England cap improves Walker Cup hopes with La Manga display
ENGLISH international Neil Raymond had to settle for second place in the Spanish Amateur Championship after losing 4&3 to Ireland’s Reeve Whitson in the final of the prestigious event.
Corhampton ace Raymond was determined to follow in the footsteps of former county team-mate Sam Hustby who won the tournament back in 2006.
He looked well on course to do so, too, after easing through the strokeplay qualifying rounds and then racking up a series of comprehensive victories in the matchplay stages.
He dispatched Rory McNamara 7&5, before seeing off fellow countryman Max Orrin in the last 16, 3&2 the scoreline. Another English team-mate, Jordan Smith, was put to the sword in the quarter-finals, 4&2, before Raymond secured his place in the final at the expense of Switzerland’s Edouard Amarcher, 2&1 the score.
The reigning Titleist/FootJoy Order of Merit champion and back-to-back Brabazon Trophy winner started strongly in the final against his Irish opponent and edged into the lead after birdying the fourth.
Whitson got back on level terms on the sixth, before Raymond again took the lead on the ninth. That was to be the last time he held the initiative, however, as Whitson drew level at the tenth before taking the lead at the 13th.
It was to be a lead he never relinquished and, though Raymond rallied hard and, at one stage, got back to within one hole of his opponent, Whitson was able to hold him off and eventually finished off the match on the 33rd hole of the 36-hole final.
Although disappointed to lose, Raymond will have been pleased to have further enhanced his Walker Cup credentials ahead of this year’s match at the National Golf Links at Southampton, in New York, this September.
With only ten places in captain Nigel Edwards’ team up for grabs, Raymond currently looks to be in a strong position to make the side and his fine showing at La Manga will have improved his prospects no end.