Rafferty bidding for second Dundalk Scratch Cup victory

Pictured at the launch of the 2018 Dundalk Scratch Cup sponsored by One Finance were (from left): Pat Cleary (Lady Captain); Martin McDonnell (One Finance), Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk & Ireland), Niall McDonnell (One Finance) and Gerry Byrne (Captain).

SOUTH of Ireland champion Caolan Rafferty will be the big draw when the One Finance sponsored Dundalk Scratch Cup takes place this Sunday (September 16) over 36 holes at Dundalk Golf Club.

Since he first won the competition in 2016, Rafferty has firmly established himself as one of the top amateur players in Ireland and is currently the second highest ranked Irishman in the World Amateur Golf Rankings where he sits this week in 63rd place.

He will head home to Dundalk after spending the earlier part of this week in the Welsh seaside resort of Conwy as part of an Irish team looking to win the Home Internationals for a fifth year in a row.

Last year, Rafferty had to settle for third place behind Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell in his defence of a title that includes the likes of three times major winner Padraig Harrington among its former champions since its inception in 1963 when David Sheahan was the first winner.

Rafferty’s presence alone is sure to guarantee a large crowd at Dundalk on Sunday as the locals avail of a rare opportunity to see the 25-year-old in competitive action over his home course.

Rafferty will lead a strong home challenge into this year’s competition with all eight members of Dundalk’s Senior Panel included in the field as they battle for places in next month’s All-Ireland Barton Shield semi-final at Thurles Golf Club.

Entries are still open but the field already includes plenty of quality with the likes of Colin Woodroofe, Aaron Marshall, Eugene Smith, Max Kennedy, TJ Forde, Jack McDonnell and Cian Geraghty among the early entrants for an event that is firmly established as one of the top Scratch Cups in the country.

The greenkeeping staff at the Dundalk have been working hard over the last few weeks to have the course in top shape for Sunday and the course record of 64, which was set last year by Aaron Grant, could be under threat.

 

Senior Cup runs ended at semi-final stage

Eoin Murphy and caddy Peter Rogers won both their matches in Mount Juliet

DUNDALK Golf Club’s bid for an historic Leinster senior double came up short at the weekend when they were beaten by Dun Laoghaire in the provincial semi-finals of the AIG Senior Cup.

Having won the first senior pennant in the 113 year history of the club just five weeks previously, when they clinched the Barton Shield in Mount Wolseley, Dundalk’s senior panel headed to Mount Juliet hoping to add the Senior Cup pennant but it was not to be despite a battling performance.

Dundalk cleared the first hurdle on Saturday morning with a 3.5 to 1.5 win over The Island in the quarter-finals but went down 3.5 to 1.5 to pre-tournament favourites Dun Laoghaire in the semi-final on Saturday afternoon.

“It was very tight,” said joint team manager John Conlon after the defeat against Dun Laoghaire. “There was never more than a hole or two in the difference in four of the matches throughout the afternoon but unfortunately we were the ones who were behind and chasing and in the end we just ran out of holes.”

Conlon, who along with Alan McCabe has overseen the transformation of the team into one of the strongest senior outfits in Leinster, added that despite the disappointment they would take a lot of positives from the weekend in Mount Juliet.

“it was a fabulous experience and will stand us in good stead for the All-Ireland Finals of the Barton Shield in Thurles in October. Both matches asked a lot of questions of us so we will analyse what happened and take the learnings on board..

While Dun Laoghaire coasted to an easy 4-1 win over Tullamore in their morning quarter-final, Dundalk found themselves in a battle with The Island where they showed great character to resist a late fight back from the Dubliners.

South of Ireland champion Caolan Rafferty put the first point on the board with a 3&1 win but Josh Mackin lost 3&2 as The Island drew level. A drive and a six iron to the par five 17th set up Eoin Murphy for a 2&1 win and with Conor Curran dormie two playing 17, and Aaron Grant one up playing 16, the advantage was with Dundalk.

