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.

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.

Lawlor inspires the World to victory in Disabled Cup

Brendan Lawlor (centre) celebrates with his teammates after winning the first Disabled Cup

 

Dundalk Golf Club’s Brendan Lawlor is on top of the world after helping the World Team beat Australia in the first ever ISPS Handa Disabled Golf Cup in Melbourne.

Played alongside the World Cup of Golf, the two day event was a further opportunity, after last week’s Australian All Abilities Championship in Sydney, for 12 of the world’s top disabled golfers to show their skills off to a wider audience in an intensely competitive environment.

Lawlor, who finished second in last week’s event, teamed up with Spain’s Juan Postigo in Friday’s foursomes and Saturday’s fourballs, to deliver two emphatic wins and two vital points as they led the World team from the front to a 3.5 to 2.5 victory over Australia.

The 21-year-old admitted the past two weeks has been amazing for both himself and disabled golf.

“The second place finish in Sydney gave me amazing exposure over here and I definitely saw that when we moved to Melbourne. The cameras were always on us and the crowds were in awe in what we were doing as we were playing the same course as the professionals.

“It was a great honour to be the first disabled golfers to lift the trophy. It was even better for it to be presented to us by Peter Phillips who is a fantastic ISPS Handa ambassador and a great guy,” said Lawlor.

Such was the impact Lawlor has had since arriving in Australia that when he arrived at Melbourne’s Metropolitan Golf Club, Ireland’s World Cup team of Shane Lowry and Paul Dunne sought him out and invited him to join them for a practice round.

“Shane and Paul are two gents. They approached me and said hello first. They knew who I was and it felt amazing. Playing golf with them was even better,” recalled Lawlor.

Lawlor and Postigo were handed the honour of leading the World team out in Friday’s foursomes and it didn’t take them long to put the first point on the board as they proved too strong for Mike Rolls and Tony Coates in what were extremely tough conditions.

They won 6&4 and helped the World team lead Australia 2-1 after the opening day with Lawlor happy with how they had played.

“It felt pretty good,” Lawlor said. “We were pretty slow to start but we hit a lot of good shots and from seven to 12 we played pretty steady.

“Myself and my partner Juan stayed calm when the weather was really bad because we knew the scores weren’t going to be as good. We played really solid and were only two over for 14 holes as we both holed key putts.”

On Saturday they were again sent out first as The World team looked for the 1.5 points they needed to take the trophy. Lawlor and Postigo again showed the way by finishing the job on the 14th as they romped to a 5&4 victory over Australia’s Cameron Pollard and Tony Coates.

They were a remarkable three-under-par when the match ended but Lawlor admitted it took them a while to get control of the match.

“The weather today was really nice. It was windy but it was warm. I got off to a slow start today even though I had a great par on the first. The next few holes I went stale but Juan played really solid when I wasn’t playing well. We were one over after eight and I then hit this three wood to 60 feet on nine and holed it for eagle was an amazing moment and a big moment in the game. We stayed steady and were three under for the 14 holes we played which was solid shooting.

“Me and Juan got on like a house on fire. He is a Spanish disability golfer with an amazing talent and is ranked number one in Europe. We gelled really well both days and had a laugh and played great golf.”

Lawlor had his father on his bag with him for the two tournaments in Australia and admitted it was special to be able to share those great moments with him.

“Dad is an amazing caddie. I give him a hard time sometimes when the game isn’t going to plan. But the support both my parents have given me all my life, not just the last two weeks is lovely. Second in Sydney and winning two points for Europe, the caddie must be doing something right, or maybe it’s the player!”

Lawlor’s big objectives include trying to form an Irish Disabled Golfers Association and helping to promote golf’s case for inclusion in the 2024 Paralympics. He believes that the past two weeks have helped both objectives take a big step forward.

“Yes, the last two weeks will 100 per cent help promote the game. The crowds in Australia had more interest in watching us than the pros, which was quite extraordinary. The pros loved it too and they treated us like their own. I played a pro-am with Thomas Pieters and he is one great guy.”

Lawlor now heads back to Ireland and will finally have an opportunity to take stock on what has been an unbelievable year for him. As well as his Australian exploits it included wins on the European Disabled Golfers Tour in France and Czech Republic and saw him move to third in the World Rankings. He also mixed it with able-bodied golfers at the highest level and was part of Dundalk’s senior panel which won the Leinster Barton Shield and reached the semi-finals of Leinster Senior Cup. Lawlor won both his matches in the Senior qualifiers of the Senior Cup at Laytown & Bettystown and also succeeded in getting his playing handicap down to one.

ENDS

 

Lawlor second at Australian All Abilities Championship

Brendan Lawlor in action in Australia

 

BRENDAN Lawlor produced a superb performance over the weekend to finish second in the Australian All Abilities Championship in Sydney and copper-fasten his position as one of the top disabled golfers in the world.

