Rafferty focused on achieving more goals in 2020

CAOLAN RAFFERTY

CAOLAN Rafferty is still focused on amateur achievements as heads into 2020 and towards a major decision on his future direction.

The 27-year-old Dundalk golfer is in the final year of his Business degree at Maynooth University and has always insisted that any thoughts of turning professional won’t be entertained until after he graduates. But he admits that, even a few months out from his arrival at that significant crossroads, he is far from making his mind up on his future.

“I am genuinely still in limbo,” admitted Rafferty. “I don’t know whether to make the jump or go out into the big bad world and get a job. “It‘s something that I will sit down and have a chat about with my coach Dougie (Bell) and with Neil (Manchip). Neil will be a big help because he has been through situations like that with Shane (Lowry) and the boys and then obviously I’ll sit down with my family and see what they all make of it too.”

At present, Rafferty’s golfing focus is very much on the amateur game where he still has a lot of unfinished business despite having won the South of Ireland and West of Ireland Championships over the past two years and appeared in the Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool last September.

“2020 is going to be another busy year. There are a couple of extra teams involved in this year so hopefully I will make a few of them and the end goal this year is the Eishenhower Trophy. I just missed out last time when it was on in Carton House.

“Looking back, 2019 is as good a year as I probably could have hoped for. I think if someone had said to me, at the start of the year, this is what you are going to achieve in 2019, I would have took everything off them and ran for the hills.

“From the start of the year in South Africa right through to playing Walker Cup there is very little that I would change. So yeah, I would rate it as pretty much as good as I could have done.”

Having reached the semi-finals of the South African Amateur Championship, where he was beaten by one hole, Rafferty came home and captured the West of Ireland at Rosses Point.

“The win in the West was another big thing in the year. To win anything is big but to win one of the big championships here in Ireland is obviously that little bit sweeter. I think to win it the way I did win it as well, by a few shots, was nice.”

Rafferty’s other big highlight of 2019 was his appearance at the Walker Cup where he picked up one win from two outings in the singles having been overlooked for the foursomes on both days along with fellow Irishman James Sugrue.

“The Walker Cup was unbelievable from the minute you get there to the end of it. Obviously, I would have liked to play another game, maybe play foursomes on one of the days, but that’s just the way things go. But, other than that, it was just a fantastic week and I got to meet a great bunch of lads.”

Having beaten America’s Alex Smalley 2&1 on the Saturday afternoon, Rafferty was paired again with the Duke University golfer on the Sunday afternoon and was involved in a pulsating match that was eventually decided in favour of the American on the 17th.

“To just get a point on the board was fantastic. It would have been a bit sickening to go and get none but to actually get a point was sweet,” recalled Rafferty.

“I know I’ll never get a roar like I did on the Sunday when I chipped in on the fifth or chipped in on the seventh out of the bunker. There were a few moments in the match where I could have been dead and buried but the cheers and little things like interacting with the crowd was really cool.”

However, 2019 wasn’t without its disappointments with Ireland losing the Home Internationals in Lahinch and Dundalk again coming up short at the All-Ireland Barton Shield Finals while the loss of a five-shot lead in the final round of the R&A Scholars Tournament at St Andrews in April is still a raw memory months later.

“The winner gets a slot in the Palmer Cup which was on in America last year so to have a five-shot lead going into the last day and not get the win hurt a bit. But, at the same time, it fired me up and I went out the week after and won the West where I also had a five shot lead going into the last day.

“St Andrews was a disappointment, but I learnt an awful lot about myself and learnt a lot about how to deal with a disappointment like that there and how to cope a little bit better when you are five shots ahead. It seems like an awful lot but it’s only one hole at the end of the day in golf.”

Members of the Irish squad recently met up with Open Champion Shane Lowry and Rafferty admitted that many of the insights that the Offalyman shared with them that day struck a chord with him.

“Meeting Shane was class. He is such a genuine lad. He kind of just put it all into perspective. He was open and very honest. He gets nervous, everyone gets nervous and he said there are days that he has learned an awful lot about himself. The things that I could draw out of it, I went through myself.