But Curran then lost 17 to a birdie and Grant lost 16 as The Island fought back to keep the match alive.

Dundalk, however, were not be denied. Curran split the fairway on 18 and clinched the winning point when his opponent lost the hole after getting into all sorts of trouble in a lateral water hazard on the left of the final green.

With Grant’s match all square when it was called in, it meant Dundalk emerged winners by 3.5 to 1.5 and joined Dun Laoghaire, Portmarnock and Enniscorthy in the last four.

Josh Mackin was sent out first and the 17-year-old gave Dundalk the best possible start by winning the first three holes against Alan Fahy but behind him all his colleagues found themselves behind after three holes.

Mackin then lost the next four holes to par and found himself one down after seven and that became two when his opponent chipped in for birdie on nine. A great birdie on 10 saw Mackin pull one back but he then lost four of the next five holes as he fell to a 5&3 defeat.

Eoin Murphy found himself one down after finding the water on the par three third and he was trailing by two holes after 10 but he won the next three holes to go one up.

He responded impressively to losing the 14th by birdieing the 15th and then won 16th before halving the 17th in par for an excellent 2&1 win, his second victory of the day.

Aaron Grant was two down after seven but won eight and nine to get back to all square before losing 10 and 11 to again trail by two. Once again he bounced back, winning 12 and 13, to leave it all to play for with five to go.

But he lost the next three holes to lose 3&2 and leave Dun Laoghaire 2-1 ahead and needing just one more point from the two matches still playing.

Caolan Rafferty had been playing catch-up after losing the opening two holes but try as he might he was unable to peg his opponent back to all square. His day was summed up on the 17th when he found himself behind a fairway tree from where he could only play out left-handed and was unlucky to find himself behind another tree.

He eventually found the green in four but missed his long par putt and his opponent took the two putts he had to take the match by 2&1 and secure Dun Laoghaire’s place in the final.

Conor Curran was one down from the second to the ninth but won 10 to get back to all square and moved in front when he chipped in for a birdie to take the 15th. However, Rafferty’s loss meant Curran was called in and his match declared a half.

It was a disappointing defeat for Dundalk but they can still finish the season with a green pennant as they have already qualified for All Ireland Finals in Thurles in the Barton Shield where they will face Munster champions Kinsale in the semi-finals.

“Our focus will now turn to Thurles where we will be looking to win our first ever national senior title,” said Conlon. “Once again we had tremendous support in Mount Juliet, which the players greatly appreciated, and hopefully we will have a big crowd in Thurles in October.”

 

AIG Senior Cup Leinster Finals

Saturday, August 25

Quarter-Finals

Dundalk 3.5 The Island 1.5

Dun Laoghaire 4 Tullamore 1

Portmarnock 3.5 Old Conna 1.5

Enniscorthy 3 Carton House 2

 

Semi Finals

Dun Laoghaire 3.5 Dundalk 1.5

Portmarnock 4 Enniscorthy 1

 

Final

Dun Laoghaire 1.5 Portmarnock 3.5

 

 

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.

ENDS

CHAMPIONS! Dundalk claims first senior title

DUNDALK Golf Club made an historic breakthrough at the weekend by winning the Leinster Final of the AIG Barton Shield and claiming the club’s first ever senior title.

They did it in style with impressive victories over Corrstown, Elm Park and Enniscorthy in the provincial finals which were held at Mount Wolseley Golf Club in Tullow, Co Carlow, on Friday and Saturday.

The Barton Shield is one of the two senior trophies on offer for Irish golf clubs each and features the top amateur players in the country. It is played off scratch in a foursomes matchplay format with two pairings representing each club and the aggregate score from each match deciding the match.

For joint managers Alan McCabe and John Conlon it was the culmination of three years’ work having taken over responsibility for the club’s senior panel in 2016.

