Lawlor warms up with a win

Brendan Lawlor

Brendan Lawlor warmed up for his opening event on the European Disabled Gofers Tour this week by taking Sunday’s Singles Stableford competition which was in aid of the 3Ts charity and was also a qualifier for the Harry Walsh Cup which is confined to those players with a handicapper of 17 or higher.

Playing off one, Lawlor shot 41pts in perfect conditions and took the overall prize on countback thanks to a blistering back nine of 24 points. He also returned the day’s best gross score of 40pts. Lawlor went through the first nine holes in two over par for 16pts after missing a few short putts and only managing one birdie. But it all clicked on the homeward nine with a birdie on 10 kick-starting his round and he had a great spell from the 13th when he birdied four successive holes and then missed for 10 feet on 17 for a fifth. However, he picked up his seventh birdie of the day on the 18th for a six-under par back nine of 24pts.

Lawlor’s back nine edged out Robert O’Hanlon (7) and Ciaran Dunne (13) but they took Categories 1 and 2 respectively while Conor McClenaghan (21) was the winner of Category 3 and the leading qualifier for the Harry Walsh Cup. Fionn Cunningham (25) had the day’s best Juvenile score with 40pts.

Lawlor now heads to France this weekend for his first event on the European Disabled Golfers Tour looking to improve on his current ranking of third in the world. On May 8, he will be at the Hillside Golf Club on Merseyside after being invited to the PRO-AM which will take place on the eve of the European Tour’s British Masters which is being hosted this year by Ryder Cup star Tommy Fleetwood.

Sunday, April 21 – 3Ts Singles Stableford and Harry Walsh Qualifier – Overall: Brendan Lawlor (1) 41/24pts, Category: 1 (0-11): Robert O’ Hanlon (7) 41pts, Frank Byrne (8) 37pts. Category 2 (12-17): Ciaran Dunne (13) 41pts, Brendan Duffy (12) 39pts. Category: 3 (18+): Conor McClenaghan (21) 40pts, Ciaran McAteer (20) 39pts. Best Gross: Brendan Lawlor 40pts. Best Juvenile: Fionn Cunningham (25) 40pts.

Big scalp for Provincial Towns Cup team

The Provincial Towns team took a massive scalp at the weekend when they beat last year’s quarter-finalists, Seapoint, 5-4 with the vastly experienced Jim Dywer and Charlie Monaghan very much to the fore.

In Dundalk, Paul O’Callaghan was beaten by Jim McMorrow on 17 after a match that never had more than two holes either way but the home side then took the next two matches on the penultimate hole with Martin McEntaggert beating Dom McGroddy and Eddie Rocks overcoming Martin McKenna in a match that yielded seven birdies. The youthful Andrew Coburn showed no nerves on his debut for the Club as he played some great golf to see off Neil Floody 5&4. Veteran campaigner Jim Dwyer proved steady as ever, despite getting off to a slow start and finding himself two down early on. However, he blew his opponent, Dan Reynolds, away around the turn when he birdied the eighth, ninth and 10th to open up a four hole lead and he eventually closed out the match on the 16th for a 3&2 victory.

That gave Dundalk a 4-1 win at home and needing one win away to seal a place in the next round against either Greenore or Ardee, However, Brendan Keane lost his match early on and Gerry Murray lost on 16 as did Fergal Sexton. Charlie Monaghan found himself three down after seven but he fought back to open up a one hole lead with two to play and sealed the win on the tricky par three 17th when he found the green off the tee and piled the pressure on his opponent who only found trouble down the right.

 

McDonnell masters the wind to lift Jubilee Cup

Gavin McDonnell shot the only sub-70 round in a gale force wind on Sunday to win the Jubilee Cup. His 69 was enough to give him a two shot winning margin from Gerry Oakes (17) who took second place on countback. McDonnell’s round featured three point scores at the fourth, fifth, eighth, ninth, 14th and the 18th.

Maurice Murphy (3) took the Gross Prize with a 76 while Sean McGeough (17) won the Veteran’s Prize with a 74 and Chris Clarke (16) was the best Juvenile after a 69. Neil Mullooly (6), Brendan Duffy (13) and Larry Hanratty (23) were the respective winners of the three category competitions

Sunday, April 14 – Jubilee Cup – Overall: Gavin McDonnell (19) 69, Gerry Oakes (17) 71/36.5. Gross: Maurice Murphy (3) 76. Veteran: Sean McGeough (17) 74. Category 1 (0-12): Neil Mullooly (6) 71/35, Brian Gaughran (12) 71/34/22. Category 2 (13-17): Brendan Duffy (13) 72, Oliver McGinnity (17) 73. Category 3 (18+): Larry Hanratty (23) 74/32.5, Conor Byrne (21) 74. Juvenile: Chris Clarke (16) 69. CSS: 74.