“He knows what he wants, and he does what he wants, when he wants. That’s an attitude that gets you a good bit in golf. It’s important to please yourself and forget about what everyone else is saying about you. There are always going to be the people saying you should be doing this or should be doing that. Shane mentioned that about people saying he should have done this, or he should have done that, or he should still be something else, but at the end of the day he’s the one standing with a major and a lot of wins under his belt. You have to respect someone when they are so honest about it.”

Rafferty will be part of a group of Irish players who will once again start their season in South Africa and he admits that it has been of great benefit to him in each of the last two years.

“I always find that South Africa is really important to kick-start your season. You are going down there and playing some of the best courses in the world and because it is so early it gets you going earlier in the year. It shortens the winter and sharpens your tools and allows you to hit the ground running because you don’t want to be behind the mark at the start.

“You take a lot of confidence when you go down there and you compete against some of the best golfers in the world. You are playing golf courses that we don’t normally play and, if you do finish well, it just goes to prove that you have more in the bag than you would find if you were just at home playing links all the time.”

Rafferty will start 2020 as number one in the European Golf Association rankings and 15th in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, just one slot below his all-time high of 14th. Making the WAGR Top 10 is a major goal for the coming year but his belief hasn’t wavered that if he can continue to play good golf, everything else will look after itself.

“I’m just going to focus on playing good golf. If you play well all year, it will all look after itself and you won’t have to do anything different. It was something Shane alluded to. He plays his own game, he plays his own style, he doesn’t try to do anything different and that’s something I have spoken about with Neil and Dougie. It’s playing with what you have got. It’s not going to be pretty every day but if you can get around the golf course that’s half the battle. If I do that, all the rankings will look after themselves, teams will look after themselves, and tournaments will look after themselves.”

Rafferty ranked No.1 in Europe

Congratulations to Caolan Rafferty who is currently ranked No.1 on the European Golf Rankings which is compiled by the European Golf Association and is based on performances over the past 52 weeks.

Caolan has also reached a career-high 14th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking in recent weeks and is also ranked 17th in the World Scratch Golfers Amater Rankings.

2019 has been another brilliant year for Caolan with the highlights being his appearance in the Walker Cup, his win at the West of Ireland and his semi-final appearance at the South African Amateur Open Championship.

Four Dundalk players in GUI coaching panels

The GUI announced their national, provincial and regional coaching panels for 2020 last week with Walker Cup star Caolan Rafferty retaining his place in the national panel while Zak Alderdice and Joseph Laverty are on the Leinster U16 Regional Panel and Louis Goodman is on the U14 panel.

Top 20 finishes for Rafferty, Mackin and Murphy in Spain

There were Top 20 finishes for Caolan Rafferty, Josh Mackin and Eoin Murphy in the third round of the R & A Student Series last week at the Centro National de Golf in Madrid.

Making his first appearance in the Series, Rafferty shot a two under par 70 in the final round to finish third overall on two over after opening rounds of 75 and 73.

Mackin, who won the second round of the series in Carton House in September, had been lying third going into the final round after opening with a 76 and a 69 which was the joint best round of the week. However, he shot 80 in the final round and finished 11th overall.

Murphy shot round of 77, 75 and 75 to finish in 17th place overall which was two places better than his position in the second series.

The three Dundalk players were all representing Maynooth University in the tournament.

The leading players in the Series after the fourth event in Portugal will be invited to the Tour Series Final in Carnoustie and St Andrews next year.

Dundalk players in action at home and abroad

Dundalk players were in action at home and abroad over the last week with mixed fortunes.

Josh Mackin and Eoin Murphy finished fifth and sixth respectively at the Irish Intervarsity ChamDundalk pionship in St Anne’s.

Mackin finished four shots behind the winner, UCD’s Charlie Denvir, after rounds of 76, 70, 73 left him on six over while Murphy was a shot behind his Dundalk and Maynooth University teammate on seven over after rounds of 76, 73 and 71.

