Dream debut for Rafferty as Ireland wins Home Internationals

Caolan Rafferty receives a special presentation from Captain Mickey Coburn and Lady Captain Caolan Rafferty to mark his international debut

Caolan Rafferty had a dream international debut last week when he helped Ireland to an historic fourth successive Home Internationals title at Moortown Golf Club in England.

The 24-year-old Dundalk Golf Club player finished as Ireland’s top scorer with five points out of a possible six from the matches against Wales, Scotland and England.

“It was the best week I have had in golf in a long time,” said Rafferty. “To do something as a team was great but to perform as well as I did was extremely satisfying.”

Rafferty had never previously been capped by Ireland at any level and, while he was being tipped for call-up this year, he admitted that he was nervous in the lead-up to the team being finally announced even though he had won the silver medal for leading qualifier at the British Amateur and North of Ireland Championships and reached the last 16 at the British, the last eight at the West of Ireland and the semi-finals of the North as well as leading Leinster to the third successful Inter-provincial title.

“Others boys who were on the fringes did well at the South so I was a little bit apprehensive. I knew they were going for four-in-row and there wouldn’t be many changes to the team so it was nice when the phone-call came although it was hard keeping it quiet for a few days until it was officially announced. It’s been a goal of mine for some time to play for Ireland.”

The Home Internationals involved five foursomes matches each morning followed by 10 singles matches and for Ireland’s opening tie against Wales, Rafferty was partnered with Conor Purcell but they lost 2&1 after getting off to a slow start and finding themselves trailing early on.

“At the team meetings we spoke about the need to get out fast and get up early. Because the standard is so high it is usually one or two small things that decides it.”

Ireland lost the foursomes 4-2 to Matthew Harris and Lewys Sanges so going into the afternoon singles the pressure was on to keep alive their hopes of becoming the first team ever to win four successive Home Internationals titles.

Playing against Jake Hapgood, Rafferty got ahead on the first hole and played steady golf to eventually win 3&1 and pick up his first international point. His team-mates had also bounced back from the morning disappointment and Ireland took the singles 7-3, for an overall 9-6 victory.

The following day against Scotland, Rafferty was paired with Colin Fairweather in the foursomes and it proved to be an inspired choice by team captain Tony Goode as they won 3&2 against Craig Ross and Sam Locke and helped Ireland into a 4-1 lead. Rafferty and Ross met again in the afternoon singles with Rafferty coming from behind to win the last two holes and win by one hole. Ireland won the singles 6-4 and the overall match 10-5.

That set up a showdown with England for the title with the Irish only needing a draw because of their superior point difference.

Playing against Jack Gaunt and David Hague in the foursomes, Rafferty and Fairweather found themselves three down early on but fought back to win 5&3 and give the Irish team a massive lift as they headed into the singles with a narrow 3-2 lead.

“It gave everybody a big lift because a lot of the lads thought we had lost. I have played a lot with Colin over the years and we get on well. We just went about our own jobs and also helped out one another. It was so laid-back we were never flustered.”

With so much on the line, the singles were nail-biting as Ireland looked for the 4½ points they needed to take the title. They got there thanks to three halved matches and three wins with Rafferty delivering one of those victories by beating David Hague 4&3.

“I was two down through three but then I got to work and won four of the next five holes to go two up. After that it was just a case of hitting fairways and greens and keeping him under pressure.”

Rafferty has been inundated with messages of congratulations all week but the texts he was constantly receiving from his father Ciaran were particularly special.

“He been a huge influence on me. It would have been lovely to have had him there but it was nice to know he was following it all at home. My family have been very supportive as has my girlfriend Hayley. They’ve had to put with a lot!

“I’ve also had great support from Dundalk Golf Club and all the members. The club linked up with DKIT at the start of the year to provide fitness training for the elite squad members. It wasn’t something I’d done before but every little bit helps.”

One of the messages he received was from a Dundalk golfer now living in Galway who took the opportunity to congratulate him and offer him the use of his locker at Galway Golf Club where this week’s Irish Close Championship is being held.

That’s the next target for Rafferty before he heads to Colombia for the South American Championship with Tiarnan McLarnon as part of a two man Irish team. Then he’s off to Maynooth University to commence a Business Management course having received one of the Paddy Harrington Golf Scholarships which were set up by Major winner Padraig Harrington in memory of his father.

However, his first week of college will be spent in Prague at the European University Championships before he returns home to defend the Dundalk Scratch Cup he won for the first time last year.