Wins for Mixed Foursomes and Barton Cup teams

The Irish Mixed Foursomes team are through to the next round where they will face Ardee following their impressive 4-1 win over Laytown & Bettystown. 

In the Barton Cup Dundalk beat Ardee 3-2. Conor Curran & Bobby McCarthy came from one down with two to play to beat Jamie Kelly & Peter Taaffe on the 19th. Brian Renaghan & Damian English had a convincing 7&6 win over Ben Caffrey & Jack Phipps having taken early control of the match by winning the first three holes to go three up.

Billy Cairns & Aidan Thornton had a 4&2 win over Paul Wisniewski & Ronan Phipps. Having turned three up and then won 12 to go four up, the Dundalk were three up with three to play when Cairns stitched his second shot on 16 to within a foot of the pin to close out the match.

Martin McEnteggart & Mark Gorham were beaten 2&1 by Kevin Commins & John Callan after the Ardee pair went two up afer 12 and held on to win on the 17th. Alan McDermott & Jim Dwyer lost 3&2 to Eamonn Breen & Sean McAufield when, after being level with five to play, they lost the next three holes and the match. Dundalk will now play Ashbourne in the next round.

Murphy wins Hilary Society Gold Medal

Eoin Murphy has got his 2019 season off to a great start by winning the Hilary Society’s Gold Medal for the player who shoots the lowest aggregate nett scores from three outings. His four under par score beat long-time leader Graham Lynch (Co. Louth) by a single shot thanks to an eagle, par, birdie finish in the final event at Royal Dublin.

This was Eoin’s first year as a member of the Hilary Society and he has emulated the feat of clubmate Clem Walshe who also won the gold medal in his first year as a member back in 2001.

Walshe also won the Gold Medal in 2016 and, playing off four, he was also the overall winner in Royal Dublin with a nett 72 where Murphy (+1) captured his third gross prize of the season with a 74. The Dundalk pair also teamed up with Sean Murphy from Greenore win the team prize with a score of 65.

Rafferty finishes fourth in European Masters

Caolan Rafferty

Caolan Rafferty returned home to Dundalk to a hero’s welcome on Sunday having spent the last two weeks living out a suitcase as he played three tournaments in three counties and emerged with a win, a second and a fourth place.

The win came in the West of Ireland Championship last Sunday week when he became the first player from Dundalk Golf Club to win the event as he added the West to the South of Ireland title he won in Lahinch last year.

He headed straight from the presentation ceremony at Rosses Point to Dublin Airport where the Irish team was gathering ahead of an early morning flight last Monday to Spain for the European Masters in Sotogrande.

Fifteen countries from across the continent teed it up with Ireland looking to lift a title they last held in 2016 while Rafferty and team-mates Conor Purcell, Mark Power and Robert Brazil were also hoping to land the individual honours although Rafferty admitted that was a secondary concern.

“I was only interested in helping the team this week,” said the 26-year-old. “I knew from last year anything under six over was good for team purposes.”

As it happened Rafferty finished on eight over after the four rounds of play which was just two shots behind the individual winner Tom Sloman of England. He opened with a four over par 76 and followed that with a 73 and 74 before finishing the tournament with a 73 in round four.

“The course was so tough and Rob Brazil, with a 69 in the last round, was the only player over the four days to shoot a sub-70 round. The wind was up and the pins were hidden on really quick greens. If you missed a green it was so hard to get up and down.

“I got off to a bad start on the first day and was four over after nine. Tiredness definitely kicked in but I tried to rally back and post a half decent score. I kept telling myself just one more round and managed to cover the back nine in level par for a 76.

“Going into the last round, myself and Conor felt if we posted under par we could win the team event or, at worse, finish second. Third wasn’t the end of the world but it would have been nice to have finished higher.”

With the Walker Cup selectors watching the action in Spain unfold, Rafferty had the consolation of being the best of the four Irish players as Ireland finished third behind England and were pipped by one shot for second place by Holland.

“From a personal point of view I was delighted to finish fourth in the individual competition after a long few weeks on the road. It wasn’t the easiest course to come and play after the few weeks I had, playing three tournaments in succession in three different countries.”

Rafferty will now take a well-deserved break and head back to Maynooth University where he has a lot of college work to catch up on. It will also give some time to reflect on the past few weeks.

“I feel really happy with myself that I was competitive at three big tournaments and managed to also get a win. It was tough living out of a suitcase for three weeks so I know now how the pros feel. It’s always good to win one early and follow it up with a decent finish and there’s still plenty of golf to be played this year.”

Rafferty wins West of Ireland Championship

Caolan Rafferty – 2019 West of Ireland Golf Champion.

CAOLAN RAFFERTY added another Irish amateur major to his belt on Sunday when he captured the West of Ireland Golf Championship at Rosses Point.

The 26-year-old Dundalk Golf Club player held his nerve on the final day to see off the challenge of England’s Arron Edwards Hill and Portmarnock’s Conor Purcell and win by four shots.