Caolan Rafferty was part of a six man Irish team that was beaten by one point by the Metropolitan Golf Association in the annual Carey Cup match which was played in Arcola Country Club in New Jersey last week.

On Day 1 he birdied the last hole in the fourball to earn himself and partner Conor Purcell a half and in the afternoon foursomes the same pairing were one up with eight to play but lost four consecutive holes from the 13th to birdie as their American opponents came from behind to win 3&2.

A similar fate befell Rafferty in the singles on Day 2 when he was beaten 6&4 by Thomas LaMorte. Rafferty was two up after four but then got blown away as the American fired in eight birdies over the next ten holes to win on the 14th.

Dundalk lose in Barton Shield All-Ireland semi-final

Dundalk Golf Club’s latest bid to win its first national senior title ended in disappointment last Friday morning when they were beaten by Co Sligo Golf Club in the semi-finals of the AIG Barton Shield in Westport.

Having lost in last year’s All-Ireland Final to Athenry, Dundalk travelled to the Co Mayo venue hoping to go one better after winning back to back Leinster titles in July when they beat The Island in the provincial decider at Royal Tara.

They went into the last four as second favourites behind Warrenpoint, who were bidding for their third Barton Shield title in four years, but, like Dundalk, they too fell at the semi-final stage.

Dundalk managers Alan McCabe and John Conlon went with the same pairings that had delivered both provincial titles with Aaron Grant and Josh Mackin up against Ruairi O’Connor and Thomas Finnegan in the top match while Caolan Rafferty and Eoin Murphy faced brothers TJ and Daniel Ford in the other.

Right from the beginning it was obvious that Dundalk were in trouble as they found themselves behind in both matches and never managed to get their noses in front in either of them after that.

After six holes Dundalk were three down in the top match and one down in the bottom match and by the turn Grant and Mackin were four down while Rafferty and Murphy were still one behind.

That meant Dundalk were five holes behind with 18 to play and while Rafferty and Murphy managed to get it back to all square by the 12th, up ahead of them it was looking ominous as Grant and Mackin were five down with six to play in their match.

It was all over a few holes later as Dundalk ran out of holes with Grant and Mackin seven down with two play while Rafferty and Murphy were all square with three to play.

“It was disappointing not to perform the way we know we can but these things happen in sport and all we can do is pick ourselves up and get ready to have another shot at it next year,” said joint manager John Conlon.

“We still managed to retain our Leinster title this year which is a fair achievement but the lads really wanted to bring home a green one and they are gutted they didn’t do that especially for the large group of supporters who travelled to Mayo for the All-Ireland Finals.”

In the final on Friday afternoon it was Co Sligo’s turn to be on the end of a seven hole defeat as they lost to Limerick.

Rafferty wins Scratch Cup for third time in four years

Caolan Raffertty

Caolan Rafferty has won One Finance sponsored Dundalk Scratch Cup for the third time in four years after dominating proceedings over his home course today.

The 26-year-old Walker Cup player followed up a bogey-free five under par 67 in the first round of the 36 hole competition with a four under par 68 to finish on nine under and five clear of Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell in second place.

“It’s a good feeling,” said Rafferty afterwards. “I played really well and as Conor (Purcell) said I didn’t miss too many shots today. I put myself in good position off the tee and then hit my approach shots to within makeable positions. The birdies I did make, I chipped in twice, but the rest of them were pretty much straight-forward. Overall, it was pretty solid.”

Rafferty began his first round with five straight pars before birdieing the par five sixth and turned on two under after a birdie at the par four eighth. More birdies followed at the 10th and 14th before he sank a 15ft putt on the last for his fifth birdie of the round.

Campbell, who won in 2017, fired seven birdies on his way to an opening round of 68 which left him one shot behind Rafferty at the halfway mark of this 36 hole competition with Royal Dublin’s Richard Knightly two shots further back after a two under par 70 which included a run of three birdies from the 10th.