“We reached the Leinster quarter-finals the first year and then got the semi-finals last year and lost to the eventual winners,” said Conlon. “We set ourselves a target of going one better this year and once we got to the final we were determined to take the opportunity because we knew we had no divine right to think we will ever get a second chance.”

Dundalk headed to Tullow with an eight man panel made up of the experienced Aaron Grant, Irish international Caolan Rafferty, Boys Internationals Eoin Murphy and Josh Mackin and low single figure players Conor Curran, Brendan Lawlor, Andrew Keenan and Neal MacKell.

“While only four played, this was very much a group effort and everybody in the panel bought into what we were trying to do which was winning a Leinster pennant,” said McCabe. “The four who didn’t play all had important supporting roles over the weekend while Conor Curran played a major part in ensuring we got through our regional qualifying tournament back in May when Caolan Rafferty was away on international duty. He typified the spirit we have in this group.”

Dundalk qualified for the Leinster Finals by finishing second in qualifying at Balcarrick and then beating Greenore and Royal Dublin in the matchplay rounds to book one of the eight places on offer.

Dundalk were drawn in the top bracket against Corrstown while Elm Park faced Kilkenny, Portmarnock met Dun Laoghaire and Enniscorthy played Tullamore.

McCabe and Conlon paired Aaron Grant and teenager Josh Mackin in the top match while Caolan Rafferty partnered Eoin Murphy in the bottom match for the quarter-final against Corrstown on Friday morning.

Dundalk quickly took control of the tie against the Dublin club and at no stage was either pairing behind in their respective matches.

In the bottom match, Rafferty and Murphy won the second but lost the sixth to go back to all square. They then won the next two holes and turned for home two up. After halving the 10th in birdies, the Dundalk pair then won the next four holes with birdies to be six up when they were called in after 14 holes.

In the top match, Grant and Mackin also won the second hole and Grant chipped in from off the ninth green for a birdie two to give the duo a three hole lead at the turn. They lost the 11th but won 14 to be three up with four to play and, although they lost the 15th, they halved the 16th to ensure Dundalk’s victory.

Elm Park defeated Kilkenny in their quarter-final match and stood between Dundalk and a place in the final. Team managers McCabe and Conlon kept faith with the morning pairings and they justified their selection with a magnificent five hole victory over the biggest golf club in Ireland.

However, they were made to fight extremely hard for their win with both pairings finding themselves trailing at different stages and having to dig deep to haul themselves back into their respective matches.

In the top match, Grant and Mackin faced an Elm Park pairing that included Irish Boys International Charlie Denvir who tried to drive the green on fourth but found a greenside bunker from which Elm Park failed to get up and down. Aaron Grant then rolled in a 15ft birdie putt to put Dundalk in front.

Elm Park won the next to get it back to level and then went ahead on the par three sixth after Denvir’s tee shot set up a winning birdie but it was back to all square a hole later.

Dundak turned one hole up after winning the ninth with a par but a great chip from Denvir set up a winning birdie for Elm Park on the 10th and he hit another great chip on the 11th to set up another win as the Dubliners went ahead with seven holes to play.

After halving 12, thanks to another great putt from Grant, Dundalk got it back to all square and the match turned in Dundalk’s favour in dramatic fashion on the 15th hole. Mackin’s tee shot found the 10th fairway from where Grant played a superb recovery shot to be pin high in a greenside bunker where he was joined by Elm Park after Denvir pulled his wedge shot from the middle of the fairway. Dundalk made five after Grant’s putt was conceded and Elm Park missed their putt to give Grant and Mackin a one shot lead they held until they were called in on their way to the 18th tee.

Behind them, Rafferty and Murphy had won by four holes after showing great character to bounce back after losing the opening two holes.

They won the next two to get back to all square and then took control of the match when they birdied the sevenths and parred the eighth to open up a two hole lead.

They went three up after winning the 10th and although they lost the 12th to a birdie four they birdied 14 and 15 to go five up and a half on 16 was enough to seal Dundalk’s place in the Leinster final for the first time.

