Elite golfers flying the flag across the world

 It’s a busy time for Dundalk Golf Club’s elite golfers as they continue to represent the club with distinction across the world.

Caolan Rafferty faces the biggest test of his amateur career this week when he tees it up among the world’s elite at the American Amateur Championship which is being played at the world famous Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina.

The 26-year-old will start his bid to qualify for the 64 player matchplay stage at 6.12pm (Irish time) on Monday on Pinehurst’s famed No.2 course which has hosted more single golf championships than any other course in America and will stage the US Open in 2024 having last staged it in 2014. His second round on Tuesday will be at 12.57pm on Pinehurst No.4 and he will play both rounds in the company of Americans Pierceson Coody and Ryan Burnett.

Rafferty flew out to America last Thursday in the company of British Amateur Champion James Sugure from Mallow and Australian Amateur Champion Conor Purcell from Portmarnock and admits having his Irish team-mates with him this week will be a big help.

“We’re sharing a house and hopefully all of us will be here until the final day,” said Rafferty. Rafferty, who has already won the West of Ireland Championship this year, played in Arizona last December and hopes that experience will help him.

“It probably wasn’t the best time of the year for me to go over but it was a good experience because it is different and I hope it will help me this week.”

Rafferty’s big goal this year is to make the Britain and Ireland team for the Walker Cup in Royal Liverpool next month and with the ten-man team set to be named next week he knows that a good performance in Pinehurst will be a big help to his chances.

“I’ve just got to keep doing what I have been doing and hopefully it will be good enough to get me a place. But you never know what could happen,” he said.

Rafferty’s involvement in the American Amateur meant he missed the Irish Close Championship in Ballybunion where his club-mate, and Barton Shield partner, Eoin Murphy flew the flag for Dundalk with some distinction.

Murphy recorded his best ever performance at a senior championship by reaching the quarter-finals where he lost 3&1 to Dun Laoghaire’s Alan Fahy,

After shooting rounds of 75 and 71 to qualify in 19th place on +4, Murphy beat William Small (Tandragee), Kevin Stack (Dungarvan) and Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint) in the matchplay rounds to reach the last eight.

It was a good week too for Josh Mackin as the Ulster Boys Champions played for Ireland in the Boys Home Internationals in Wales where they came within a whisker of dethroning champions England.

Mackin formed a superb foursomes partnership with Royal Dublin’s Max Faulkner and the pair won all three of their matches against Scotland, Wales and England while in the singles Mackin gained half-a-point against Scotland, won his match against Wales and was agonisingly beaten by one hole by England’s Max Hopkins as Ireland lost 8-7 to the English.

A haul of four-and-a-half points out of a possible six was an excellent return and caps what has been a fine year to date for the 18-year-old. Finally, Brendan Lawlor continues to blaze a trail for disability golf and this week he will tee it up against male and female professionals at the ISPS Handa World Invitational at Galgorm Castle. This is a tournament where men and women will compete at the same venue at the same time with the professionals sharing equal prize money.

“I believe this will be the first time a disability golfer will compete on the same stage over the same course as the professionals in a Challenge Tour event,” said Lawlor who is a member of Dundalk’s Senior Panel.     

Dundalk retains Leinster Barton Shield pennant

Our Senior Panel have retained the Leinster Barton Shield and booked their place in the All-Ireland semi-final in Westport at the end of September.

Last Saturday at Royal Tara Golf Club, Dundalk beat Woodbrook in the provincial semi-final in the morning before defeating The Island in the final to win a second successive senior pennant.

“Last year was the first time since the Club was founded in 1905 that we won a senior pennant so to have gone out this year and retained it is very special and a great achievement by the lads,” said John Conlon who jointly manages the team with Alan McCabe.

“But it is only a step towards our ultimate goal this year which is to win the All-Ireland title. We were very disappointed to lose in last year’s final and our whole focus this year has been on getting back to the national final and bringing a green pennant back to Dundalk.”

The Barton Shield is a competition for elite players with two two-man pairings playing, off scratch, in a foursomes matchplay format and the match being decided by the aggregate number of holes won.

Dundalk got a massive boost on the eve of the Leinster finals when Caolan Rafferty announced he was available to play after being knocked out in the second round of the South of Ireland Championship on Friday evening.