The 21-year-old member of Dundalk Golf Club was one of 12 players from around the world who took part in what was a tournament within a tournament as the disabled players teed it up alongside the professionals playing in the Emirates Australian Open at East Lake Golf Club.

Lawlor finished 10 shots behind Sweden’s Johan Kammerstad who blew the field away with a blistering final round that included five birdies but Lawor, who had started the day three shots off the lead in joint second place, held on to edge out Belgium’s Adam Wahbi and take the runners-up spot.

“It was the best experience of my life,” said Lawlor afterwards. “Playing in front of 5,000 people was incredible and when I put it into five feet on the last the crowd went nuts. When you shoot the same score as some of the pros you know you did okay.”

The disabled golfers played a 54 hole tournament starting on Friday and that was the only difference to the professionals competing for the Australian Open who began their 72 hole competition on Thursday,

Lawlor and his colleagues played off the championship tees and experienced the very same conditions as the pros over their three days of a competition that attracted huge media attention in Australian and saw the Louthman feature regularly on the television coverage of the event.

The Dundalk senior panel player got off to a great start in his opening round which he started off the tenth tee and, after parring his opening three holes, notched a birdie three at the 13th. He was leading playing his final hole, the par three ninth, but he double bogeyed to drop back to second, one shot behind Wahbi.

The second round on Saturday was much tougher for everybody as the wind howled across the famous Sydney links and made it a battle to survive. Lawlor followed up his opening round of 78 with an 85 but stayed second, just three shots behind new leader Kammerstad and alongside Wahbi.

The three leaders were grouped together in the final round and it soon became clear that Kammerstad was on fire and wasn’t going to be caught so Lawlor focused on ensuring he finished ahead of the Belgium which he did as he carded an 80 to Wahbi’s 83.

“I am disappointed with not winning but second on a stage like this is more than amazing. Just being here would have been good,  even if I had finished last.”

One of the purposes of this event was to increased the profile of disabled golf with a view to it becoming a Paralympic sport in 2024 but such was the successes of the event in Australia that there is now speculation that it may feature at next year’s Open Championship in Portrush.

Lawlor now heads from Sydney to Melbourne to take part in a Ryder Cup style event between Europe and Australia which will be part of the World Cup of Golf. Ireland will be represented at that event by Shane Lowry and Paul Dunne and Lawlor is looking forward to meeting the pair later this week.

ENDS

Lawlor ready to tee up with the pros in Australia

Brendan Lawlor

Dundalk Golf Club’s Brendan Lawlor is preparing for the trip of a lifetime in November when he will head to Sydney to tee it alongside the professionals playing in the Emirates Australian Open. Last year’s event included Jason Day and Jordan Speith and previous winners have included Speith, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Lee Westwood and Greg Norman.

Lawlor is among 12 of the top disabled golfers in the world who will be playing for the Australian All Abilities Championships alongside the professionals at The Lakes Golf Club as part of an initiative to help golf become more inclusive at all levels and also help the case being made by the International Golf Federation for the sport to be included in the 2024 Paralympics in France.

“This is the very first time it has happened,” explained Lawlor. “There was a display at the Portuguese Masters but nothing like this where we will be playing competitively in the same field as the professionals.

“Ours is a three day event, theirs is a four day event. But when the cut is made you will be paired with a pro-golfer and playing the same course,” added Lawlor who is travelling Down Under as one of seven European players in the field and with a huge incentive.

“If I win in Australia I can go to world number one so that’s my goal. I’m number three at the moment and getting to number one would be huge for me.”

Lawlor, who has Ellis-Van Creveld Syndrome, a bone growth disorder that leads to shorter limbs, is a member of the European Disabled Golfers Tour and although he only joined it late last year it didn’t take him to long to find his feet. This year he won in Portugal, France and Czech Republic to shoot up both the European and World rankings.

“It’s been fantastic. The talent that’s out there on tour is amazing. I couldn’t get over it the first time I played. There were people with one leg and one arm hitting it 260 yards. You wouldn’t see able bodied people doing that.

“What helps me is probably competing at able bodied golf all my life and playing with Dundalk and also in Ardee at the start. I’ve played able bodied golf all my life and I knew I had the game and the confidence to succeed in it.”

Lawlor is a member of Dundalk’s Senior Panel which won the Leinster Barton Shield title, reached the semi-final of the Leinster Senior Cup and was beaten in the All-Ireland Barton Shield Final this year. He says that playing senior golf in Ireland has helped his game and contributed to his success on the EDGA Tour.