Enniscorthy shocked pre-tournament favourites Dun Laoghaire, winning the other semi-final by three holes, and they teed it up alongside Dundalk on Saturday morning.

Dundalk kept faith with the quartet that got them to the final and in the top match Grant and Mackin opened up an early lead when their opponents three-putted the opening hole.

They held that lead to the fifth, when a lost ball off the tee opened the door for Enniscorthy to draw level. Two great bunker shots by Mackin on the next two holes prevented Enniscorthy from taking the lead and the youngster then played a superb approach into the eight to set up a 15ft birdie putt from Grant to win the hole.

They went two up after winning the 10th despite finding the trees down the left from the tee from where Mackin could only pitch the ball back onto the fairway. Enniscorthy, sensing an opportunity, decided to lay up in front of the stream protecting the narrow green but Grant called their bluff by producing the shot of the week, a magnificent two iron into the wind from 238 yards which he left six feet from a back pin. After Enniscorthy made five, Mackin showed nerves of steel to sink the birdie putt to win the hole in four.

On the next hole Mackin rolled in a par putt to move Dundalk three up and although they lost the 14th to a remarkable birdie they halved the next two holes and were two up playing the 16th when they were called in.

Behind them Rafferty and Murphy quickly got holes on the board by winning the opening two holes and went three up with a win on the fourth. A superb tee-shot from Murphy set up a six foot birdie putt and a win from Rafferty on the sixth and although they lost the ninth, they turned three up.

Their lead was reduced to two after they lost the par three 11th to a birdie but they responded to that set back in magnificent style by eagling the par five 12th. A birdie at the 14th moved them back to four up and when Enniscorthy failed to match their birdie at the 15th, they moved to five up.

That left Dundalk’s aggregate score at seven holes ahead with six to play and triggered joyous scenes as the large crowd of club and family members who had travelled south to support the team over the two days celebrated with the players, caddies and managers.

“The support was fantastic,” said McCabe. “It was definitely a big help to us and we greatly appreciate the efforts people made to get to Mount Wolseley. Hopefully, they will be able to travel in big numbers to Thurles in October for the All-Ireland Finals.”

Before that, Dundalk have a chance to complete a Leinster double as they have also qualified for the provincial finals in the AIG Senior Cup, the first time in the club’s history that they have qualified for both elite Leinster finals in the same year.

They will play The Island in the quarter-final at Mount Juliet on August 25 with the semi-final scheduled for that afternoon and the final the following day.

“All the focus for the next five weeks is going to be on Mount Juliet,” said McCabe. “It’s a different type of format but we will prepare properly for it and there is no doubt that winning the Barton Shield pennant will give all the panel members great confidence heading to Mount Juliet.”

Dundalk Captain Gerry Byrne said had been a great weekend for the club. “It is a great feeling to see the club win its first senior pennant and it was very pleasing to see them win it playing some fantastic golf. Great credit must go to the players, caddies and managers as well as the magnificent supporters who really got behind the team all weekend. Most of our senior panel have come through our excellent juvenile programme and the likes of Paul Malone, Vincent Conlon, Jim Carraher, Liam Mernagh and our club professional Leslie Walker have now seen a lot of their hard work over the years come to fruition at the top end of Irish club golf.”

BARTON SHIELD LEINSTER FINALS RESULTS

Quarter Finals

Dundalk bt Corrstown by 8 Holes.

Elm Park bt Kilkenny by 3 Holes

Enniscorthy bt Tullamore by 4 Holes

Dun Laoghaire bt Portmarnock by 8 Holes.

 

Semi Finals

Dundalk bt Elm Park by 5 Holes

Enniscorthy bt Dun Laoghaire by 3 Holes

 

Final

Dundalk bt Enniscorthy by 7 Holes

 

Men’s senior and ladies juniors march on as three teams bow out

Dundalk Golf Club have qualified for the Leinster Finals of the AIG Senior Cup, the most prestigious inter-club competition in Irish golf, and remain on course for an historic double having already qualified for the Leinster finals of the Barton Shield.

