Dundalk head for Mount Juliet seeking senior double


Aaron Grant

WHEN Dundalk won the AIG Barton Shield Leinster title at Mount Wolseley four weeks ago, a massive weight was lifted off the shoulders of Aaron Grant.

The 31-year-old had endured many years of heartache in the quest to be part of a successful senior team but the smile on his face when Dundalk sealed their win over Enniscorthy in the provincial final said it all.

“It’s been a long journey. I have been playing senior golf for the club since I was 15 so to finally be part of a Dundalk team that won a senior pennant was a great feeling. To go on and win an All-Ireland would be unbelievable.”

Having waited a long time to get his hands on one blue Leinster pennant, Grant now finds himself heading to Mount Juliet this weekend with his senior panel team-mates hoping to land a second when Dundalk and seven other clubs tee it up in Leinster Finals of the AIG Senior Cup.

The Senior Cup is the Holy Grail of inter-club golf club in Ireland and was first played for in 1900, five years before Dundalk Golf Club was founded. Having achieved the objective of landing a first ever senior club title last month, Grant and his team-mates are now keen to do the double.

“I believe you have got to take your chance when it comes along. We don’t know what is going to happen next year so this is a great opportunity for us and we will be doing our best to take it,” said Grant.

Dundalk qualified for the Leinster Finals after three impressive wins over Killeen Castle, Headfort and Co Louth in the regional qualifying round of the Senior Cup at Laytown & Bettystown last June.

The Dundalk squad spent the weekend in Mount Juliet preparing for the Leinster finals and according to Grant nothing is being left to chance.

“We have two great managers in Alan McCabe and John Conlon and they are brilliant. They don’t leave any stone unturned and their attention to detail is amazing. It’s great for us, as players, because it lets us concentrate on playing golf.”

One of the features of the Barton Shield Leinster Finals was the large crowd from Dundalk who made their way to Tullow and a big contingent is expected to travel to Mount Juliet on Saturday to support the team in their Leinster quarter-final against The Island.

“There is a great buzz around the club at the moment. Our success is down to a great juvenile programme that the likes of Paul Malone, Vincent Conlon, Jim Carragher and Liam Mernagh have looked after for years. Leslie Walker, our club professional, has also done a great job in bringing players through and his experience is invaluable.”

The match against The Island will tee off at 8am on Saturday morning and the format is five players playing singles matchplay off scratch. Dundalk managers Alan McCabe and John Conlon will select from an eight strong panel, every one of whom is showing good form at the moment.

“Since the Barton Shield win they have all been focused on securing one of the five places on the team to face The Island on Saturday and they have certainly given us plenty to think about. We’ll have a few tough calls to make but that’s the way we want it, everybody pushing hard for selection.” said Conlon.

If Dundalk get through, they will face the winners of the quarter-final between Dun Laoghaire and Tullamore at 2pm on Saturday. Old Conna, Portmarnock, Carton House and Enniscorthy are in the bottom half of the draw and the final is scheduled for Sunday morning at 10am.

Having battled alongside the likes of Peter Rogers, Declan Toal and Simon Waters for many years trying to make a breakthrough, Grant admits he is exciting by the potential of the current senior panel which includes the likes of newly crowned South of Ireland champion Caolan Rafferty, Boys internationals Eoin Murphy and Josh Mackin, Brendan Lawlor who is currently ranked second on the European Disabled Golfers Association Tour, as well as Conor Curran, Neal MacKell and Andrew Keenan.

“We now have the strength in depth to know that whatever five are picked to play they are capable of delivering five points,” observed Grant. “We’ve never been in that position before and the young players who are coming through are getting better and better all time.”

Little wonder that Grant is walking around with a spring in step and finally realising a dream that was first ignited many years ago when he watched his neighbour Justin McArdle hitting golf balls from the Sean O’Mahony’s pitch on the Point Road and trying to land them in the centre circle of Clancy Park.

“Justin was a big inspiration to me and I am lucky that I always got wonderful encouragement and support from my parents, my wife, Maria, and my children while others, like Terry Sloane, helped me in the early days to get to play in the boys and youths championships and events like the Mullingar Scratch Cup,” recalled Grant who famously beat a certain Rory McIllroy in 2004 at the Connacht Boys Championship in Portumna.

Grant has been a man on a mission ever since then and this weekend is merely the next chapter in what he hopes will be a year to remember for Dundalk Golf Club.

