Raymond wins back-to-back Brabazon titles

Neil Raymond with the Brabazon Trophy (© Tom Ward)

Neil Raymond with the Brabazon Trophy (© Tom Ward)

First published in Golf Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Sports Reporter

CORHAMPTON’S Neil Raymond has become the first player in more than 20 years to successfully defend the Brabazon Trophy.

The Hampshire ace prevailed at Walton Heath to once again claim the English Men’s Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship.

Raymond, who won at Burnham & Berrow last year, finished on a score of one-under-par, two shots clear of the field.

“I’m absolutely over the moon to defend such a prestigious title as this,” he said. “It means a lot to me.

“To have my mum and dad, as well as a few of my friends, there watching me made it extra special.”

Raymond revealed that his success was partly down to work he had put in with his coach, Ian Roper, and England Golf putting guru Phil Kenyon in the days leading up to the event.

“I had probably my best ever lesson with Ian on Tuesday,” he said. “I felt great about my game and the way I was swinging it.

“I also saw Phil Kenyon last Monday and I changed my putter as well. It was great to go out with the new one and hole a couple of putts.”

Raymond was also driven on by the disappointment of being left out of the England side for the upcoming European Men's Challenge Trophy.

“I had a point to prove, and the best way to do that is go out and win,” he said. “I really had the bit between my teeth.”

The 26-year-old’s victory means that the Brabazon Trophy will remain in Hampshire hands for the third year running, with Rowlands Castle’s Darren Wright having lifted it in 2010.

Raymond, who was the only player under par after the first three days, had taken a two stroke lead into the final round.

And he gave little hope to the chasing pack, closing with an impressive level-par 72 to seal another famous victory.

The last player to win back-to-back Brabazons was Gary Evans in 1990 and 1991, although on each occasion he shared first place.

Other past champions include Sandy Lyle and Peter McEvoy, as well as 2011 Masters winner Charl Schwartzel, who lifted the trophy in 2002.

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