It’s been a season to remember for Rafferty and there are still plenty of opportunities ahead to make it even more memorable.

 

 

 

International call-ups for Rafferty and Murphy

Caolan Rafferty

Caolan Rafferty and Eoin Murphy have been called up to the Ireland teams for this month’s men’s and boys Home Internationals. It will be the first international appearance for both players and is recognition for the excellent seasons that both players have had.

With Josh Mackin having already appeared for the Irish Boys U16 team at the Home Internationals in Wales it means that Dundalk Golf Club has now produced three internationals in the one year,

Rafferty will be part of an Ireland team that is bidding for a fourth successive triumph in the Home Internationals when they tee off at Moortown on August 16. The team will have a chance to create history as no Ireland team has ever won four times in succession.

He is one of two new caps on the team as Irish Amateur Open Champion Peter O’Keeffe from Douglas is also included.

Rafferty has been having his best ever season and, in addition to reducing his handicap to plus five, he finished tied for seventh at the Lytham Trophy and made it to the

Eoin Murphy

last 32 of The Amateur Championship where he also won the silver medal for leading qualifier. He was also leading qualifier at the North of Ireland where he was a beaten semi-finalist and reached the quarter-finals of the West of Ireland. He also helped Dundalk reach the semi-finals of the Barton Shield for the first time won five points out of six as Leinster won their third successive Interprovincial title.

Team captain Tony Goode feels both new caps will strengthen his side. He said: “I’m very happy with the team that we’ve selected. I’m really pleased with the two new caps, Peter O’Keeffe and Caolan Rafferty. They both deserve their place in the team. It is an experienced team and hopefully the boys can bring their A game. You need your A-game at the Home Internationals.”

Murphy is one of seven new caps in the Ireland team for the Boys U18 Home Internationals at St Anne’s Old Links where hosts England will be defending the title they won last year in Ballyliffen. Ireland last won the Boys Home Internationals in 2013.

Murphy, who last year won the Faldo Ireland Series and the Munster Boys Championship, reached the last 16 of the West of Ireland after coming through pre-qualifying and qualifying rounds. He managed top twenty finishes in all the provincial boys championships and then helped Leinster to the Interprovincial title where he won two points from four matches before leading Dundalk to a first ever Fred Daly Leinster title. He was also part of the Barton Shield team.

Ireland team (Home Internationals, Moortown, 16-18 August): Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint), Robin Dawson (Tramore), Colin Fairweather (Knock), Alex Gleeson (Castle), John Ross Galbraith (Whitehead), Rowan Lester (Hermitage), Paul McBride (The Island), Peter O’Keeffe (Douglas), Conor O’Rourke (Naas), Conor Purcell (Portmarnock), Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk)Team Captain: Tony Goode (Lucan), Team Manager: John White (Co Armagh), National Coach: Neil Manchip.

Ireland team (Boys Home Internationals, St Anne’s Old Links, 8-10 August): Reece Black (Hilton Templepatrick), John Brady (Rosslare), Charlie Denvir (Elm Park), Jack Doherty (Carton House), Jack Hearn (Tramore), Ross Kelly (Tuam), Aaron Marshall (Lisburn), Robert Moran (Castle), Eoin Murphy (Dundalk), Mark Power (Kilkenny), Cameron Raymond (Newlands). Team Captain: Cathal McConn (Roscommon). Team Manager: Alasdair Gibson (Knock). National Coach: Neil Manchip.

 

 

 

 

New course record and Club Championship for Grant

Aaron Grant

Aaron Grant set a new course record on his way to winning the Club Championship on Saturday.

The plus one handicapper shot a bogey free eight under par 64 in the first round of the 36 hole event and a level par second round saw him finish on eight under and five shots ahead of Caolan Rafferty.

Grant ‘s new course record included back to back birdies at the second and third and he also birdied the par five sixth and seventh to turn in 32. Birdies followed at 10 and 11 before he recorded his only five of the day when he parred the 12th. Another birdie at the 15th took him to seven under and he finished his record breaking round with his eighth birdie at the last.

Rafferty, who teed it up after spending five days at the North of Ireland Championship, shot a two-under par 70 in the opening round to lie six shots behind Grant and conditions got tougher for the afternoon ‘s second round as a strong south westerly wind swept across the course,.

That suited Grant and he posted a level par 72 to set a target of eight under for the chasers. Grant’s second round included four birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey. Rafferty was only able to reduce the deficit by one shot after a one under par 71 but it was good enough to claim runners-up spot.