It was a tremendous end to a week that was bookended by two fabulous victories as the Ladies Junior Cup team also advanced to the Leinster quarter-finals when they defeated Laytown & Bettytown at the beginning of the week.

However, in between those two magnificent wins was a lot of heartache as Dundalk’s runs in the Jimmy Bruen Shield, All Ireland Fourball and Revive Active Fourball came to an end.

It is the first time in the club’s history that a team has reached the Leinster finals of the top two inter-club competitions in the same year and the senior team will head to Mount Wolseley in July and Mount Juliet in August with a lot of confidence after three impressive wins over the weekend in the regional qualifying round of the Senior Cup at Laytown & Bettystown.

Having received a bye in the First Round, Dundalk faced Killeen Castle on Saturday afternoon and won by 3.5 to 1.5 with Caolan Rafferty winning 6&5, Aaron Grant winning 3&1 and Conor Curran winning 3&2.

On Sunday morning they met Headfort and there were wins for Rafferty, Curran and Grant while Brendan Lawlor, for the second successive match, was called in while in a strong positive to win his match.

That set up a regional final with Co Louth and Eoin Murphy, who had flown in that morning from England, won two up after being dormie four. Fellow Irish Boys international Josh Mackin, who like Murphy had only finished his Leaving Certificate last Thursday, came from two down to win 2&1 thanks to birdies on three of the final four holes.

Rafferty was six under par in his 5&3 win while Grant was two up when his match was called in.

The win booked Dundalk a place in the Leinster final at Mount Juliet with their quarter-final match against The Island scheduled for August 28.

Earlier in the day, Dundalk’s Jimmy Bruen Shield team came agonisingly close to reaching the Leinster Finals in their regional qualifier at Roganstown.

They opened up with a 3.5 to 1.5 win over leading qualifiers Balbriggan with Pat Purton and Paul O’Callaghan winning 7&6, Billy Cairns & Zak Alderdice winning 4&3 and Damien English and Christy Ward winning on the 20th. Conal Murdock and Conor Murphy were looking good to win their match on the 19th when called in while Shane Hession and Fergal Sexton came up against Balbriggan’s strongest pairing and lost 5&4.

In the regional final on Sunday afternoon Dundalk faced Forest Little and a comfortable 6&5 win for for Ward and English and a 5&4 win for Murdock and Murphy left the tie level at 2-2 after Cairns & Alderdice and Ciaran Traynor and Cian Lynch McCrave had lost their matches.

It all came down to the match involving Purton and O’Callaghan which was all square after 16. However, Dundalk lost the 17th to a birdie and then saw Forest Little sink a 10ft putt for par on the 18th before O’Callaghan’s birdie putt to send the match down the 19th lipped out.

There was more heartbreak in the All-Ireland Fourball Leinster quarter-final against last year’s Leinster finalists, Malahide, who beat Frank Byrne’s charges 3-2 in a dramatic match that was eventually finished at around 10pm on Thursday evening.

In Malahide, Dundalk lost the opening match 4&3 as Colm Garvey and Michael Keating were hit by blitzkrieg from a home pairing that were two under gross for the 15 holes played as they rolled in three birdies, 11 pars and one bogey in a faultless round.

Behind them, Kevin Carthy and Ray Pepper were three down with four to play but won 15, 16 and 18 to draw level with Carthy producing a miraculous chip over a greenside bunker from the trees on the last to find the green and then sank a 15ft putt to send the match down the 19th.

On the first sudden death hole, it was Pepper who came to the fore as he hit a fabulous shot out of a fairway bunker to within six feet of the green and then chipped on to leave himself with two putts for the win and Dundalk’s first point on the board.

