Senior panel reach Barton Shield semi-final

Dundalk Golf Club are through to the Leinster semi-finals of the Barton Shield after beating Carton House in the last eight at Seapoint on Saturday.

Last year Dundalk won the Leinster title to claim the club’s first ever senior pennant but lost out on the national crown when they were beaten by Athenry in the All-Ireland Final.

Caolan Rafferty took time out from his preparations for this week’s R&A Amateur Championship in Portmarnock to make himself available for the tie and he partnered Eoin Murphy in what turned out be a very close encounter.

The Dundalk pairing took a one hole lead twice after the third and 10th holes but were pulled back on both occasions to all square by Carton House birdies at the sixth and 11th.

Carton House finally got their noses in front on 14 when the Dundalk pairing recorded their only bogey of the day but they bounced back immediately with a birdie at the next hole, the par three 15th, to get back to all-square and it stayed that way until they were called in.

In the other match Aaron Grant and Josh Mackin were always in control having taken the lead with a birdie on the second hole. They stretched that lead to three holes by winning the fourth and fifth holes with pars before Mackin drained a 20 foot on the par five sixth for eagle and a four hole lead.

A bogey at the par five eighth saw them lose a hole but they won the ninth with another birdie to turn with a four hole lead which then stretched to five with a win on the 11th. Carton House did win 12 and 14 to pull the Dundalk lead back to three but a win on 16 restored the four hole advantage with two to play.

Dundalk will now face the winners of the quarter-final between Corrstown and Woodbrook on Saturday, July 27 at 7.30am in Royal Tara with the final due to take place at 1pm the same day. ENDS

Rafferty third in St Andrews Links Trophy

Caolan Rafferty finished third in the St Andrews Links Trophy in Scotland at the weekend. He shot rounds of 69, 65, 71 and 66 to finish on 17 under, three shots behind the winners, Jake Burnage of England.

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).

 

Rafferty in Walker Cup preliminary squad

West of Ireland champion Caolan Rafferty is one of five Irish players named in the preliminary Britain and Ireland squad for the biennial Walker Cup match against American which will be held in September at Royal Liverpool.

The 26 man squad will assemble at Royal Liverpool this Tuesday for a get-together ahead of the Lytham Trophy, which takes place in nearby St Anne from Friday to Sunday. Rafferty is one of the favourites in Lytham after finishing tied 21st, tied seventh, and tied 14th on his last three visits to Merseyside.

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.

 

 

Rafferty full of positives after South African trip

Caolan Rafferty

CAOLAN Rafferty headed home from a fortnight in South Africa full of positives after a productive start to his 2019 season.

The Dundalk Golf Club player spent two weeks in the South African sunshine as part of a GUI national squad that took part in the South African Amateur Championship and the South African Strokeplay Championship.

After reaching the semi-final of the Amateur Championship he bounced back from a poor first round to finished in joint 11th place at the Strokeplay Championship and also saw his world ranking rise to a career high 38th place which increases his chances of a first ever appearance at the American Amateur Championship in the summer.

His performance at the Amateur Championship, where he was second qualifier and then reached the last four of the matchplay phase, saw him jump 13 places in the world rankings and he admitted it was a postive start to the year.

“It’s great to get down that far in the rankings and it adds a little confidence. However, at the end of the day, it’s just a number and golf doesn’t take that into account so I have to just keep doing what I’m doing and try to keep improving my game. It’s been slowly improving week on week since 2015 so I don’t want that to stop.”

The picturesque De Zaize Golf Club, located on a working wine farm in the heart of the Stellenbosch wine region, was the venue for the Strokeplay Championship but it failed to inspire Rafferty in the opening round as he shot a three-over par 75 and found himself tied for 88th place and facing a battle to make the cut.

“I just didn’t feel myself,” he admitted. “I had a niggle in my shoulder and back, I was agitated and couldn’t settle which wasn’t like me so to shoot three over par the way I was feeling was actually a good score.

“However, I just knew if I played the golf I know I can I’d be fine in the second round. I actually knew if I played how I knew I could, I could even get back into contention.”

His self-belief shone through in the second round. After turning for home at one under following two birdies and one bogey on the front nine, Rafferty found his groove and four birdies down the back saw him sign for a five under par 67.

That left him on two under at the halfway stage and he had leapt 55 places up the leaderboard to joint 33rd. While the leader Jayden Schaper was on 14 under after a nine under par 63 in the second round, Rafferty was only seven shots off second place and full of confidence.

In the third round he birdied seven of the eight holes from the fourth and although he bogeyed the par three 12th he bounced back with another birdie, his eighth of the day, at the 13th. As he stood on the tee of the par three 16th he was seven under for the day and nine under for the tournament.

“I had just played the golf I am capable of doing. The courses we played in South Africa yielded a lot of chances. I had got a little help from Neil Manchip after round one and it all clicked. I actually fancied myself to be even lower than seven under at that point.”

His great run came to an end over the next two holes as he dropped three shots and ended up signing for a four under par 68 which moved him to joint 15th and within striking distance of a top ten finish going into the final round.

“On 16, which was a par three, I missed the green and didn’t get up and down. Then on 17, which was a par five, I pushed my tee shot into a hazard, dropped and had to lay up. My fourth shot landed six to eight feet from the pin and then spun back off the front of the green and down a bank from where I failed to get up and down. Dropping three shots in two holes was tough to take considering how well I had played for the previous 15 holes. It took me a while to get over it and be able to talk to the lads again.”

The fourth round offered Rafferty a realistic chance of a high finish and he teed it up full of confidence but ended up signing for a one under par 71 after a round that yielded five birdies, two bogies and a double bogey.

“My confidence was high even after a poor finish in the third round and I knew in myself I could go low. I had got a lot of texts from back home from my parents, girlfriend and the lads in the club which helped me and made me realise a low one could still be there.

“But, it ended up being a frustrating round where I just didn’t get going at all. I struggled early on and then it never took off. To shoot one under wasn’t the end of the world. I would have loved to shoot a couple better but that’s golf.”

Having started the second round on three over and in 88th place, to finish the tournament in 11th place on seven under represented an impressive turnaround and Rafferty aditted that he took a lot from the way he responded to that opening round.

“I was delighted to jump up the leaderboard considering the way I was feeling after round one. I was wondering how I would make the cut. I have got a lot out of the two weeks in South Africa and I will now get back to Maynooth and the book and catch up on my studies.”

Rafferty now plans to spend March practicing and studying and his next competitive outing is likely to be his defence of the Laytown and Bettystown Scratch Cup at the end of March before heading to Rosses Point for the West of Ireland Championship in early April.