Rafferty wins Leinster Order of Merit again

CAOLAN Rafferty has won the Leinster Golf Senior Order of Merit for the second successive year. Caolan’s win at the South of Ireland and third place finish at the East of Ireland helped him to an impressive 110 ranking points overall which was 40 more than second placed Rowan Lester of Hermitage.

 

Rafferty wins in Scotland

CAOLAN RAFFERTY produced a fantastic performance in the wind and rain in Scotland last week to win the 14th Fife Tournament on the British Universities & Colleges Tour.

The Dundalk player, who is a Harrington Scholar at Maynooth University, shot a six under par total of 136 to win the 36 hole event at Fairmont, St Andrews, by seven shots. His victory saw him move up to 54 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, his highest position yet.

The opening day of the competition, which attracted college golfers from all over Britain and Ireland, was characterised by shocking weather which included strong gusting winds followed by heavy rain that nearly made the course unplayable.

While most golfers struggled in the conditions, Rafferty revelled in them as he showed a high level of skill and patience in carding a one under par round of 70 that included three birdies and 13 pars having started his round contending with the high winds and finishing it in a monsoon.

Conditions improved on the second day and Rafferty, who held a one shot lead overnight, quickly stamped his authority on proceedings with three consecutive birdies from the third to move to four under.

Stirling’s Laird Shepherd emerged from the chasing pack as five birdies over the front nine saw him reduce Rafferty’s lead to two shots but the Dundalk man put his foot on accelerator down the back nine with birdies on 10 and 11. Although he dropped a shot on the 12th Rafferty holed his sixth birdie of the day on the 14th and finished with a five under par 66 for a two round total of six under. He won by seven shots from Maynooth teammate Eanna Griffin with Laird in third.

Rafferty was only player in the field to finish under par and he led Maynooth University to victory in the team event as they beat Durham 1 by a massive 23 strokes with Stirling 1 a further two strokes back.

 

 

 

Dundalk beaten in All-Ireland Barton Shield Final

THE Senior Panel’s bid for All-Ireland glory came up agonisingly short when their senior panel was beaten by Athenry in the final of the AIG Barton Shield at Thurles on Friday.

Athenry won by three holes in a match that was in the balance until the 34th hole of what proved to be an epic encounter. The Galway side were deserving winners on a day when Dundalk’s normally laser-sharp driving deserted them.

Alan McCabe, who is joint manager of the Dundalk senior panel along with John Conlon, said they had no excuses.

“Athenry were deserving winners. They played very solid golf in both matches and unfortunately we were struggling to find fairways and hit greens in regulation. Nonetheless, we showed great character in taking the match right down to the wire and we will learn a lot from the experience.

“This was Athenry’s third visit in seven years to the All-Ireland Finals of the Barton Shield and only the first time they had made the final so it’s not an easy thing to win.

“It is disappointing to have come so close and failed but it has been a great campaign. Myself and John have been looking after the senior panel for the past three years and we have made progress every year to the point where this year we won the Leinster Barton Shield for the first time, reached the semi-finals of the Senior Cup in Leinster and the All-Ireland Final of the Barton Shield.

“We have a strong panel of dedicated players, a good team of caddies and also enjoy tremendous support from the club. It was a great source of encouragement to ourselves and the players that so many travelled down to Thurles from Dundalk.

“As a club and a senior panel we are making progress in the right direction and there is no reason that the lads can’t get back at the All-Ireland stage next year and hopefully go one better,” said McCabe.

The Barton Shield is a foursomes competition played off scratch with each club fielding two pairings and the match being decided by the aggregate hole score.

In Friday’s final, Aaron Grant and Conor Curran lost by four holes to Joe Beirne Jnr and Louis O’Hara in the top match while Caolan Rafferty and Eoin Murphy were one up with one to play against Darren Leufer and Allan Hill when Dundalk finally ran out of holes.

