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.

Walker Cup stars heading for Dundalk Scratch Cup

Walker Cup and Ireland stars Caolan Rafferty, James Sugrue and Conor Purcell will switch from being teammates to rivals this Sunday (September 15) when they tee it up at the One Finance sponsored Dundalk Scratch Cup at Dundalk Golf Club.
Last weekend the trio were part of the Great Britain & Ireland team in the Walker Cup at Hoylake before travelling to Lahinch to represent Ireland in the Home Internationals.
The presence of three players from the World’s top 60 is sure to attract big crowds to Dundalk for the 36 hole tournament which will have shotgun starts at 9am for Round 1 and 2pm for Round 2.
Rafferty is the defending champion and is bidding to win a third title in four years while Sugrue from Mallow is the Amateur champion and Portmarnock’s Purcell is the Australian Amateur champion.
The three Walker Cup players will start as favourites but there are plenty of players in the star studded field that will fancy their chances of lifting the famous trophy. Previous champions include the likes of three-time major winner Padraig Harrington while another former Walker Cup players, David Sheahan, was the first winner in 1963.
Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell won the event in 2017 while Co Louth’s Gerard Dunne set a new course record in last year’s second round and both will be expected to feature strongly as will another former winner, Gary Cullen, while current Boys’ internationals Max Kennedy and Dylan Keating will see this as their opportunity to make their senior breakthrough.
Rafferty will lead a strong home challenge into this year’s competition as members of the club’s senior panel will be battling to nail their places in next week’s All-Ireland Barton Shield semi-final against Rosses Point in Westport. Over their home course, the challenge of Aaron Grant, Eoin Murphy, Josh Makin and Brendan Lawlor cannot be underestimated. 
The greenkeeping staff at Dundalk have been working hard over the last few weeks to have the course in top shape for Sunday and Dundalk Captain Pat Davis said everybody is looking forward to the event.
“We have a great field this year and are delighted that James Sugrue and Conor Purcell are able to play given their busy schedules. The course is in superb condition and we are expecting a lot of people to come out and take advantage of the opportunity to see some of our top amateur golfers in action,” he said.

Elite golfers flying the flag across the world

 It’s a busy time for Dundalk Golf Club’s elite golfers as they continue to represent the club with distinction across the world.

Caolan Rafferty faces the biggest test of his amateur career this week when he tees it up among the world’s elite at the American Amateur Championship which is being played at the world famous Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina.

The 26-year-old will start his bid to qualify for the 64 player matchplay stage at 6.12pm (Irish time) on Monday on Pinehurst’s famed No.2 course which has hosted more single golf championships than any other course in America and will stage the US Open in 2024 having last staged it in 2014. His second round on Tuesday will be at 12.57pm on Pinehurst No.4 and he will play both rounds in the company of Americans Pierceson Coody and Ryan Burnett.

Rafferty flew out to America last Thursday in the company of British Amateur Champion James Sugure from Mallow and Australian Amateur Champion Conor Purcell from Portmarnock and admits having his Irish team-mates with him this week will be a big help.

“We’re sharing a house and hopefully all of us will be here until the final day,” said Rafferty. Rafferty, who has already won the West of Ireland Championship this year, played in Arizona last December and hopes that experience will help him.

“It probably wasn’t the best time of the year for me to go over but it was a good experience because it is different and I hope it will help me this week.”

Rafferty’s big goal this year is to make the Britain and Ireland team for the Walker Cup in Royal Liverpool next month and with the ten-man team set to be named next week he knows that a good performance in Pinehurst will be a big help to his chances.

“I’ve just got to keep doing what I have been doing and hopefully it will be good enough to get me a place. But you never know what could happen,” he said.

Rafferty’s involvement in the American Amateur meant he missed the Irish Close Championship in Ballybunion where his club-mate, and Barton Shield partner, Eoin Murphy flew the flag for Dundalk with some distinction.

Murphy recorded his best ever performance at a senior championship by reaching the quarter-finals where he lost 3&1 to Dun Laoghaire’s Alan Fahy,

After shooting rounds of 75 and 71 to qualify in 19th place on +4, Murphy beat William Small (Tandragee), Kevin Stack (Dungarvan) and Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint) in the matchplay rounds to reach the last eight.

It was a good week too for Josh Mackin as the Ulster Boys Champions played for Ireland in the Boys Home Internationals in Wales where they came within a whisker of dethroning champions England.

Mackin formed a superb foursomes partnership with Royal Dublin’s Max Faulkner and the pair won all three of their matches against Scotland, Wales and England while in the singles Mackin gained half-a-point against Scotland, won his match against Wales and was agonisingly beaten by one hole by England’s Max Hopkins as Ireland lost 8-7 to the English.

