“I said on Saturday, the best we’d see is 1 under and I didn’t think there would be many of them,” Neil Raymond said about the lowest number possible that could be shot at The Country Club. He, himself, bested that with a 3-under 67 during the first round of stroke-play at the U.S. Amateur.
Raymond of Hampshire, England, was the low man in the clubhouse early this morning, before Nick Hardy of Northbrook, Ill., fired a 5-under 65 at Charles River Country Club, the companion course for stroke-play.
Raymond, 27, said the keys to his round were playing aggressive and conservative at the same time. Also, keeping it out of the rough, which is estimated at three and a half inches this week, proved key to his under-par round.
He added that this was the hardest golf course he’s ever played on.
“The rough, the greenside rough, and the length,” Raymond said about the toughest part of the course. “18 is the smallest target (into the green) I’ve ever seen. And it’s quite a tough drive because where most of the guys are hitting it, is the tightest spot on the fairway.”
Luckily for Raymond, he made par after hitting his drive in the left rough, knocking it into the front greenside bunker and hitting it to 5 feet.
Raymond didn’t focus on golf until a few years ago. He was never really good enough and didn’t care all that much. Because he didn’t know what he wanted to do, Raymond started working in a pro shop for his coach and got more and more time to practice his golf game. That’s when he improved and decided to take on golf full-time as an amateur.
His hard work paid off as he won the St. Andrews Links Trophy this year at St. Andrews Old Course in June. He was exempt into the Amateur by the way of his World Amateur Golf Ranking, No. 27.
Raymond’s main goal is to make the Walker Cup Team in September for Great Britain and Ireland. Raymond would be the first mid-amateur to play for GB&I since 2007 – when Nigel Edwards, this year’s captain, played in the match at Royal County Down in Ireland. His parents, Paul and Pauline, who usually make trips with him, aren’t here this week because they wanted to save the money to come watch him at the National Golf Links of America.
“That would be fantastic,” he added.
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STRONG START: Two Walker Cup hopefuls, Michael Miller of Brewster, N.Y., and Sean Dale of Jacksonville, Fla., shot a 1-under 69 and even-par 70, respectively, at The Country Club early Monday morning.
Miller made three birdies and two bogeys during the first round on the 7,310-yard layout.
“It’s very difficult, if you miss the fairways, you just have to take your medicine and run away,” Miller said.
Miller took advantage of his length off the tee on longer holes such as No. 9, a 505-yard par-4. On his starting hole, he drove it over the high rough onto the second part of the fairway and had a mid-iron into the green and proceeded to make par.
He played, arguably, the most difficult part of the course, Nos. 9-14, in even par with two birdies and two bogeys, but he was more than pleased with that result.
Miller also added that his short game and putter worked in his favor and that helped him avoid carding a number higher than 5.
Since taking the year off to solely focus on golf, Miller’s confidence and mental aspect of the game have reached new heights. He feels like he belongs out here now and he can compete with ‘the best amateur players in the world.’
Dale, 23, had a roller coaster of a day after starting his first round (on No. 9) with three bogeys in his first four holes. He made a long 40-footer for birdie on No. 13, but then bogeyed again. He went on to finish his front nine with three birdies in his last four holes. He made one par on that nine.
He then made two birdies and two bogeys on the front.
“It’s always good to get off to a good start on a tough course,” said Dale, the Western Amateur runner-up.
Dale said the easiest way to make the Walker Cup Team is to win this week.
“Winning would take care of everything,” he added.
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SHORT SHOTS: Nick Hardy, a high school senior at Glenbrook North High School, shot a 5-under 65 at Charles River Country Club. I gave myself a lot of opportunities to begin the round. I hit a lot of fairways and greens, which I knew was key here to get off to a good start.” Hardy advanced to the Round of 32 at the U.S. Junior Amateur. . . . The No. 2-ranked amateur in the world Matthew Fitzpatrick fired a 3-under 67 at Charles River CC. The Englishman made four birdies and a bogey.