And yet, after five holes of the final, it looked as though Dundalk were well on their way to bridging the 14-year gap to their last, and only, national pennant. At that stage Grant and Curran were all square while Rafferty and Murphy were three up having won the third, fourth and fifth.

Indeed Curran and Grant were unlucky not be ahead as, after winning the second, they had lost the par three third to a par having seen Curran’s tee shot pitch on the green and then spin back into the water hazard at the front. At the next hole Curran hit a superb approach shot to within two feet for birdie but Athenry halved the hole when O’Hara drained a 30ft downhill putt.

It was on the 404 yard par four sixth hole that Dundalk’s aura of invincibility began to crack. Aaron Grant’s booming drive landed exactly where he wanted it but the ball kept skipping though the rough until it came to rest at the butt of a tree forcing Curran to play out left-handed.

With Athenry having failed to find the green in two, Grant then saw his delicate pitch from inside 100 yards end up in the massive front bunker. When Curran failed to find the green and Grant narrowly missed holing the resultant chip, Athenry found themselves in front for the first time in the top match.

It was a lead that Beirne and O’Hara would never relinquish as the Dundalk pairing failed to find a fairway for the rest of the round. It is testimony to the recovery skills of Grant and Curran that this match was still in the balance as they walked off the 15th green after Grant had sunk a testy four foot par putt to reduce the deficit to two.

Dundalk had lost the seventh to go two down after Curran’s drive found the trees on the right but they pulled a hole back on the ninth thanks to a magnificent approach from the top of a bank by Grant. Curran then saw his six foot putt for a win on 10 lip out and Beirne had to sink a six foot putt on 11 for a half after Grant’s long-range birdie putt had come to rest on the edge of the hole.

After 11 holes the overall match was delicately poised for while Grant and Curran were one down, Rafferty and Murphy were all square having gone from three up to one down in the space of five holes.

Their three hole winning run had come to an end on the infamous sixth when Murphy missed his par putt and they then lost the next when Hill drained a 20ft birdie putt. The par-five eighth looked be heading Dundalk’s way when Athenry lost their ball with their second shot but Murphy found the water guarding the green with Dundalk’s third and Hill then knocked in another excellent putt to win the hole with a bogey.

Failure to recover from a wayward drive on 10 saw the Dundalk pairing fall one behind but a brilliant 20 foot birdie putt from Murphy on the 11th got them back to all square and left it all to play for in the overall match with 14 holes to go.

But in the top match Grant and Curran quickly found themselves three down after losing the 12th and 13th when they failed to find both greens in regulation while behind them Rafferty and Murphy lost the par three 14th to a par after failing to find the green from the tee.

That left Dundalk trailing by four holes overall with eight holes to play but both pairings won the par four 15th hole with Grant sinking a knee-jerking four foot putt for par while Rafferty drained a 15ft birdie putt to reduce the overall deficit to two holes with six to play.

The 16th proved to be deciding hole. Shooting to a back pin, Athenry’s approach shot found the front part of the green while Curran, playing out of the trees on the left, saw the collar hold up his low running chip. Grant’s long birdie putt from just off the front of the green stopped two feet from the pin but O’Hara won the hole for Athenry when he drained another monster putt, this time holing from almost 40 feet.

That left the Grant and Curran trailing by three with two to play and when they failed to find the 17th green in three after another visit to the trees they were four down as they teed off on the 18th.

Behind them, Murphy and Rafferty had edged ahead when Murphy sank a birdie putt on 16 to put them one up in their match and reduce the overall deficit to three holes with three to play. But, Rafferty’s long drive on 17 was blocked out by a tree on the right forcing Murphy to lay up short of the green. Although Rafferty chipped to within six feet, the Athenry pairing secured their par to halve the hole and seal their first ever senior pennant.

In Thursday morning’s semi-final Dundalk had a comprehensive win over Kinsale, beating the Munster champions by ten holes with both pairings winning their respective matches by five holes.