“We were planning without Caolan because he was the defending champion in the South of Ireland and we were all hoping that he would be in the mix over the weekend,” said Conlon. “It is testament to the type of person he is that immediately after losing on the 20th hole of his second round match, he got into his car and phoned to say he was on his way back and would be in Navan in the morning.”

Quite how Woodbrook felt when the plus six handicapper, who has been named on the 14 man panel from which the ten players to represent Britain and Ireland in the Walker Cup will be picked, teed it up isn’t known, but after winning the first hole they must have felt they were going to benefit from a post-Lahinch hangover.

It proved to be a short-lived feeling because on the second hole Rafferty fired an approach shot to 15 feet and his partner Eoin Murphy sank the birdie putt to bring the match back to all-square.

At the next hole, the Dundalk pairing went one up after Woodbrook put their third shot in the bushes behind the green and stretched their lead to two holes on the par four sixth when Murphy drove around the dog-leg to within 10 yards of the front of the green and Rafferty chipped in for an eagle two.

Although they lost the seventh they turned for home three up after winning the eighth and ninth with birdies. They lost the tenth but restored their three shot advantage on the 12th.

It was clear at this stage that this match was going to decide who would advance to the final because up ahead Josh Mackin and Brendan Lawlor were heading for defeat after a frustrating morning on the greens.

After losing the first hole, they got back to all square by winning the third in par. However, they lost the fourth, sixth and seventh to fall three holes behind by the turn. The Dundalk pairing did rally on the back nine by winning the tenth and 13th to reduce the deficit to one hole but then lost the 14th to birdie and the 15th to par to find themselves three behind again with just three holes to go.

By this point it was a case of limit the damage and hope Rafferty and Murphy in the match behind could win by more than they lost. The youngsters dug deep to win the par five 18th where Mackin found the fairway, Lawlor drilled a two iron 260 yards to off the back of the green, Mackin chipped on to three feet and Lawlor sank the birdie putt.

As that putt dropped, Murphy was pitching in to 10 feet on the 17th and when Woodbrook missed their birdie putt from 30 feet, Rafferty lagged his putt to the edge of the hole and Dundalk’s place in the afternoon final was secured.

The other semi-final between The Island and Palmerstown House went to 19th Hole, giving the Dundalk players some extra time to recover before the final. The managers made one change for the afternoon with the experienced Aaron Grant coming in for debutant Brendan Lawlor as Josh Mackin’s partner in the top match.

“It was great to give Brendan his Barton Shield debut and let him get some very valuable playing time. His approach shot and putt on 18 were crucial to the win in the morning and being able to bring in a fresh and experienced Aaron Grant in the afternoon was a big boost,” said Conlon.

After halving the first three holes of their match against Jonathon Quinn and Rhys Clarke, Grant and Mackin got their noses in front by winning the fourth with a birdie. They extended their lead to two holes by winning the ninth with a birdie but then bogeyed the par three 13th to go back to one up.

Behind them, things didn’t start so well as Rafferty and Murphy lost the first two holes to birdies from Fergal Kennedy and Jack Blake, but they won the third and brought the match back to all square on the seventh when Murphy holed a testy left to right breaking putt following a sublime chip from Rafferty from the back of the green.

A superb tee shot from Rafferty on the par three 11th to six feet set up Murphy for a birdie that put the Dundalk pairing in front for the first time and they followed that up with birdies on the next two holes as Murphy drained putts from 20 and 15 feet respectively to go three up with five to play.

The next three holes were halved and as the two Dundalk pairings went down the 17th they were lying four up overall with four to play. It all ended when Aaron Grant cooly sank a six foot putt to win the 17th in his match and seal a five hole victory for the defending champions.

“The Club is extremely proud of our Senior Panel who have worked very hard over the last number of years to become Leinster champions,” said Dundalk Club Captain Pat Davis.

“It was a massive breakthough last year to win our first senior pennant and reach the All-Ireland Final and to retain it is a tremendous achievement. I would like to congratulate the managers, the players, the caddies and our club professional Leslie Walker for a job well done and we are all looking forward to going to Westport in September and having another shot at winning the national title.”

Lawlor comes from behind to win EDGA Scottish Open

Brendan Lawlor came out on top when the inaugural EDGA Scottish Open was held alongside the European Tour’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club over the weekend.

The 36 hole event featured ten players from the World Rankings for Golfers with Disability taking each other on over the same layout the European Tour field were tackling in the third Rolex Series event of the season.