“The standard here is a little bit better than the standard would be out on tour. The best out there is really good, but at club level I’m competing against Caolan Rafferty off plus five and Aaron Grant off plus three so it doesn’t really get better than that. When you are going out there on tour, knowing you’ve been playing against Caolan or Aaron, it gives you confidence.”

Lawlor, who is 21, has only been playing golf for six years having started in pitch and putt because he didn’t think he would have the strength needed for the bigger game.

“I didn’t think I was strong enough at the start so I started playing pitch and putt and I got to the highest level in pitch and putt and won two All-Irelands. I was playing it week in week out. Then I started golf and was given a handicap of 28. I was down to 10 in my first year and I just kept plugging away and I am off one now. Put in the hard work and things will happen.”

That hard work is now reaping unthinkable dividends for Lawlor as he prepares to head to Australia and his date with the pros which will then be followed by a Ryder Cup style match between Europe and Australia in Melbourne.

“It’s a great buzz. If I stuck at able bodied golf my whole life I’d never get this opportunity so it is opening massive doors for me.”

He is hoping that the exposure disabled golf gets from playing alongside the professionals in the Australian Open will persuade the powers-that-be to allow the sport into the 2024 Paralympics as he would love the opportunity of going for gold in France in six years’ time.

“I am third in the world and I want to be competing in the Paralympcis,” stated Lawlor who along with another disabled golfer, Gareth McNeely, is currently trying to set up an Irish Disabled Golfers Association.

 

 

 

Trip to Tipp in search of Barton Shield glory

Dundalk Golf Club is making its own Trip to Tipp this week as its senior panel heads to Thurles for the All-Ireland Finals of the Barton Shield.

Having won the club’s first ever senior title in July when they captured the Barton Shield Leinster pennant, the senior panel are now looking to make history again by landing a first ever national pennant at senior level.

Dundalk’s only previous national men’s golf title was in 2004 when they won the Jimmy Bruen Shield and there is a strong desire around the Blackrock links to add another.

But it’s not going to be easy as Dundalk will face Munster champions Kinsale in their semi-final on Thursday morning and if they come through that assignment they will meet either Clandeboye or Athenry in Friday’s final.

The Munster finals were held in Thurles a few weeks ago so Kinsale will feel very much at home when they tee it up on Thursday. The Cork men are also guaranteed big support as they have also qualified for the national finals of the Jimmy Bruen Shield which are also being played in Thurles this week.

Like Dundalk, Kinsale won their first provincial Barton Shield pennant this year when they beat Munster Senior Cup winners Dungarvan in the provincial semi-final and then defeated Castletroy in the final.

They did it without their top player, Irish international John Murphy, a plus five handicap player who is on a golf scholarship in America. Murphy has had a great year, winning the St Andrews Trophy and making Ireland’s Eisenhower Trophy team so it remains to be seen if Kinsale will stick with the four men who got them to this stage – Gary Ward, Keith Fitzpatrick, Cathal Butler and Eric Rumley – or bring Murphy home to strengthen their challenge.

However, Alan McCabe, who manages the Dundalk team along with John Conlon, says the fact that Kinsale won the Munster title without Murphy shows the strength of their panel and he added that Dundalk will face a formidable challenge no matter who they face.

“They have an immediate advantage from the Munster finals being played in Thurles and having two teams qualified for this week means they will have no shortage of support. Winning a Munster senior title is no mean feat so they have to be respected. All we can do is concentrate on ourselves and ensure that we are ready to go on Thursday morning. We are well aware that we may never get this opportunity again to win a national title. This is a unique chance for the boys to bring a national pennant back to Dundalk and we intend to give it our best shot,” said McCabe.

Dundalk were in Thurles last weekend practicing and will head south on Tuesday to begin final preparations on a track that is not too dissimilar to their own course according to McCabe.

“It is similar to our own in that it is a traditional parkland course and a members club. The holes are tree-lined and there are some tricky greens. It is a great venue and the members and staff were lovely.”

The Barton Shield is a foursomes competition with each club fielding two pairings and the overall match is decided by the aggregate score of the two matches.

Dundalk will select their four players for Thursday’s semi-final from an eight strong panel that includes Irish international and South of Ireland champion Caolan Rafferty as well Aaron Grant, Eoin Murphy, Josh Mackin, Brendan Lawlor, Neal MacKell, Andrew Keenan and Conor Curran. All have been playing well this year and McCabe admits they face some tough decisions.

“There is huge competition among the eight players and they have pushed each other very hard all year. They have a great spirit and the four who don’t play will be fully behind those who are playing. They are proud to be not only representing the club but also Dundalk, Louth and Leinster.”

 

Schedule

AIG All-Ireland Barton Shield at Thurles Golf Club

Thursday, October 4

Semi-Finals: Dundalk v Kinsale 08:20, Clandeboye v Athenry 08:40

Friday, October 5

Final: 10:15

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