Having won the South of Ireland Championship at Lahinch last summer, Rafferty now holds two of the six Irish Amateur majors and remains on track to qualify for the American Amateur Championship and make the Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team.

“It’s a great feeling,” admitted Rafferty moments after sinking his Championship winning putt on the final green at Co Sligo Golf Club and acknowledging the cheers of the large crowd in attendance.

“I played as well I have in a long time this week. The course suited me and my golf was steady all week. We were blessed with the weather and I didn’t have to change anything from day to day.”

After opening with a level par 71 on Thursday to lie joint 10th, Rafferty found himself joint leader at the halfway stage after shooting a five under par 65 in the second round. After bogeying the second, he holed six birdies over the final 16 holes and shared the lead with Royal Dublin’s Max Kennedy.

In the third round, Rafferty again went low, this time posting a bogey free, four birdie round of 66 to move to nine under and open up a four shot on the field.

The previous Tuesday, at the R&A Foundation Scholars Tournament in St Andrews, Rafferty had blown a five shot lead in the final round in finishing second to Welshman Aled Greville and missed out on the automatic place available to the winner on the International team to face the United States of America in the 2019 Arnold Palmer Cup match being played at Arkansas in June.

“Those things happen in golf,” reflected Rafferty. “I just made too many mistakes in the final round at St Andrew’s and unfortunately Aled shot seven under on the day and came chasing out of the pack to beat me. I got over it quickly because I’ve had plenty of bad days in my career and that wasn’t going to be the worst day.

“Having just had that experience probably helped me going into the final round of the West because I knew if I played my own game it should be good enough to see me over the line.”

Playing in the final grouping as his nearest challengers, Edwards Hill and Purcell, Rafferty opened with four straight pars before moving to 10 under for the tournament after a birdie on the par five fifth. Two holes later he recorded his first bogey in 40 holes but he responded with six more pars to lie nine-under with five to play.

By that stage Purcell, who is the reigning Australian Amateur champion, had emerged as his biggest challenger having reeled off four birdies, following a bogey at the second, to move to seven-under and close the gap on Rafferty to two shots.

But the 418 metres par four 14th proved to be the decisive hole. When Rafferty holed for a bogey five, Purcell had a short but testing four-footer for par to reduce the gap to just one. It was a putt that slid agonisingly past the hole and left Rafferty in pole position with four holes to go.

As the Dundalk man parred his way in to finish on eight under, Purcell dropped shots at the 16th and 17th, and eventually finished tied for second, along with Edwards Hill, on four under.

“I didn’t panic when he got to within two of me. I knew even then I could make one mistake and still be able to steer it in. Luckily when I did make that mistake on 14, he failed to capitalise.”

It’s been a great start to 2019 for Rafferty after reaching the semi-finals of the South African Amateur Championship and finishing second at the R&A Foundation Scholars tournament. He now heads to Spain to represent Ireland at the European Nations in Sotogrande this week still chasing his dream of playing in the American Amateur Championship and the Walker Cup.

“The last two tournaments carried world ranking points so that should help keep me in the top 50 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. All I can do is keep playing the golf I am playing and see what happens.”

Rafferty is the first Dundalk golfer to win the West of Ireland Golf Championship having gone one better than the legendary Mick Ferguson, who finished as runner-up in 1951. He is also the first Dundalk player to win two of the major Irish Amateur Championships.

This was the first year that the West was played in a strokeplay format and Rafferty admitted that it was the change in the format that eventually persuaded him to head to Sligo from Scotland last Wednesday.

“I was humming and hawing whether I should even come over or not given my college work load but, funnily enough, I actually have a great strokeplay record from the qualifiers around here. I sat down and looked at my scores and thought, ‘well I’m actually not too bad at strokeplay around this golf course and to have four rounds of strokes could actually play to my advantage’. Luckily enough it did because I’ve a lot of college work to catch up on now!”

Dundalk’s other representatives at the West were Eoin Murphy and Aaron Grant. Murphy opened with rounds of 73 and 70 to lie T10 after two rounds but eventually finished T44 after disappointing weekend rounds of 77 and 78.

Grant opened with a 77 but then retired with an injury after 16 holes of his second round.

 

Top trio head for the West at Rosses Point

Caolan Rafferty, Aaron Grant and Eoin Murphy will tee it up in this week’s West of Ireland Championship at Rosses Point which starts on Thursday and will be a four round strokeplay event with the cut falling after 54 holes.

Josh Mackin missed out on one of the 12 qualifying places last Sunday by one shot iafter shooting a four-over par 71 while Neal Mackell also missed out after a 79.

Rafferty, Grant and Murphy warmed up for the West at the Laytown & Bettystown Scratch Cup last week where defending champion Rafferty finished fifth after two one over par rounds of 72 and Grant and Murphy also finished in the top 15.