Dundalk Senior Panel: Conor Curran, Aaron Grant, Andrew Keenan, Brendan Lawlor, Neal MacKell, Josh Mackin, Eoin Murphy, Caolan Rafferty. Managers: Alan McCabe and John Conlon.


Last eight deliver for Lynch

Sunday’s Singles Stableford competition was won by 20 handicapper Paul Lynch who shot 41pts and just edged out Anthony McGuinness (20) on countback for the overall prize. Alan Uzell (18) also returned a score of 41pts but had to settle for the Category 2 prize.

For the second successive week, David Staunton (8) shot a score of 40pts but after ending up empty handed last week because of the hot scoring he did manage to make it into the prizes as he took Cateogry 1 by one point from the ever-improving Joseph Laverty. Dermot McKenna (2) took the Category 3 prize while Maurice Murphy (2) recorded the best gross score of 33pts and Fionn Duffy (25) claimed the Juvenile Prize.

Winner Lynch had two three point holes at the first and sixth and blank at the index one fourth on his way to 18pts for the opening nine and a one pointer seven at the par five 10th was definitely not a precursor to what was to unfold down the back nine as he covered the closing eight holes in 22pts.

A par four at the indext two 11th, where he had two shots, yield four points and ignited his round as he parred the next three holes to pick up a further nine points. Two bogeys over the next three holes brought him to 38 points and he then parred the par four 18th to finish on 41pts, with his superb back nine score delivering first prize on countback.

Sunday, August 19 – Singles Stableford – Overall: Paul Lynch (20) 41/23pts, Anthony Mc Guinness (20) 41pts. Category 1 (0-12): David Staunton (8) 40pts, Joseph Laverty (8) 39/20/13pts. Category 2 (13-18): Alan Uzell (18) 41pts, Pat Donaghy (13) 40pts. Category 3 (19+): Dermot Mc Kenna (20) 39pts, Graham Purcell (20) 38pts. Best Gross: Maurice J Murphy (2) 33/16pts. Juvenile: Fionn Duffy (25) 43pts. CSS: 72 (36pts)

Back nine proves the difference for O’Hanrahan

Harry O’Hanrahan produced a superb back nine to take Sunday’s Singles Stableford on countback from Senior Panel member Neal McKell who showed he is running into form as Mount Juliet looms on the horizon.

The three handicapper, who won the Junior Cup earlier this year,recorded the day’s best gross score of 39pts but his nett score of 42pts was only good enough for second overall as O’Hanrahan rolled back the years with a vintage display.

Now playing off 26, O’Hanrahan had three consecutive three pointers from the third hole as he went out in 18pts despite drawing a blank at the par three ninth.

Two more three point holes followed at the 10th and 11th and also at the 13th and 15th. But it was his par four at the long index four 16th that really made a difference to his card as the four points he picked up there, followed by two points at both the 17th and 18th saw him come home in 24 points and sign for a round of 42pts.

Alan Hurley (5) took Category 1 with 41pts, Fergal McKenna (18) claimed Category 2 while Larry Hanratty (24) took Category 3. Daniel Nordone (16) was the juvenile winner.

Sunday, August 12 – Singles Stableford – Overall: Harry O’Hanrahan (26) 42/24pts, Neal MacKell (3) 42pts. Category 1 (0-12): Alan Hurley (5) 41pts, Eddie Rocks (10) 40/22pts. Category 2 (13-18): Fergal McKenna (18) 40/20pts, Dessie Ward (13) 40pts. Category 3 (19+): Larry Hanratty (24) 41pts, Eddie McMullin (29) 40/22pts. Best Gross: Neal McKell (3) 39pts. Juvenile: Daniel Nordon (16) 37pts. CSS: 71 (37pts).




Renaghan pips Kelly to take Captain’s Prize

The winner of the 2018 Captain’s Prize at Dundalk Golf Club, Brian Og Renaghan, receives the Mick Spillane Cup from Captain Gerry Byrne


Brian Óg Renaghan was a popular winner of Gerry Byrne’s Captain Prize after he shot a two round total of 138 to win by one stroke from Eamon Kelly.

A six under par 66 in Saturday’s Qualifying Round left the six handicapper tied for the first round lead with Sunday qualifiers Gregory McCaughey (8) and Austin Carroll (15) and they were paired together in the last group as the top 30 from the qualifying rounds were seeded for the Final Round.