A haul of four-and-a-half points out of a possible six was an excellent return and caps what has been a fine year to date for the 18-year-old. Finally, Brendan Lawlor continues to blaze a trail for disability golf and this week he will tee it up against male and female professionals at the ISPS Handa World Invitational at Galgorm Castle. This is a tournament where men and women will compete at the same venue at the same time with the professionals sharing equal prize money.

“I believe this will be the first time a disability golfer will compete on the same stage over the same course as the professionals in a Challenge Tour event,” said Lawlor who is a member of Dundalk’s Senior Panel.     

Dundalk retains Leinster Barton Shield pennant

Our Senior Panel have retained the Leinster Barton Shield and booked their place in the All-Ireland semi-final in Westport at the end of September.

Last Saturday at Royal Tara Golf Club, Dundalk beat Woodbrook in the provincial semi-final in the morning before defeating The Island in the final to win a second successive senior pennant.

“Last year was the first time since the Club was founded in 1905 that we won a senior pennant so to have gone out this year and retained it is very special and a great achievement by the lads,” said John Conlon who jointly manages the team with Alan McCabe.

“But it is only a step towards our ultimate goal this year which is to win the All-Ireland title. We were very disappointed to lose in last year’s final and our whole focus this year has been on getting back to the national final and bringing a green pennant back to Dundalk.”

The Barton Shield is a competition for elite players with two two-man pairings playing, off scratch, in a foursomes matchplay format and the match being decided by the aggregate number of holes won.

Dundalk got a massive boost on the eve of the Leinster finals when Caolan Rafferty announced he was available to play after being knocked out in the second round of the South of Ireland Championship on Friday evening.

“We were planning without Caolan because he was the defending champion in the South of Ireland and we were all hoping that he would be in the mix over the weekend,” said Conlon. “It is testament to the type of person he is that immediately after losing on the 20th hole of his second round match, he got into his car and phoned to say he was on his way back and would be in Navan in the morning.”

Quite how Woodbrook felt when the plus six handicapper, who has been named on the 14 man panel from which the ten players to represent Britain and Ireland in the Walker Cup will be picked, teed it up isn’t known, but after winning the first hole they must have felt they were going to benefit from a post-Lahinch hangover.

It proved to be a short-lived feeling because on the second hole Rafferty fired an approach shot to 15 feet and his partner Eoin Murphy sank the birdie putt to bring the match back to all-square.

At the next hole, the Dundalk pairing went one up after Woodbrook put their third shot in the bushes behind the green and stretched their lead to two holes on the par four sixth when Murphy drove around the dog-leg to within 10 yards of the front of the green and Rafferty chipped in for an eagle two.

Although they lost the seventh they turned for home three up after winning the eighth and ninth with birdies. They lost the tenth but restored their three shot advantage on the 12th.

It was clear at this stage that this match was going to decide who would advance to the final because up ahead Josh Mackin and Brendan Lawlor were heading for defeat after a frustrating morning on the greens.

After losing the first hole, they got back to all square by winning the third in par. However, they lost the fourth, sixth and seventh to fall three holes behind by the turn. The Dundalk pairing did rally on the back nine by winning the tenth and 13th to reduce the deficit to one hole but then lost the 14th to birdie and the 15th to par to find themselves three behind again with just three holes to go.

By this point it was a case of limit the damage and hope Rafferty and Murphy in the match behind could win by more than they lost. The youngsters dug deep to win the par five 18th where Mackin found the fairway, Lawlor drilled a two iron 260 yards to off the back of the green, Mackin chipped on to three feet and Lawlor sank the birdie putt.

As that putt dropped, Murphy was pitching in to 10 feet on the 17th and when Woodbrook missed their birdie putt from 30 feet, Rafferty lagged his putt to the edge of the hole and Dundalk’s place in the afternoon final was secured.

The other semi-final between The Island and Palmerstown House went to 19th Hole, giving the Dundalk players some extra time to recover before the final. The managers made one change for the afternoon with the experienced Aaron Grant coming in for debutant Brendan Lawlor as Josh Mackin’s partner in the top match.

“It was great to give Brendan his Barton Shield debut and let him get some very valuable playing time. His approach shot and putt on 18 were crucial to the win in the morning and being able to bring in a fresh and experienced Aaron Grant in the afternoon was a big boost,” said Conlon.

After halving the first three holes of their match against Jonathon Quinn and Rhys Clarke, Grant and Mackin got their noses in front by winning the fourth with a birdie. They extended their lead to two holes by winning the ninth with a birdie but then bogeyed the par three 13th to go back to one up.