In the top match, Grant and Curran got off to a nervy start but they still managed to win the opening hole and they went three up after winning the fourth in par and the sixth with birdie. They were pegged back when they lost the seventh but a great birdie putt from Curran saw them win the eighth after Kinsale had lost a ball off the tee.

Wins at 10 and 11 moved them to five up and although Kinsale won the 12th with a par, the Dundalk pairing took the 14th in par to move five up with four play.

Behind them Rafferty and Murphy were always in control and, after halving the first six holes, they finally nudged in front when Rafferty made a great up and down out of a bunker to win the seventh hole in par. They then proceeded to win the next four holes to go five up and halves on 12 and 13 closed out the match.

The Captain of Dundalk Golf Club, Gerry Byrne, paid tribute to the team. “Everybody in Dundalk Golf Club would like to congratulate the Senior Panel on a great campaign. It was tough to come up short in our quest for the club’s second ever national pennant but we did make a major breakthrough earlier in the year when we won the Leinster Barton Shield title for our first senior pennant. I have no doubt that we will learn from this experience and come back stronger next year.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Senior Panel reach Barton Shield All-Ireland Final

DUNDALK Golf Club’s Senior Panel have reached the AIG Barton Shield All-Ireland Final after a comprehensive win over Munster championship Kinsale in this morning’s semi-final at Thurles Golf Club.

Dundalk beat the Cork club by 10 holes with Aaron Grant and Conor Curran five up with four play while Caolan Rafferty and Eoin Murphy were five up with five play when play came to an end.

Dundalk will now face Athenry in tomorrow morning’s final at 10:15am. Athenry won their match against Clandeboye by seven holes.

In the top match, Grant and Curran got off to a nervy start but they still managed to win the opening hole and they went three up after winning the fourth in par and the sixth with birdie. They were pegged back when they lost the seventh but a great birdie putt from Curran saw them win the eighth after Kinsale had lost a ball off the tee.

Wins at 10 and 11 moved them to five up and although Kinsale won the 12th with a par, the Dundalk pairing took the 14th in par to move five up with four play,.

Behind them Rafferty and Murphy were always in control and, after halving the first six holes, they finally nudged in front when Rafferty made a great up and down out of a bunker to win the hole in par. They then proceeded to win the next four holes to go five up and halves on 12 and 13 closed out the match.

 

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

Rafferty wins One Finance Dundalk Scratch Cup

LOCAL hero Caolan Rafferty won the One Finance sponsored Dundalk Scratch Cup for the second time in three years at Dundalk Golf Club.

The 25-year-old shot two rounds of 68 for an eight under par total of 136 to win his home tournament by six shots from Co Louth’s Gerard Dunne, who stormed through the field after an opening 79 to take second place on two under thanks to a course record nine under par 63 in the second round.

In the morning, Rafferty had covered the opening nine in one-under par after an eagle three at the par five sixth and a bogey at the par four eighth and he then birdied the 10th, 14th and 18th on the way in to take lead after the opening round on four under.

That left him two shots ahead of Max Kennedy, Tom McKibben and Evan Farrell who all shot two under par 70s while Eanna Griffin was a shot further back on 71.

However, none of the chasers managed to mount an attack on Rafferty in the afternoon with Kennedy shooting 81, McKibben 83 and Farrell 80 to drop out of contention while Griffin managed a level par 72 to finish on one under.

During the second round Rafferty moved to five under with a birdie at the par four second but then bogeyed the par three fifth. However, back to back birdies at the sixth and seventh saw him turn in six under for the tournament and he got to nine under with three to go after birdies at 10, 14 and 15.

But Rafferty, who was playing his sixth competitive round in five days having been away with Ireland at the Home Internationals in Wales, admitted the fatigue finally caught up on him on the par three 17th when he overcooked his pitch from the right of the green and took two putts for a bogey four,

He then missed the par four 18th green with his approach but found enough energy to get up and down for par and finish on eight under and six clear of Dunne.