By the time they teed off on Sunday afternoon the final group were well aware that the experienced Michael Hamilton (16) had followed up an opening round of 74 with a 66 to set the target at 140, four under par.

Eamon Kelly (12), playing in the fifth group ahead of the joint leaders, was the first to better Hamilton’s score when he returned a 66 and signed for a two round total of 138 having posted a level par round of 72 in Saturday qualifying.

For a while it looked as though Kelly would hang on as the following groups failed to match or better his six under par total but Renaghan managed to hold things together to pip him and take the Mick Spillane Cup which is awarded each year to the winner of the Captain’s Prize.

Renaghan had produced a masterclass on Saturday in qualifying with a six under par 66 that included back to back birdies at the fifth and sixth and 14 pars as he covered the 18 holes in level par gross.

He continued in that vein by birdieing the first two holes of his second round to move to eight under for the tournament and he stretched that to 10 under with pars at the third and fourth where he had shots.

He dropped a shot at the fifth, which he bogeyed, and followed that with a triple bogey eight at the par five index 17 sixth where he racked up a triple bogey eight and fell back to six under with 12 holes to go. A par five at the index three seventh got him back to seven under par but he then dropped two shots at the par three ninth when he took a double bogey five.

That left him at five under par at turn as he turned one over for the day having the covering the opening nine in 40 gross and 37 nett.

He birdied the 10th and parred the index two 11th to go to seven under but then handed those shots back when he bogeyed the next two holes. However, a magnificent birdie three at the par four index four 16th brought him back to seven under and he parred the final two holes, where he didn’t have any shots, to return home in 37 gross and 34 nett for a gross score of 77 and a nett score of 71.

That left him on 137, seven under par, and it was enough to pip Kelly by one shot, Kelly took second place overall with Hamilton winning the Veteran’s Prize. Aaron Grant (+2) shot gross rounds of two under par 70 for a two round total of 140 and claimed the Gross Prize. Conor Curran (2), Paul O’Callaghan (11) and Trevor Giff (12) all finished on 140 nett and took the third, fourth and fifth overall prizes.

Brendan Duffy (12) on 141 took the Category One Prize with John McKeever (13) claiming the Category Two Prize on 143 while Gerry Campbell (26) took the Category Three Prize on 143.

A large crowd was present in the Clubhouse on Sunday evening for the presentation ceremony and Captain Gerry Byrne congratulated all the winners and thanked all those who played over the three days of competition as well as all those members of staff and club committees who had been involved in the organising and preparation of the event. There was a special welcome at the presentation for Gregory McCaughey as his achievement in finishing eighth at the four round World Deaf Golf Championships in Carton House recently and helping Ireland to second place in the senior team event was acknowledged.

Sunday, August 5 – Gerry Byrne’s Captain’s Prize (36 Holes) – Winner: 137 – Brian Óg Renaghan (6) 66, 71. Second: 138 – Eamon Kelly (12) 72, 66. Veteran: 140 – Michael Hamilton (16) 74, 66. Gross: 140 – Aaron Grant (+2) 70, 70. Third: 140 – Conor Curran (2) 73, 67. Fourth: 140 – Paul O’Callaghan (11) 71, 69. Fifth: 140 – Trevor Giff (12) 67, 73. Category 1 (<12): 141 – Brendan Duffy (12) 72, 69. Category 2 (13-18): 143 – John McKeever (13) 74, 69. Category 3 (19+) 143 – Gerry Campbell (26) 69, 74. Final Round (18 Holes) – Category 1 (0-11): Austin Shaw (9) 69, Kevin Barry (10) 70/32. Category 2 (12-16): Patrick McEntaggart (15) 70/33.5, David Smith (13) 70/34.5. Category 3 (17+): Sean Taaffe (20) 70, Nicholas McShane (18) 72/38. Saturday Qualifier (August 4) – Overall: Stephen Lynch (7) 70. Category 1 (0-12) David Lynch (12) 73/33. Category 2 (13-18): Alan Cole (13) 71/31.5. Category 3 (19-28): Joe Flanagan (21) 72. Sunday Qualifier (July 29): Overall; Gregory McCaughey (8) 66/33. Category 1 (0-12): Andrew Brodigan (12) 68, Barry Grennan (11) 69/32.5. Category 2 (13-18): August Carroll (15) 66, John Paul Casey (16) 67. Category 3 (19-28): Paul Lynch (22) 67, Benny O’Shaughnessy (19) 69/31.5. Qualifying Rounds – Junior: Dillon Green (5) 72, Andrew Keenan (3) 73, Juvenile: James Reilly (19) 71. CSS: Sunday Qualifier 72, Saturday Qualifier 73, Final Round 72.