The remaining three matches were played in Dundalk where Adrian Kenny and Gerry McDermott maintained their unbeaten run with an excellent 3&1 win having taken control of the match midway through the opening nine when they won the fourth, fifth and sixth to open up a three hole lead.

Peter O’Brien and Dermot McKenna were involved in an extremely tight match which was all square with three to play but they lost 16 and 17 and were edged out 2&1 to leave the tie at 2-2 with one match out on the course.

Eamonn McEneaney and Joe Flanagan had been four down after 10 but they won the next three holes to reduce the deficit to one and, after losing the 14th, they bounced back with wins at the 15th, 16th and 17th to stand one up with one to play.

After Malahide had secured their par on the 18th, the home pair both had putts to send Dundalk into the Leinster semi-finals for the first time in the club’s history but both efforts burned the edge of the hole and sent the match down the 19th where Malahide secured the win with a five.

Earlier that day, the Ladies Revive Action team were beaten in their Third Round match by Ardee who won by 3.5 to 1.5.

At the beginning of last week the Ladies Junior Cup team reached the Leinster Finals with a 3-2 win over Laytown & Bettystown and they will now face Rathfarnham in Foxrock for a place in the semi-finals.

 

Rafferty finishes third in East of Ireland

Caolan Rafferty went very close to capturing his first golfing major over the June Bank Holiday weekend when he finished third at the East of Ireland Championship at Co Louth Golf Club.

The Dundalk Golf Club player shot rounds of 69, 69, 66 and 73 to finish on 11 under par, three shots behind the winner Christo Lamprecht from South Africa.

Two steady three-under-par rounds of 69 left Rafferty on six-under par and tied for fourth, four shots off the lead, heading into the final two rounds on the Bank Holiday Monday.

Rafferty then produced a magnificent six-under-par 66 in the third round to moved up to joint second and close the gap on Lamprecht to one shot with 18 holes to play.

The news that he was in contention travelled fast and a large crowd made its way to Baltray for the afternoon round in the hope of seeing a Dundalk member win the East of Ireland for the first time since Mick Ferguson in 1949.

After three putting the opening hole for bogey, Rafferty soon settled down and birdies at the third, fourth and sixth moved him to 14 under. With the South African teenager having dropped shots at the second and fifth, Rafferty found himself leading the Championship with 11 holes to go.

However, a wayward tee shot on the eight found a deep fairway bunker on the right from which he could only pitch out and although he hit a glorious approach shot to within 15 feet of the pin he shaved the hole with his par-saving putt.

That left him tied for the lead but back to back bogeys on the 10th and 11th from the middle of the fairway saw him drop to 11-under and although he parred his way in, he couldn’t find the birdies he badly needed to haul the South African in.

To compound his disappointment Rafferty was pipped for second place by Mark Power who finished on 12-under thanks to three brides on the last six holes.

Nonetheless, it was a great performance from Rafferty, his best ever in one of the GUI’s major tournaments, and suggests that his day is not too far away at this stage.

His Dundalk team-mate, Aaron Grant failed to make the final day after a second round 81 undid his excellent score of 72 in the opening round. A triple bogey six at the par three seventh, when he was lying level par for the tournament, followed by bogeys at the next two holes proved to be his undoing.

Rafferty then headed to Scotland for the St Andrews Links Trophy which took place over the weekend but rounds of 73 and 74 saw him miss the cut, which fell at one-over par, by three shots

 

 

Dundalk reach Barton Shield quarter-finals

Barton Shield squad

Dundalk Golf Club have reached the last eight of the Leinster section of the Barton Shield for the second successive year after some superb performances at Balcarrick Golf Club over the weekend.

After qualifying in second place behind Portmarnock on Saturday, Dundalk then beat Greenore and Royal Dublin in Sunday’s matchplay ties to advance to the Leinster Finals which will take place in Mount Wolseley on the weekend of July 20 and 21.

With recently crowned club champion Caolan Rafferty away on international duty in France with Ireland, Dundalk managers Alan McCabe, John Conlon and Fergal Harte looked to Conor Curran to step up to the plate and he didn’t disappoint.