Lawlor carded a 77 in round one on Saturday to lie third overnight and produced the lowest round of the event when he shot a level par 71 to finish on six over, one shot clear of World Number One George Groves.

“It feels great,” said Lawlor after his victory. “Today everything clicked, I smoothed it off the tee, I didn’t miss many fairways and the putts dropped when I needed them to drop. I had a few bogeys coming in but we’ll put that down to a wee bit of nerves.

“I felt I played a lot better than six over on Saturday. The course was really, really hard and was playing 7,200 yards with no run on the ball because it was quite wet. However, I felt I had a chance being three behind with only two players ahead of me and I got off to the start I wanted to on Sunday.”

Lawlor started the day three shots behind Groves but was brilliant on the front nine, birdieing the fourth, fifth and seventh to lead by one at turn despite dropping a shot on the ninth.

Groves – who has a paralysis of the left arm called Erb’s Palsy – made gains of his own on the first and seventh but dropped shots on the second, third, sixth and eighth, and further bogeys on the tenth and 11th left the Englishman two behind, with Lawlor also bogeying the 11th. Lawlor dropped a shot on the 13th but moved back two ahead as he picked it straight back up on the next. A bogey on the 17th then set up a tense finish but Groves parred his final seven holes to leave Lawlor signing for a 71 to claim the title and add another memorable week to his CV.

“Everyone out here are unbelievable payers and it’s great to showcase it. To be out here this week competing with all the pros and having the chance to play off the same tees, it’s a privilege for all of us,” said Lawlor.

“To play in such a fantastic event, it’s an amazing achievement for EDGA to get us in and for the European Tour to accept that disability golfers are talented is fantastic as well. Inclusion is everything in the world and it’s fantastic to be accepted.

“For so many professional golfers to accept what we’re doing and accept that we can play with them, it’s fantastic. They can see our talent and that’s helping too.”

Lawlor will be back mixing it with the pros in August when he takes part in the European Challenge Tour’s KPMG Trophy in Belgium in August which was his prize for winning G-Golf Knockout against Adem Wahbi at the Belgian Knockout a few weeks ago.

The World Number Three, who is a member of Dundalk’s Senior Panel, plays off scratch and has Ellis-Van Creveld syndrome, a disability characterised by a shorter stature and shorter limbs.

The EDGA Scottish Open is the first of two disability championships scheduled alongside Rolex Series events on the 2019 Race to Dubai, with the 36 hole EDGA Dubai Finale due to feature as part of the season ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai at Jumeirah Golf Estates in November. 

“I felt I played a lot better than six over on Saturday. The course was really, really hard and was playing 7,200 yards with no run on the ball because it was quite wet. However, I felt I had a chance being three behind with only two players ahead of me and I got off to the start I wanted to on Sunday.”

Lawlor started the day three shots behind Groves but was brilliant on the front nine, birdieing the fourth, fifth and seventh to lead by one at turn despite dropping a shot on the ninth.

Groves – who has a paralysis of the left arm called Erb’s Palsy – made gains of his own on the first and seventh but dropped shots on the second, third, sixth and eighth, and further bogeys on the tenth and 11th left the Englishman two behind, with Lawlor also bogeying the 11th. Lawlor dropped a shot on the 13th but moved back two ahead as he picked it straight back up on the next. A bogey on the 17th then set up a tense finish but Groves parred his final seven holes to leave Lawlor signing for a 71 to claim the title and add another memorable week to his CV.

“Everyone out here are unbelievable payers and it’s great to showcase it. To be out here this week competing with all the pros and having the chance to play off the same tees, it’s a privilege for all of us,” said Lawlor.

“To play in such a fantastic event, it’s an amazing achievement for EDGA to get us in and for the European Tour to accept that disability golfers are talented is fantastic as well. Inclusion is everything in the world and it’s fantastic to be accepted.

“For so many professional golfers to accept what we’re doing and accept that we can play with them, it’s fantastic. They can see our talent and that’s helping too.”

Lawlor will be back mixing it with the pros in August when he takes part in the European Challenge Tour’s KPMG Trophy in Belgium in August which was his prize for winning G-Golf Knockout against Adem Wahbi at the Belgian Knockout a few weeks ago.

The World Number Three, who is a member of Dundalk’s Senior Panel, plays off scratch and has Ellis-Van Creveld syndrome, a disability characterised by a shorter stature and shorter limbs.