Rafferty breaks into World’s top 100

Dundalk Golf Club’s Caolan Rafferty has broken into the top 100 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings following his victory at the South of Ireland Championship in Lahinch last week.

The 25-year-old jumped 84 places to 78 and he is now Ireland’s second highest ranked player behind Robin Dawson, who is ranked ninth in the world.

Rafferty also made a major move on the GUI’s Bridgestone Order of Merit after picking up 250 points for winning in Lahinch and is now fourth overall behind Dawson, Alex Gleeson and Mark Power.

With Power and Dawson not playing in this week’s Irish Close at The European Club there a huge opportunity for Rafferty to leapfrog over them in what is the final counting event of the series with 325 points on offer for the winner.

Two level par round of 71 on Saturday and Sunday saw Rafferty qualify in third place for the matchplay stages which commence on Monday.

The Irish team for the Eisenhower Trophy, which is the World Cup of amateur golf, will be announced after the Close and Rafferty is very much in contention for a place with the event scheduled to take place at Carton House in September.





Rafferty wins South of Ireland

CAOLAN RAFFERTY won his first golfing major today when he captured the South of Ireland Championship at Lahinch.

The 25-year-old produced a magnificent birdie on the 20th hole to beat fellow Ireland international Rowan Lester of Hermitage and become only the second Dundalk player to win one of Irish amateur golf’s major championships, bridging a 69 year gap to Mick Ferguson’s victory in the East of Ireland in 1949.

Having found a fairway bunker off the tee he could only chip out onto the fairway and faced a 209 yard shot into the wind for his third shot with his opponent in prime position to win the hole. He hit a four iron to 15 feet and when Lester missed his birdie putt from 20ft, Rafferty stepped up and rolled in the winning putt.

“That was the best four iron I ever it,” he recalled. “I got a great line on it and I really fancied the putt. It was a nice feeling when it went in because I have been waiting a long time to win a championship.”

His father Ciaran and uncle David, who have been major influences on his golfing career since he held his first club, watched with pride as he accepted the famous trophy.

“It was great that they were there along with my girlfriend Hayley and some of the members from Dundalk because they’ve been there every step of the way and it was nice to see how proud they were,” said Rafferty afterwards who was also full of praise for clubmate Eoin Murphy, his caddy on the final day.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet but it is a great feeling. I’ve been trying to win one of these for some time and they are not easy to win so I am going to enjoy the moment.”

Rafferty headed south to Co Clare days after helping Dundalk to its first ever senior pennant and admitted that being in the team environment with his senor panel clubmates for a few days at the Barton Shield in Mount Wolseley was just the tonic he needed.

“Things hadn’t been going to well for me before then but I really enjoyed being around all the lads on the senior panel and winning something with the club. I went to Lahinch feeling very relaxed and back enjoying my golf.”

Rafferty shot a six under par 66 in the first round of qualifying last Wednesday in a round that included one eagle and seven birdies. He shot 73 in the second qualifying round on Thursday but it didn’t count after the second round was abandoned because of the heavy rain that made the course unplayable.

On Friday morning he was the last of the 64 qualifiers for the matchplay stage to tee it up and opened up with a 6&4 win over Niall Hearns of Mountrath before beating Eanna Griffin of Waterford 4&3 in Round 2.

On Saturday in the last 16 he met Ross Dutton of Tandragee and beat him 2&1 which was same scoreline by which he saw off the challenge of Rosslare’s Paul Murphy in the quarter-final.

That earned him a Sunday morning semi-final against Mark Power from Kilkenny who is also a member of Lahinch and has been Irish Boys champion for the past two years.

Rafferty won the second hole and never looked back after that. He was four up after five holes and although Power hit back to win the next two holes, Rafferty responded by winning eight and nine. Power came back at him again, winning 11, but Rafferty won 13 and 14 to close out the match, winning 5&4.

Lester, who was runner-up in the 2016 South, started as favourite and quickly opened up a two hole lead by winning the second and fifth as Rafferty found himself trailing in a match for the first time all week.“I didn’t panic. I knew I just had to be patient and keep plugging away because there was still a long way to go,” said Rafferty who pulled a hole back by winning the eighth and got it back to all square when he pitched to five feet and made birdie after Lester had missed from 20ft.