Campbell drew level with playing partner Rafferty at the beginning of the second round when he birdied the opening hole to move to five under and then holed his ninth birdie of the day on the third to join Rafferty on six under after he too had a three at the par four hole.

But the Warrenpoint man, who won this competition in 2017, saw his challenge fade away as he bogeyed three of the next four holes to drop to three under while Rafferty moved to seven under by birdieing the par three fifth.
Immediately ahead of them, Knightly was also going backwards thanks to a double bogey seven at the sixth and a bogey five at the eighth.

Rafferty picked up shots at the 10th and 11th, where he chipped in, to move to nine under before having his first bogey in 32 holes when he chunked a chip on the short par four 14th and failed to get up and down.

“I’m still annoyed about the only bogey I made. I tried over the last two years to go around without a bogey but I bogeyed 16 last year and 14 this year for my only bogeys of the tournament. It would have been nice to go 36 holes without a bogey but that’s the joys of it and a win is a win at the end of the day.”

Rafferty got his round back to nine under on the last when, much to delight of the large home support, he drained a 30ft putt for his 10th birdie of the day to round off a highly impressive performance in which he seemed oblivious to the incessant rain that fell throughout the afternoon round.

The only other sub-70 round in the afternoon came from course record holder and last year’s runner-up, Gerard Dunne of Co Louth, who shot a three under par 69 to finish in third place overall, six shots adrift of the winner.

LEADERBOARD:
135 – Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) 67, 68.
140 – Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint) 68, 72.
141 – Gerard Dunne (Co Louth) 72, 69; Paul Conroy (Enniscorthy) 71, 70.
144 – Marc McKinstry (Cairndhu) 73, 71; Conor Purcell (Portmarnock) 71, 73; Richard Knightly (Royal Dublin) 70, 74.
145 – Jake Whelan (Newlands) 72, 73
146 – Eoin Murphy (Dundalk) 76, 70; Stephen Coulter (Warrenpoint) 71, 75;
147 – Eugene Smith (Portmarnock Links) 75, 72; Liam Grehan (Mullingar) 73, 74; Max Kennedy (Royal Dublin) 71, 76.

RESULTS
1st Caolan Rafferty (+6, Dundalk) 135 (67/68), 2nd Colm Campbell Jnr (+4, Warrenpoint) 140 (68/72), 3rd Gerard Dunne (+3, Co Louth) 141 (72/69), 4th Paul Conroy (+1, Enniscorthy) 141 (71/70). Best Nett: Fionntan Lawlor (3, Corballis) 145 (76/69). 1st 18 Gross: Richard Knightly (+2, Royal Dublin) 70. 1st 18 Nett: Liam Abom (1, Edmondstown) 70. 2nd 18 Gross: Eoin Murphy (+1, Dundalk) 70. 2nd 18 Nett: Lee Mitchell (2, Knock) 71/36. 1st Round CSS 74/75. 2nd Round CSS 74. Player name Handicap rd1 rd2 Total score