Behind them, things didn’t start so well as Rafferty and Murphy lost the first two holes to birdies from Fergal Kennedy and Jack Blake, but they won the third and brought the match back to all square on the seventh when Murphy holed a testy left to right breaking putt following a sublime chip from Rafferty from the back of the green.

A superb tee shot from Rafferty on the par three 11th to six feet set up Murphy for a birdie that put the Dundalk pairing in front for the first time and they followed that up with birdies on the next two holes as Murphy drained putts from 20 and 15 feet respectively to go three up with five to play.

The next three holes were halved and as the two Dundalk pairings went down the 17th they were lying four up overall with four to play. It all ended when Aaron Grant cooly sank a six foot putt to win the 17th in his match and seal a five hole victory for the defending champions.

“The Club is extremely proud of our Senior Panel who have worked very hard over the last number of years to become Leinster champions,” said Dundalk Club Captain Pat Davis.

“It was a massive breakthough last year to win our first senior pennant and reach the All-Ireland Final and to retain it is a tremendous achievement. I would like to congratulate the managers, the players, the caddies and our club professional Leslie Walker for a job well done and we are all looking forward to going to Westport in September and having another shot at winning the national title.”

Dundalk beaten in Senior Cup Regional Final

Despite hosting the event in Dundalk, the Senior Panel were beaten in the Regional Final of the AIG Senior Cup on Sunday by an excellent Laytown & Bettytown team who now progress to the Leinster quarter-final.

The Meathmen laid down a very impressive marker in the strokeplay qualifying on Saturday when they lead home the field by six shots with a combined score of 292 from the four counting scorecards. Greenore came next on 298 with Dundalk on 301 and Skerries on 302 as the top four advanced to Sunday’s matchplay semi-finals.

Laytown booked their place in the final with a comfortable 4-1 win over Skerries but the other semi-final went right to wire. Eoin Murphy and Josh Mackin were both winners for Dundalk while Aaron Grant and Conor Curran both lost to leave it at 2-2 with Dundalk’s Neal MacKell one down with two to play. However, last year’s Junior Cup winner showed nerved of steel to win the two final holes in a dramatic finish and seal Dundalk’s place in the regional final.

Any hopes that home advantage would favour Dundalk in the final proved unfounded as the well prepared Laytown team took the first three matches to seal victory with Eoin Murphy losing 2&1while Conor Curran and Neal MacKell were both beaten by two holes having taken their matches to the 18th. Aaron Grant and Josh Mackin were both called in once the Layotwn secured their third point.

Caolan Rafferty and Brendan Lawlor both missed the weekend Senior Cup action as they were in Austria and Czech Republic respectively and posted top ten finished in their respective events.

Saturday, June 29 and Sunday, June 30 – AIG Senior Cup Regional Qualifier – Qualifying: 292 Laytown & Bettystown; 298 Greenore; 301 Dundalk; 302 Skerries; 304 Co Louth; 308 Ardee; 313 Balcarrick; 315 Balbriggan; 320 Rush; 322 Hollywood Lakes. CSS: 73. Semi-finals: Laytown & Bettystown bt Skerries 4/1; Dundalk bt Greenore 3/2. Final: Laytown & Bettystown bt Dundalk 4/1.

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

Disappointing finish for Murphy at Irish Amateur

Eoin Murphy had a disappointing end to the Irish Amateur Open Championship at Rosses Point after putting himself in the running for a top ten finish in his first appearance in the event.

Rounds of 71, 68 and 72 saw him climb steadily through the field and start the final round in joint tenth place and just four shots off second place on two under.

But after bouncing back from a bogey five at the second with a birdie four at the third, the wheels started to come off for the 18 year old as he bogeyed the fourth and sixth to turn two over the day and level par for the tournament.

Down the back nine he dropped seven shots as he doubled bogeyed three holes and bogeyed another to finish tied 37th. However, Murphy will take a lot of positives from the week as he returns to inter-club action this weekend when the club’s senior panel begin their defence of the Leinster Barton Shield pennant they won for the first time in the club’s history last year.

Dundalk are among 13 clubs who will tee it up at Killeen Castle on Saturday in the regional qualifier with the top four qualifiers from the strokeplay round going forward to the matchplay semi-finals at 8.30am on Sunday morning. Only the winner of Sunday afternoon’s final will advance to the Leinster Finals on July 27 in Royal Tara.

Our Barton Cup team face Royal Tara in the third round of this year’s competition while our Irish Senior Mixed Foursomes team had a great 4-1 win over Greenore on Sunday to continue their run.

Caolan Rafferty, who missed the Irish Amateur Open because he is currently doing exams, has risen to an all-time high of 33rd on the World Amateur Golf Rankings.

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).