The EDGA Scottish Open is the first of two disability championships scheduled alongside Rolex Series events on the 2019 Race to Dubai, with the 36 hole EDGA Dubai Finale due to feature as part of the season ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai at Jumeirah Golf Estates in November. 

Top ten finishes in Europe for Rafferty and Lawlor

Caolan Rafferty and Brendan Lawlor both missed the weekend Senior Cup action as they were in Austria and Czech Republic respectively and posted top ten finished in their respective events.

Rafferty was in action last week at the European Amateur Championship in Austria where he finished tied sixth and was the leading Irish player. He shot rounds of 67, 74, 70 and 69 for an eight under par total of 280 which was seven shots behind the winner Matthias Schmid of Germany.

Rafferty’s next international outing will be the European Amateur Team Championships from July 9 to 13 in Sweden where he will be part of a six-man Irish team and he is also due to head to North Carolina in August for the American Amateur Championship which is being staged at the legendary Pinehurst course.

Brendan Lawlor finished third at the Czech Disabled Golf Masters 2019 at Golf Club Mstětice over the weekend. He led after the first round of the 36 hole event following a two under par 70 but went round in 75 in the final round for an overall score of 145 which was two shots behind winner Mike Browne of England.

Lawlor’s next outing will be the Scottish Open which is being run in conjunction with the European Tour’s Scottish Open where the pros will be fine-tuning their links game ahead of the British Open in Royal Portrush the following week.

Rafferty’s next international outing will be the European Amateur Team Championships from July 9 to 13 in Sweden where he will be part of a six-man Irish team and he is also due to head to North Carolina in August for the American Amateur Championship which is being staged at the legendary Pinehurst course.

Brendan Lawlor finished third at the Czech Disabled Golf Masters 2019 at Golf Club Mstětice over the weekend. He led after the first round of the 36 hole event following a two under par 70 but went round in 75 in the final round for an overall score of 145 which was two shots behind winner Mike Browne of England.

Lawlor’s next outing will be the Scottish Open which is being run in conjunction with the European Tour’s Scottish Open where the pros will be fine-tuning their links game ahead of the British Open in Royal Portrush the following week.

Dundalk beaten in Senior Cup Regional Final

Despite hosting the event in Dundalk, the Senior Panel were beaten in the Regional Final of the AIG Senior Cup on Sunday by an excellent Laytown & Bettytown team who now progress to the Leinster quarter-final.

The Meathmen laid down a very impressive marker in the strokeplay qualifying on Saturday when they lead home the field by six shots with a combined score of 292 from the four counting scorecards. Greenore came next on 298 with Dundalk on 301 and Skerries on 302 as the top four advanced to Sunday’s matchplay semi-finals.

Laytown booked their place in the final with a comfortable 4-1 win over Skerries but the other semi-final went right to wire. Eoin Murphy and Josh Mackin were both winners for Dundalk while Aaron Grant and Conor Curran both lost to leave it at 2-2 with Dundalk’s Neal MacKell one down with two to play. However, last year’s Junior Cup winner showed nerved of steel to win the two final holes in a dramatic finish and seal Dundalk’s place in the regional final.

Any hopes that home advantage would favour Dundalk in the final proved unfounded as the well prepared Laytown team took the first three matches to seal victory with Eoin Murphy losing 2&1while Conor Curran and Neal MacKell were both beaten by two holes having taken their matches to the 18th. Aaron Grant and Josh Mackin were both called in once the Layotwn secured their third point.

Caolan Rafferty and Brendan Lawlor both missed the weekend Senior Cup action as they were in Austria and Czech Republic respectively and posted top ten finished in their respective events.

Saturday, June 29 and Sunday, June 30 – AIG Senior Cup Regional Qualifier – Qualifying: 292 Laytown & Bettystown; 298 Greenore; 301 Dundalk; 302 Skerries; 304 Co Louth; 308 Ardee; 313 Balcarrick; 315 Balbriggan; 320 Rush; 322 Hollywood Lakes. CSS: 73. Semi-finals: Laytown & Bettystown bt Skerries 4/1; Dundalk bt Greenore 3/2. Final: Laytown & Bettystown bt Dundalk 4/1.

Knockout win tees Lawlor up for Challenge Tour date

Dundalk Golf Club’s Brendan Lawlor is set to tee it up with pros after winning an invite to the 2019 KPMG Trophy, a European Challenge Tour event which will be played in Belgium from August 29 to September 1.