Full Results

Position-Name-Handicap-R1-R2-Total

1 RAFFERTY, CAOLAN -6 67 68 135

2 CAMPBELL, COLM JNR -4 68 72 140

3 Conroy, Paul -1 71 70 141

4 Dunne, Gerard -3 72 69 141

5 MCKINSTRY, MARC -1 73 71 144

6 KNIGHTLY, Richard -2 70 74 144

7 Purcell, Conor -5 71 73 144

8 Whelan, Jake -2 72 73 145

9 MURPHY, EOIN -1 76 70 146

10 COULTER, STEPHEN -2 71 75 146

11 Smith, Eugene -2 75 72 147

12 Grehan, Liam -2 73 74 147

13 Kennedy, Max -2 71 76 147

14 LENEHAN, GEOFFREY -3 74 74 148

15 Mitchell, Lee 2 76 73 149

16 CURRAN, CONOR 1 77 72 149

17 Carter, Shaun -2 75 74 149

18 GRANT, AARON -1 73 76 149

19 Dullaghan, Cian -2 73 76 149

20 Cullen, Gary -3 74 75 149

21 Boggan, Ciaran 1 75 75 150

22 Farrell, Evan -1 75 75 150

23 McCabe, Joshua -2 76 74 150

24 Lawlor, Fionntan 3 79 72 151

25 Shipp, Evan 1 72 80 152

26 Copeland, Gerard -1 74 78 152

27 ALDERDICE, ZAK 4 77 76 153

28 ABOM, LIAM 1 71 82 153

29 Geraghty, Cian 0 82 72 154

30 Pepper, Tomas 2 77 77 154

31 Coyle, Daniel 0 78 76 154

32 Mc DONNELL, CHARLIE 2 76 78 154 33

Holland, Daniel -2 72 82 154

34 GORHAM, MARK 3 75 80 155

35 Denvir, Charlie -2 75 80 155

36 Kelly, Tom S 2 78 78 156

37 HESSION, SHANE 3 77 79 156

38 McGlynn, Shane 1 79 77 156

39 BRENNAN, GERRY 4 76 80 156

40 Mulligan, Daniel 2 75 81 156

41 Plunkett, Thomas -1 77 79 156

42 MURDOCK, CONALL 5 77 80 157

43 Connell, Charlie 2 79 79 158

44 Doggett, Benjamin 1 79 79 158

45 RAFFERTY, KYLE 5 75 83 158

46 McCabe, Stephen 3 76 83 159

47 MacKELL, NEAL 3 75 84 159

48 Grant, Niall 2 82 78 160

49 Cully, Liam 3 81 79 160

50 O’Connor, Tadhg 3 81 79 160

51 Duffy, Bevan 2 83 78 161

52 Winters, David 1 77 85 162

53 HURLEY, ALAN 5 84 84 168

Caolan Rafferty receives the Dundalk Scratch Cup from Dundalk Golf Club Captain Pat Davis and Event Sponsor, Martin McDonnell of One Finance.

Rafferty leads Scratch Cup after bogey-free 67

Caolan Rafferty leads the One Finance sponsored Dundalk Scratch Cup after this morning’s opening round.


The 26-year-old Walker Cup player shot a bogey-free five under par 67 over his home course and holds a one-shot lead over Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell going into this afternoon’s second round.


Rafferty, who is bidding for a third win in four years, opened with five straight pars before birdieing the par five sixth and turned on two under after a birdie at the par four eighth. More birdies followed at the 10th and 14th before he sank a 15ft putt on the last for his fifth birdie of the round.

Campbell, who won in 2017, fired seven birdies on his way to an opening round of 68 which left him one shot behind Rafferty at the halfway mark of this 36 hole competition.
Royal Dublin’s Richard Knightley is lying third three shots off the lead after a two under par 70 which included back to back birdies at the third and fourth and a run of three successive birdies from the 10th.

He is one shot clear of a group of five players on 71 which includes Australian Amateur champion Conor Purcell, who played alongside his Walker Cup teammate Rafferty and Ireland international colleague Tiarnan McLarnon. Purcell ended up on one under despite shooting three birdies over his first seven holes.

The second round takes place this afternoon.

LEADERBOARD: 67 – Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk); 68 – Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint); 70 – Richard Knightley (Royal Dublin); 71 – Max Kennedy (Royal Dublin), Stephen Coulter (Warrenpoint), Liam Abom (Edmondstown), Conor Purcell (Royal Dublin), Paul Conroy (Warrenpoint). 72 – Evan Shipp (Headfort), Jake Whelan (Newlands), Daniel Holland (Castle), Gerard Dunne (Co Louth).