He then went one ahead by winning the 13th but lost the 15th to a par and then went one behind with one to play when he conceded 17 after missing a putt for a five.

“Standing on the 18th tee I was thinking I could win 18 and force it down 19 and I hit two great shots, the drive and then a three wood into the heart of the green. I had about 280 to the flag but the three wood ran up the green to 30 feet.”

Lester could only lay-up but hit a great wedge into five feet from 100 yards and when Rafferty burned the hole with his eagle putt, Lester had a birdie putt for the half and the championship.

“I actually had my hat off ready to congratulate him but he missed so I put the hat back on and headed for the 19th tee saying to myself ‘he has given me a chance so let’s get the job done’.”

On the 19th Rafferty was 12 feet from the pin and when Lester’s putt from 15 feet came up short by two feet he thought he had his chance but could only watch in disbelief as his putt caught the hole but didn’t drop.

Then came the 20th and that dramatic passage of play which eventually saw Rafferty get the job done and great crowned the champion of the South.

“I hit a poor drive and ended up in a bunker while he was down the left but shorter than me. He hit his approach wide and short right and left himself with a tricky pitch so I was determined to get no worse than a five and make him get birdie to win it.

“I chipped out of the bunker, left myself with 209 to the flag, and hit the best four iron ever to 15 feet. He left his pitch 20 feet short and hit his putt six feet past. I knew this was my chance and I rolled it in the front door.”

Rafferty joins an impressive list of previous winners of the South which has been played since 1895 on the famous Lahinch links and joins the likes of JB Carr, Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and Graeme McDowell on the competition’s roll of honour.

Rafferty returned home to a hero’s welcome on Sunday night at Dundalk Golf Club and Club Captain Gerry Byrne led the congratulations. He said: “On behalf of all the members of Dundalk Golf Club I want to congratulate Caolan on this magnificent achievement. He is the first Dundalk member to win the South of Ireland Championship and only the second to win any of Irish golf’s major amateur championships. He has worked extremely hard over the years and has finally earned his reward. He is also a tremendous role model for all the young players in the club and this win shows them what is possible.”

Ward takes Gerry Murray’s President’s Prize

Declan Ward produced one of the best rounds of the years over the blue course to win Gerry Murray’s President’s Prize on Sunday in ideal conditions.

The 19 handicapper shot a seven under par 65 to take this keenly contested major by two shots from Conor Marron (25) with Bernard White (16) a shot further back on 68. They were the only three players out of a superb field of 212 to shoot in the sixties.

Ward’s round included a birdie at the par five index three seventh after he left himself with an easy putt following a superbly executed approach shot over the water from 170 yards.

However, he handed back the shots gained on seven at the next hole when he recorded a triple bogey seven after finding himself in bunkers on either side of the green.

A par at the ninth saw him turn in two under net and a strong finish which saw him par four of the final six holes got him to seven under and he signed for what proved to be an unbeatable 65.

Marron covered the front nine in one under par and did better on the back nine as he recorded a four under par net total of 32 on his way to five under par 67.

Bernard White, who shot a 68 for the third best score of the day, won the Veterans Prize with Maurice Murphy (3) taking the gross prize after shooting a 73. Shaun Ward (11), Aidan Gaughran (13) and Martin McCaughey (21) took the category prizes.

Clem Walshe’s (5) 71 in the President’s Prize has propelled him to the top of the Golfer of the Year table after six rounds. His four best cards have given him a total of 287 which is four ahead of Danny Miele (11) with Neil Mulooly (6) two shots further back in third on 293.

Sunday, July 22 – Gerry Murray’s President’s Prize – Overall – Declan Ward (19) 65, Conor Marron (25) 67. Gross: Maurice Murphy (3) 73. Veteran: Bernard White (16) 68. Category 1(0-12): Shaun Ward (11) 70/32.5, Christy Ward (8) 70. Category 2 (13-17): Aidan Gaughran (13) 70/33.5, Peter O Brien (15) 70. Category 3 (18+): Martin McCaughey (21) 72, Michael Ryan (21) 73/32.5. CSS: 73.

Golfer of the Year (best four cards after six rounds): 287 – Clem Walshe; 291 – Danny Miele; 293 – Neil Mullooly; 294 – Ciaran Johnson, Peter Rogers; 295 – Christy Ward, Brendan Keane, Neal MacKell; 296 – Aiden Gaughran, David Brennan.