Grant and Rafferty will now turn their attentions to this week’s Barton Shield Leinster Finals in Kilkenny as the club bids for its first provincial pennant in this inter-club competition for elite golfers. Eoin Murphy, Josh Mackin and Richie Newell are the other players who have featured on the journey to this stage and managers Alan McCabe and John Conlon were interested spectators as Saturday’s Club Championship unfolded.  Dundalk will face Portmanrock in Friday’s quarter-final with the semi-final scheduled for the afternoon and the final taking place on Saturday.

Saturday, July 15 – Club Championship: 136 – Aaron Grant (+1) (64,72). 141 – Caolan Rafferty  (+4) (70,71). Best Nett: 139 – Conall Murdock (9) (70,69). CSS Round 1: 73,
CSS Round 2: 74.

Another great week for Rafferty at North of Ireland Championship

Caolan Rafferty

Caolan Rafferty’s super season continued last week in the North of Ireland Championship at Royal Portrush.

He won the silver medal for leading qualifier and then battled through four rounds of matchplay before losing in the semi-final to Irish international Colin Fairweather from Knock Golf Club.

The 24-year-old carded a bogey free, course record 65, on the newly redesigned Dunluce Links to lead home a field of 300, of whom 120 were plus handicappers, in the qualifying round.

He had posted a 68 in the first round over The Valley course and finished on 10 under par. Rafferty’s record round included birdies at the second and ninth and then he started his back nine with three birdies in a row before birding 15 and 17 and signing for a 65.

It was a second course record for Rafferty in less than a month as he also set a new low score at The Prince’s in England on his way to taking the silver medal for leading qualifier at the British Amateur.

That earned him promotion to the Irish international squad and his current run of form leaves him very much in the frame for a call-up for the upcoming Home Internationals.

Rafferty reached the semi-finals of the North back in 2015 and his march to the penultimate stage this year began with a 3&2 victory over Stackstown’s John McCarthy before a convincing win over Dungannon’s Dwayne Mallon in the second round.

Rafferty got a scare in the last 16 when he was taken to the 19th by Tandragee’s Ross Dutton before finally squeezing through. He bounced back from that in the quarter-final against Portmarnock’s Darragh Coghlan with a 4&2 victory.

That earned him a place in Friday morning’s semi-final against Knock’s Colin Fairweather and, cheered on by a sizeable contingent of supporters from Dundalk, he recovered back from an early setback to lead at the turn.

However, a bad bounce on the 12th, where he had played a glorious approach shot, saw momentum shift in favour of the Ulster golfer but Rafferty hung in and got back to level after 16.

He had an opportunity on 17 to go ahead but his biride putt shaved the hole and Fairweather then played a superb approach at the 18th to four feet to win and advance to the final where he lost to Hermitage’s Rowan Lester.

Rafferty next mission is to help Dundalk in this week’s Barton Shield Leinster Finals at Kilkenny before he heads to Lahinch and the South of Ireland Championship.

 

Rafferty leads Leinster to three-in-a-row

Caolan Rafferty was one of the stars as Leinster claimed their third Interprovincial title in a row this week at Carlow Golf Club.

Rafferty, who was part of last year’s successful team, had an impressive haul of 5.5pts from his six foursomes and singles matches over the three days.

In the opening match against Munster, Rafferty and foursomes partner Eugene Smith from Ardee defeated John Murphy and James Sugure 4&4 before Rafferty was sent out at No.1 in the singles and defeated newly crowned Irish Amateur Open champion Peter O’Keefe 2&1. Those wins helped Leinster to a 6.5 to 4.5 victory.

Leinster had a much more emphatic victory on Day Two when they beat Connacht by 8.5 to 2.5. In the morning foursomes Rafferty and Smith halved with Devin Morley and Jack McDonnell while the afternoon Rafferty beat Barry Anderson 5&3 in the top match.

That left Leinster needing just a draw from their final match against Ulster to retain their title and they got off to the best possible start by winning the foursomes 3-1 with Rafferty and Smith winning 2&1 against Jordan Hood and Kyle McCarron.

Team Captain, Seamus McParland from Greenore, again put his faith in Rafferty to lead Leinster our in the singles and for the third day in a row he delivered from the No.1 slot with a one hole win over Irish international Tiarnan McLarnon.

Leinster eventually won 7-4 to complete a 100 per cent record over the week and win three interprovincial titles on the trot for the first time in over 50 years and sights are now set on emulating that team from the 1960s which won four-in-a-row from 1962 to 1965.

