymond, who carded his best-ever score around Blackmoor in the morning, had feared it was game over for the Selborne Salver and the Hampshire Salver – for the best 72-hole total after Sunday’s Hampshire Hog, at North Hants.

But last year’s St Mellion champion started with a birdie at the first and watched his rival find water on the fourth in a double bogey six as the lead was whittled down to just two.

The size of the lead see-sawed as Sullivan bombed a 35-footer for birdie at the fifth and Raymond bogeyed the par-three sixth before exploding back into contention with a superb eagle from just four feet at the eighth.

With Sullivan making a birdie four on the same hole to reach the turn at level par, the difference was just two shots.

And another birdie from Raymond at the 12th looked to give him every chance of becoming just the fifth Hampshire winner in 36 years.

Sullivan kept his nose in front with a two at the 12th, though, holing from 15 feet.

Then the 25-year-old from Titchfield made an error at the next, dropping a shot with a five that gave Sullivan a three-shot lead, which he would not surrender despite another birdie three from Raymond at the 16th.

While the Corhampton star carded a brilliant 65, Sullivan’s 69 was enough to seal the title after some top-quality amateur golf.