Triumphant Raymond in no rush to turn pro

Neil Raymond with the Brabazon Trophy once again
Neil Raymond with the Brabazon Trophy once again
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Neil Raymond has dismissed talk of a swift entry into the professional ranks after his historic Brabazon Trophy defence and insisted: My plans haven’t changed.

The 26-year-old Titchfield amateur created history when he became the first man to successfully defend the trophy.

He played superbly to retain his title as English Amateur Open Strokeplay champion.

But with a place in the professional ranks beckoning for the Corhampton member, Raymond has no desire to rush a route into the paid ranks that has been carefully planned.

And his target remains to have a crack at the European Tour Qualifying School towards the end of the year.

Raymond said: ‘It was great to win and defend my title but it doesn’t change anything.

‘My focus is always on the next event.

‘I will be going to Tour School to see how that goes because I would love to turn professional.

‘I feel my game has definitely got to a better level this year.

‘And it makes me want to get out there, earn some money and try to compete with the best.

‘It would be great to get some kind of card to play on the European Tour or Challenge Tour.

‘But I won’t rush into it. When the time is right, we will all know.’

Raymond will get another taste of what it’s like to play for serious money after being handed an invitation to a forthcoming European Challenge Tour event in Essex.

But he also revealed his victory at Walton Heath was a key moment in both playing for himself and proving the England selectors wrong after he was overlooked for the European Team Championship in Iceland.

Raymond said: ‘I didn’t get selected for the European Team Championship in Iceland and I was frustrated by that.

‘I was told my recent form hadn’t been good enough.

‘I didn’t agree with it but that’s the selection.

‘But that probably gave me the kick up the backside I needed.

‘It gave me that extra bit of drive to prove a few people wrong.’

After an emotional victory last year in the wake of his grandfather’s death, Raymond also admitted his focus was entirely on himself this time around.

That represented a change in attitude which perhaps underlined his growing readiness to step up to try his luck against the big boys on the professional tours.

He said: ‘The win this time was different because so much of my focus last year was on my family and what happened.

‘This time was about me. I went with a slightly different attitude.

I wasn’t playing for England or anyone else – I was doing it for me.

‘Playing for England is great but I had to just focus on me.

‘Golf is an individual sport so you’ve got to do it for yourself.

‘And I believed that where I had done it before, I knew I could do it again when it came down to it.’