Curran partnered Irish Boys international Eoin Murphy while the experienced Aaron Grant was paired with the club’s other Boys International, Josh Mackin for the foursomes event.

Both pairings shot rounds of 76 as Dundalk finished three shots behind Portmarnock in qualifying but well inside the qualifying mark of 160 from which the field of 25 clubs was whittled down to eight for the matchplay phase where two clubs would qualify for the Leinster finals.

On Sunday morning, Dundalk faced neighbours Greenore and beat them by four holes with Murphy and Curran winning by one hole while Grant and Mackin were 3up when they were called in, having been all square at the turn.

That earned the team an afternoon match against Royal Dublin for a place in Mount Wolseley in July and things didn’t look good in the top match early on as Murphy and Curran found themselves two down but birdies on seven and 11 brought them back to all square.

They went behind again when they lost the 15th but came good in the end by winning the final two holes to win their match 1up.

Grant and Mackin got their noses in front early on by sinking birdie putts to win two of the first three holes and they then won the 10th and the 11th to extend their lead to four holes with seven to play.

They were still four ahead with four to play but then saw their lead halved when Royal Dublin won the 15th and 16th but a half on the 17th ensured a two hole victory as the match was called in once Murphy and Curran had got over the line up ahead.

Next up for Dundalk’s elite squad will be the Senior Cup qualifier on June 23 in Laytown & Bettystown when the format will be five singles matches.

Dundalk’s elite ladies were also in action on the Donabate peninsula on Sunday as they faced a Senior Foursomes qualifier along with 11 other clubs at Donabate Golf Club and were unlucky to encounter the worst of the heavy rain which fell in the Fingal area during the afternoon.

The team of Jennifer Holland, Criona O’Reilly, Jacinta Foran, Elaine Ward, Ann Hopper and Pauline Campbell missed out by two shots on qualifying for the next phase of the competition,

The JB Carr Diamond Trophy Team went down fighting as they tried in vain to overhaul a 0-5 deficit when they faced Greenore in the second leg of the Co Louth on the Cooley Peninsula last Friday. Despite giving from one to three shots to their opponents in each of their matches, the Dundalk pairings were two up in two matches and level in two others when they were called in after Greenore got the point they needed for overall victory with a 3&2 win as they closed out the top match on the 16th hole.

The inter-club competitions continue this week with all eyes on the All-Ireland Fourball team who meet Headfort on Saturday in the last 16 of the Leinster section. Three of the matches are in Kells with the other two in Dundalk.

 

Ladies Senior Foursomes team

 

 

Rafferty regains Club Championship

Caolan Rafferty

 

Caolan Rafferty regained the Club Championship on Saturday when shot a seven under par total of 137 to win the 36 hole event by nine shots from fellow plus player Aaron Grant.

Rafferty, who plays off plus four, shot a bogey free five under par 67 in his morning round and was four under par and bogey free after 15 holes of his second round before three putting the 16th and 17th and finishing with a two under par 70.

“After going for 33 holes without a bogey I was really disappointed to let it slip with three holes to go as I was trying to get around again in the afternoon without a bogey,” said Rafferty, who is currently finishing off his first year exams at Maynooth University before heading to Royal County Down on Thursday for the Flogas Irish Amateur Open and the start of a busy period of tournament golf at home and abroad.

Aaron Grant, who is now off plus three, was battling a head cold as well as the course and in the circumstances did remarkably well to produce two rounds of 73 to take second place. Conor Curran (2) took the best nett with a score of 145 after nett rounds of 73 and 72.

Saturday, May 12 – Club Championship (36 Holes): 137 – Caolan Rafferty (+4) 137 (67, 70), 146 – Aaron Grant (+3) 146 (73, 73). Best Nett: Conor Curran (2) 145 (73,72). CSS: 73 (Round 1), 76 (Round 2).