 

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Rafferty makes international headlines at British Amateur

Caolan Rafferty

Dundalk Golf Club’s Caolan Rafferty made international headlines last week when he shot a course record 62 to finish as leading qualifier in the British Amateur Open.

A top class field of 288 of the world’s amateur players teed it up for a place in the matchplay stages of the championship and after carding a level par 70 at Royal St George’s in the first round, Rafferty found himself tied 83rd heading into his second round at nearby Prince’s Golf Club.

His round to remember began with a par before he eagled the par five second and then rolled in birdies on the fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth holes turn for home on six under par after going out in 30.

The birdie putts continued to drop down the back nine as birdied 10, 11, 13, 14 and 15 and he looked set to at least match the all-time lowest score in the Amateur Championship under a bogey five at the last left Rafferty having to settle for a ten-under-par 62, a new course records at Prince’s and the prize for leading qualifier.

“The wind was up but everyone knows back home that I love the wind and playing links golf in the wind suits me right down to the ground,” said Rafferty. “It might be a bit of a graft when it comes to getting a score out of it but I just kept hitting it to ten to 12 feet and I couldn’t miss it.

“It was nice to finish as leading qualifier. The players in the British Amateur are the best of the best. They are the closest thing to professionals that we are going to see. To come out on top is always nice.”

In his opening matchplay round at Royal St George’s Rafftery has a comfortable 5&3 victory over David Ravetto of France as he continued the stunning form which saw him set that new course record at Prince’s.

That earned him a place in the last 32 against Argentina’s Alejandro Tosti, who is ranked 24th in the world compared to Rafferty who went into the week ranked 514th. Rafferty was leading by one hole with one to play when thunder and lightning halted play for over two hours. When play resumed he lost the 18th and was then involved in a titantic struggle as the match went to the 25th hole before Tosti emerged as the winner,.

After reaching the quarter-finals of the West of Ireland Championship, finishing seventh in the Lytham Trophy and earning a golf scholarship to Maynooth University, this has been a good year so far for Rafferty and he will look forward to the upcoming major championships with confidence as he chases his dream of an Irish international call-up.

ENDS

Record-breaking Rafferty is leading qualifier at British Amateur

Caolan Rafferty

Dundalk Golf Club’s Caolan Rafferty carded a ten-under-par 62 to finish as leading qualifier in the British Amateur Championship today and will face David Ravetto when the matchplay phase commences tomorrow at Royal St George.

Having carded level par 70 at Royal St George in the first qualifying round on Monday, Rafferty jumped from tied 83rd to top spot with his course record round at Prince’s. His 62 also matched the second lowest ever qualifying round in the British Amateur.

Rafferty, who finished tied seventh at the Lytham Trophy, eagled the par five second hole and reached the turn in six-under-par before going on a run of five birdies in six holes from the 10th. A bogey at the last, after finding a bunker, left the Dundalk golfer on ten-under- par.

“The wind was up today but everyone knows back home that I love the wind and playing links golf in the wind suits me right down to the ground,” said Rafferty. “It might be a bit of a graft when it comes to getting a score out of it but today I just kept hitting it to ten to 12 feet and I couldn’t miss it.

“It is nice to know that I am the leading qualifier in this field. The players are the best of the best. They are the closest thing to professionals that we are going to see. To come out on top is always nice.

“Match play is a funny game. You can play really poorly and win a match or you can play really well and lose a match. You just have to take it one step at a time in match play and not get down about it. I enjoy match play so I’m looking forward to it,” said Rafferty who reached the last eight at the West of Ireland Championship.

 

Rafferty and Murphy make presence felt in West

Two Dundalk golfers certainly made their presence felt at West of Ireland Championship in Rosses Point last week and while they didn’t come away with the title, they certainly laid down markers for the season ahead.

Caolan Rafferty went one better than year by reaching the last eight while Eoin Murphy, who has just turned 17, reached the last 16 in what was his first major amateur championship.

Murphy, who is a two handicapper, had to pre-qualify for the tournament and earned one of the 20 spots on offer after a marathon seven hole play-off was needed to fill the remaining four qualifying places from the 10 players tied on 77.

On the seventh tie-hole Murphy found himself as one of three players chasing the last two spots and his hopes of qualifying looked doomed when he forced to take a penalty drop from a wall. He made a five but got through after one of his rivals played a wrong ball and incurred a two-stroke penalty.