DETAILED ROUND 1 SCORES
Place Player name (H’cap) Score Front Back

1 RAFFERTY, CAOLAN (-6) 67 34.0 33.0
2 CAMPBELL, COLM JNR ] (-4) 68 33.0 35.0
3 KNIGHTLY, Richard (-2) 70 36.0 34.0
4 Kennedy, Max (-2) 71 38.0 33.0
5 COULTER, STEPHEN (-2) 71 37.0 34.0
6 ABOM, LIAM (1) 71 35.0 36.0
7 Purcell, Conor (-5) 71 34.0 37.0
8 Conroy, Paul ( -1) 71 33.0 38.0
9 Shipp, Evan (1) 72 35.0 37.0
10 Whelan, Jake (-2) 72 35.0 37.0
11 Holland, Daniel (-2) 72 35.0 37.0
12 Dunne, Gerard (-3) 72 34.0 38.0
13 GRANT, AARON (-1) 73 38.0 35.0
14 Grehan, Liam (-2) 73 37.0 36.0
15 MCKINSTRY, MARC (-1) 73 37.0 36.0
16 Dullaghan, Cian (-2) 73 36.0 37.0
17 LENEHAN, GEOFFREY (-3) 74 39.0 35.0
18 Cullen, Gary (-3) 74 39.0 35.0
19 Copeland, Gerard (-1) 74 36.0 38.0
20 Keating, Dylan (-3) 74 36.0 38.0
21 Carter, Shaun (-2) 75 39.0 36.0
22 Boggan, Ciaran (1) 75 39.0 36.0
23 Denvir, Charlie (-2) 75 38.0 37.0
24 RAFFERTY, KYLE (5) 75 38.0 37.0
25 MacKELL, NEAL (3) 75 38.0 37.0
26 GORHAM, MARK (3) 75 38.0 37.0
27 Mulligan, Daniel (2) 75 38.0 37.0
28 Smith, Eugene (-2) 75 38.0 37.0
29 Farrell, Evan (-1) 75 35.0 40.0
30 MACKIN, JOSH (-1) 76 39.0 37.0
31 McCabe, Stephen (3 ) 76 39.0 37.0
32 Mitchell, Lee (2) 76 39.0 37.0
33 BRENNAN, GERRY (4) 76 38.0 38.0
34 MURPHY, EOIN (-1) 76 37.0 39.0
35 Mc DONNELL, CHARLIE (2) 76 36.0 40.0
36 McCabe, Joshua (-2) 76 35.0 41.0
37 MURDOCK, CONALL (5) 77 40.0 37.0
38 ALDERDICE, ZAK (4) 77 40.0 37.0
39 CURRAN, CONOR (1) 77 39.0 38.0
40 LAWLOR, BRENDAN (0) 77 39.0 38.0
41 MURPHY, MAURICE J 3 77 39.0 38.0
42 Pepper, Tomas (2) 77 39.0 38.0
43 Plunkett, Thomas (-1) 77 39.0 38.0
44 HESSION, SHANE (3) 77 39.0 38.0
45 Winters, David (1) 77 38.0 39.0
46 McLarnon, Tiarnan (-4) 77 38.0 39.0
47 Kelly, Tom S (2) 78 42.0 36.0
48 Coyle, Daniel (0) 78 42.0 36.0
49 O’CALLAGHAN, NIALL (2) 78 41.0 37.0
50 WALSHE, CLEM (4) 78 39.0 39.0
51 Connell, Charlie (2) 79 42.0 37.0
52 McGlynn, Shane (1) 79 40.0 39.0
53 Lawlor, Fionntan (3) 79 40.0 39.0
54 Doggett, Benjamin (1) 79 38.0 41.0
55 Cully, Liam (3) 81 42.0 39.0
56 O’Connor, Tadhg (3) 81 40.0 41.0
57 Geraghty, Cian (0) 82 44.0 38.0
58 Cullen, Christopher (3) 82 43.0 39.0
59 Grant, Niall (2) 82 43.0 39.0
60 ROGERS, PETER (2) 82 42.0 40.0
61 LAVERTY, JOSEPH (6) 83 43.0 40.0
62 Duffy, Bevan (2) 83 41.0 42.0
63 HURLEY, ALAN (5) 84 44.0 40.0
64 Tracey, Ciaran (2) 85 41.0 44.0

CSS 74 Home, 75 away