Neil Raymond will put his winter practice schedule to the competitive test as he returns to action today
The 29-year-old professional from Titchfield lines up in the field at the Players Tour event at Goodwood’s Park course in an 18-hole showdown against fellow pros in readiness for the new campaign.
I was adamant I wasn’t going to play (EuroPro) and I was very naive.Neil Raymond
But while Raymond has recently returned from some warm-weather training in Florida, he is making a concerted effort to get himself sharper this season and play in more tournaments, even if it means he is playing on the third tier of European golf.
And he admits he made an error last year in playing so few events.
Raymond said: ‘I need to play more tournament golf this year.
‘If it’s Challenge Tour then great and if it’s EuroPro then that’s great, too.
‘I’m not too proud to play the lower tiers but I want to play more competitive golf.
‘I think some pros turn their nose up a bit at EuroPro and I think I was one of them, to be fair.
‘I was adamant I wasn’t going to play and I was very naive.
‘I put all my eggs in one basket and thought I would earn enough money on Challenge Tour to play more events. Obviously, that didn’t happen.
‘Looking at it this year, I thought “I just want to play more golf”.
‘It felt like I hardly played any tournaments last year and it felt like I was on the range all year.
‘I played in seven Challenge Tour events and that is not a lot.
‘So I need to keep competing. When I was an amateur, I was playing nearly every week and there is no better way to prepare for tournaments than to compete.
‘You get mentally sharper and you figure out a lot more things about your swing.’
Raymond, who turned professional in 2013 after capping an impressive amateur career by playing in the Walker Cup, feels he spent far too long on the practice ground last year.
He said: ‘I was grinding on the range last year and putting all my focus into trying to hit it perfectly.
‘I still put a lot of work in on the range and I am working alone at the moment. But I’m hitting it nicely and I have spent so long working with Ian (Roper), I can almost hear his voice in my head when I watch my swing back.
‘But to be honest, when I was an amateur, I didn’t hit it perfectly and I got it round golf courses.
‘It wasn’t always pretty. When I won at St Andrews, it’s the worst I have ever hit the ball in a tournament but I found a way to win.
‘One of my biggest strengths as an amateur was just getting it round and I want to get back to that.
‘Players like Matt Blackey and Steve Richardson are masters at just getting it round a course. They both hit lovely shots but on the days they don’t, they still get a good score.
‘It’s like a good football team. They still find a way to win 1-0 when they don’t play well.
‘You get that by playing more and not by standing on the range.’
And he is hoping to make a positive start today.
He said: ‘It will be a good test. I’ve played the course once before but I’m looking forward to putting everything I have been working on into tournament mode.’