The final day of the recent Belgian Knockout tournament on the European Tour featured the G-GOLF Knockout which was a nine-hole stroke play knockout match between two golfers with disability. Lawlor, the current World Number Three in the World Rankings for Golfers with Disability (WR4GD), defeated home favourite and WR4GD Number Five Adem Wahbi by three shots at Rinkven International Golf Course to earn his invite to the Challenge Tour event.

“It’s a fantastic accomplishment, we’re both winners today but I’m getting the prize, it’s really good,” said Lawlor after his victory. “Disability golf is getting more and more seen now all over the world and the European Tour have joined with EDGA, so we’re getting more chances like this to put on a wee show for the fans.

“It’s mind-blowing to get the invite. It’s my first outing in my first professional event. For a disability golfer to play, I think it’s the first time it’s ever happened, so it will be huge step forward for golf, not only for myself but for disability golf, to show other people what I’m capable of,” said Lawlor.

Lawlor also played with the pros in the pro-am on the eve of last month’s Betfred British Masters where the European Tour announced two tournaments for Golfers with Disability. The 36-hole EDGA Scottish Open and the 36-hole EDGA Dubai Finale will be played over the weekends of two of this season’s biggest Rolex Series events, the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club and the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai at Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Scoring for both tournaments will feature on the European Tour’s website and App for fans to follow, while television coverage of both contests will form part of the world feed broadcast, and the winner in Scotland will also take part in the main prize-giving ceremony on Sunday afternoon.

Mackin is Club Champion

 Josh Mackin’s rich vein of form continued on Saturday when he won the Club Championship and in the process moved his handicap to plus one for the first time in his career.

The 17-year-old, who recently won the Ulster Boys Championship, shot rounds of 70 and 71 to take the title by two shots from the defending champion, Araon Grant with Irish international and current holder of West of Ireland and South of Ireland Championships, Caolan Rafferty, in third place a shot further back.

Mackin started slowly and was three over after four holes and although he got one back with a birdie at the sixth he gave it back at the ninth as he turned in three over par 39. A birdie on the par five 10th got him back to two over before he produced a remarkable run of six consecutive threes to cover the final six holes in four under as he came home in five under par for 31.

That left him leading after the first round by three shots from Grant and Eoin Murphy who both shot 73 with Brendan Lawlor a shot further back. Caolan Rafferty found himself five off the lead after a three over par 75.

Rafferty, however, responded in the second round with a three under par 69, the only sub-70 round of the tournament while Grant shot a two under par 70 and Murphy and Lawlor botrh carded 71s as the chasing pack tried to put pressure on the teenage leader.

Mackin, however, held his nerve in the second round although he once again struggled on the front nine. Despite starting with four successive pars and birdieing the sixth, he dropped shots at the fifth, seventh and ninth to turn in 39. However, birdies at two par fives, the 10th and 12th, and an eagle two on short par four 14th got him under par for this round and although he birdied the 15th, he handed that back when he bogeyed 17.

He came home in 32 for a second round total of 71 and finished on three under with a total score of 141. That was enough to get his handicap below scratch as he becomes the fourth Dundalk player currently playing off a plus handicap.

Six members of the Senior Panel took part in Sunday’s Warrenpoint Scratch Cup where Caolan Rafferty finished second after round 70 and 69. Rafferty has been named in the GUI Squad for the St Andrews Links Trophy in Scotland from June 7 to 9.

Saturday, May 11 – Club Championship: 141 – Josh Mackin (70, 71). 143 – Aaron Grant (73, 70). 144 – Caolan Rafferty (75, 69), Eoin Murphy (73, 71). 145 – Brendan Lawlor (74, 71). 149 – Neal MacKell (75, 74), Peter Rogers (75, 74).

 

Lawlor finishes second in France

Brendan Lawlor

Brendan Lawlor made it a great weekend for Dundalk’s elite players when he finished second in the opening event on the 2019 European Disabled Golfers Tour.

Winds in excess of 50mph on day one of the Pas De Clalais Handigolf Open in France saw Lawlor shoot a ten over par 83 to lie well done the field at the halfway stage.

But he came charging back in the final round and shot a three under par 70 to climb up the leaderboard and finish in second place, five shots behind the winner, Charl Henri Quelin of France.