Four other Dundalk players – Andrew Keenan, Conor Curran, Richie Newell and Neil MacKell – also played in the pre-qualifers but failed to make the cut.

Murphy took full advantage of his good fortune two days later when he teed up in the Championship proper. He shot a three under par 68 in the first of the two strokeplay qualifying rounds as he mixed three bogeys with four birdies before holing a 60-yard lob wedge for an eagle two at the 18th.

“It was a nice way to finish,” said Murphy afterwards. “”It was a good solid round of golf — I hit lots of greens and didn’t do anything too mad until the 18th. It’s my first men’s championship and to be able to compete with these boys is great.”

Although he shot a 78 in the second round, Murphy comfortably qualified for the matchplay stage as did Rafferty who shot rounds of 72 and 75 but Aaron Grant missed the cut by two shots after he followed an excellent opening round of 73 with a nine-over par 80.

In the first matchplay round Murphy was drawn against Irish international Tiarnan McLaron (Massereene) and showed no signs of nerves against one of the favourites as he trounced the Ulsterman by 6&5 and he proved it was no fluke in the afternoon when he defeated Royal Dublin’s Richard Knightly by 3&2, impressing everybody as he came from two down with a tremendous run of winning holes to close the match on the 16th.

Rafferty also had a good day at the office on Easter Sunday as he saw off Tandragee’s Ross Dutton by 2&1 in the first round and then beat Andrew Hickey (Ballyhaunis) by 3&2 after lunch to reach the last 16 for the second successive year.

Unfortunately for Murphy, his magnificent run came to an end on Easter Monday morning when he was beaten 6&4 by local favourite David Brady (Co Sligo) but he certainly left his mark on the competition and showed that he has the ability to play at Irish amateur golf’s highest level.

Rafferty drew on all his experience to make the quarter-final as he was two down with four to play against Colin Woodroofe (Dun Laoghaire). He birdied the 15th, 16th and 17th to go one up and also won the 18th to win the match by two holes and earn a shot at making the last day of the West.

Rafferty faced Portmarnock’s Jack Pierce in the last eight and came up against a player in the top form from tee to green. Pierce, who helped Portmarnock win the World Club Golf Championship in December, opened up a three shot lead but although Rafferty birdied the 12th to reduce the deficit to two with six to play but he was unable to reel in Pierce who won by 2&1 and was level par for his round when it finished on the 17th.

While obviously disappointed that he didn’t make the semi-finals and the final day of the Championship, Rafferty can take a lot of satisfaction from his opening major of the year having gone one better than he did in 2016.

Rafferty retains Club Championship

Caolan Rafferty (+3) retained the Club Champio

Caolan Rafferty

Caolan Rafferty

nship on Saturday when a second round of level par was enough to hold off the chasing field.

Rafferty had held a four shot lead after Round 1 and the only player to challenge him was his fellow plus handicapper Aaron Grant (+2) who shot a one under par 71 for an overall score of level par. But Rafferty kept his composure all through the final round as he shot a level par 72 to finish on three under for the championship.

The gross prizes were won by Robert White (1) and Conor Curran (3) while Terry Conlon (6) and Eoin Murphy (3) took the nett prizes.

Club Championship – Overall: 141 – Caolan Rafferty (+3) 69/72. 144 –  Aaron Grant (+2) 73/71. Round 1 (Sept 4) – Gross: Robert White (1) 73/34. Nett: Terry Conlon (6) 68. Round 2 (Sept 11) – Gross: Connor Curran (3) 73/35. Nett: Eoin Murphy (3) 70. CSS: 73.

 

 

Rafferty makes Leinster Interpro Team

Caolan Rafferty

Caolan Rafferty

Caolan Rafferty has achieved one of his major goals for 2016 by being selected on the Leinster team for next week’s Interprovincial Championship in Fota Island.

It’s the 23-year-old’s first provincial cap and he’s hoping that it will be a stepping stone to another objective which is to represent Ireland.

The Leinster team, which is captained by Greenore’s legend Seamus McParland, is bidding to retain the title they won last year in Rosapenna and the eight strong team includes four survivors from 2015.

Rafferty got another boost this week when he rose 109 places in the Amateur World Rankings following his great performance at the British Amateur Championship where he reached the last 32.  He is now ranked at 354th in the world.

However, the week ended on a disappointing note for Rafferty and the other members of the club’s Senior Cup team as they went out in the first round on Saturday when they lost 3-2 to Laytown & Bettystown in the Regional qualifier at Baltray.