“It was two steady rounds,” said Rafferty afterwards. “I was slow to get going but the eagle on six gave me the kick-start I needed. In the second round after I birdied 10 I had chances on 11, 12 and 13 and just missed. A couple of years ago that would have got me down, I would have been upset that I didn’t get one of them and the whole round would have gone to pot. But I stuck at it and birdied 14 and 15. Seventeen was when the tiredness really kicked-in and the concentration levels were really low but it was nice to hole a putt for par on the last and not finish with a bogey.”

Rafferty acknowledged that his win in this tournament two years ago kick-started his emergence as one of the top players in the country during which he has established himself as an international squad member and captured this year’s South of Ireland Championship, his first major title.

“I started this year by winning the Laytown & Bettystown Scratch Cup, I’ve won the South of Ireland Championship and now I have won this so it’s nice to have won those trophies and the Inter-Varsities Cup as well. It has been a good year even though I missed a couple of cuts at the wrong time of the year but I didn’t get down on myself. I am maturing and accepting what will be, will be,” said Rafferty.

He will now take a break from golf before returning next month to lead Dundalk’s bid for a first national title at senior level when they compete in the AIG Barton Shield All-Ireland Finals at Thurles Golf Club.

“It’s been a long year, the body is starting to ache a little bit so I’m looking forward to a bit of a break before the Barton Shield.”

Dunne’s course record in the afternoon, when he shot a bogey free nine under par 63, was one better than the previous best set by Dundalk’s Aaron Grant last year.

It was also a massive 16 shots better than his first round total of 79 in the morning but it was during that round that the seeds were sown for his record score.

“I was not swinging it well the last few weeks but I figured something out on the 16th this morning and when I was going down the first in my second round I said to Evan Farrell that I was going to birdie every second hole and shoot nine under. I’m glad I kept my word,” said Dunne who finished six shots behind Rafferty in second place on two under.

Dunne’s 63 was made up of seven birdies and an eagle at the par five 10th when he holed a putt from off the green after a 3 wood approach shot.

The presentation of the Dundalk Scratch Cup took place in the clubhouse where Caolan Rafferty was presented with the trophy by sponsor Martin McDonnell of One Finance and Dundalk Captain Gerry Byrne.

DUNDALK SCRATCH CUP sponsored by One Finance: 136 – Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) 68, 68. 142 – Gerard Dunne (Co Louth) 79, 63. 143 – Joshua Robinson (Lisburn) 72, 71; Eanna Griffin (Waterford) 71, 72; 146 – Conor Curran (Dundalk) 75, 71; John McCarthy (The Island) 74, 72; Eugene Smith (Laytown & Bettystown) 75, 71; 147 – G McAuley (Dunmurry) 76, 71; Shane McGlynn (Portmarnock) 75, 72; Eoin Murphy (Dundalk) 74, 73; Aaron Marshall (Lisburn) 72, 75; Ronan McCrory (Lisburn) 79, 69.

Best Nett: Conor Curran (1, Dundalk) 144 (74/70)

First 18 Gross: Max Kennedy (+2, Royal Dublin) 70/33

First 18 Nett: Evan Farrell (Scr, Ardee) 70

Second 18 Gross: Ronan McCrory (Scr, Lisburn) 69

Second 18 Nett: Ronan Cowhey (2, Elm Park) 70.

CSS: 73 (Round 1), 73 (Round 2).

 

 

Rafferty bidding for second Dundalk Scratch Cup victory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Caolan Rafferty selected for Home Internationals

Caolan Rafferty

Caolan Rafferty, has been selected on the Ireland team which will bid for a fifth successive victory at the Home Internationals at Conwy Golf Club, Wales, from September 12 to 14.

Last week Caolan was part of a Leinster team that finished third in the Inter-Provincials at Athenry Golf Club and won 4.5pts out of a possible six over the course of the week.