Rafferty full of positives after South African trip

Caolan Rafferty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rafferty gets 2019 off to an impressive start

CAOLAN Rafferty got his 2019 season off to an impressive start by reaching the semi-finals of the South African Amateur Championship.

After finishing tied second in the two round strokeplay qualifying competition Rafferty continued to impressive as he marched through four rounds of matchplay before losing by one hole to South Africa’s Jordan Duminy in the last four.

“I was gutted to lose on the last hole of the semi-final but I am very happy with the way I played all week. There were a lot of birdies and eagles and very few bogeys all week. The game is in good shape so I have more positives to take from the week than the defeat in the semi-final.”

Having spent January focused on his business exams at Maynooth University, where he is a Harrington Scholar, the trip to South Africa as part of the GUI national panel was an opportunity for Rafferty to ease himself into 2019 with the sun on his back.

He opened the week with a steady three under par round of 69 in the first round of qualifying for South African Amateur Championship at King David Mowbray Golf Club. Rafferty reeled off eight successive pars before a hot streak yielded three successive birdies on the ninth, 10th and 11th. He then parred his way in for a bogey-free round and was tied eighth, six shots behind leader Luca Filippi.

The second round saw him birdie seven of the first 14 holes before he dropped his first shot of the week when he bogeyed the par four 15th. He signed for a six under par 66 and finished qualifying tied for second on nine under and one shot behind leading qualifier Filippi.

In the first round of matchplay, Rafferty faced South Africa’s Ayden Senger and took a firm grip of the match early on as won five of the first seven holes to go 5up and closed it out on the 14th for an emphatic 5&4 victory.

Next up was Germany’s Timo Vahlenkamp and once again Rafferty got control early on by winning the first and fourth holes. Although he lost the sixth to a birdie four, he birdied the seventh, ninth and 13th to open up a five hole lead and although he lost the 14th to a birdie four he parred the 15th to halve the hole and take the match 4&3.

That win earned him a place in the last 16 against his Ireland team-mate Conor Purcell from Portmarnock who recently became the first Irishman to win the Australian Amateur Championship.

The match couldn’t have started better for Rafferty who eagled the par four first hole and then won the second with a par to go two up. However, Purcell, who went into the tournament as the highest ranked Irishman on the World Rankings, came charging back and birdied the third, sixth and ninth to take a one hole lead which he held until the 13th when Rafferty birdied to go back to all square.

The Dundalk man then eagled the par five 14th to go one up before proceeding to ruthlessly dispatch Purcell by birdieing the next two holes for a superb 3&2 win.

England’s David Langley provided Rafferty’s opposition in the quarter-finals and he struck the first blow when he birdied the third to open up a one hole lead.

Rafferty’s response was swift and devastating as he won the next four holes with two birdies, an eagle and a par to go three up after seven. Langley got a hole back by winning the ninth but Rafferty won the 10th and although he lost the 12th he won the 13th to remain 3up and then halved the next three holes to win 3&2,.

That left Rafferty in the last four and the only non-South African player still standing. His 16-year-old opponent was one of the home nation’s up and coming stars, Jordan Duminy, a product of the Louis Oosthuizen Academy.

Their match was a tight affair with never more than one hole between them. Rafferty lost the second to a par but won the next in par. The pair then halved the next nine holes before Rafferty birdied the par five 14th to go one up with four to play.

However, Duminy brought the match back to all square at the next hole with a birdie three and, after halving the next two holes in par, the pair stood on the 18th hole all square and facing the prospect of extra holes.

However, the 18th proved to be the decisive hole. Rafferty airmailed the green with his approach shot from 160 yards and ended up against a tree at the back of the green. Duminy made an easy par and Rafferty’s putt to force the match down the 19th burned the edge of the hole.

“I just got really unlucky on 18 with my second shot. I got a flyer from 160 yards and went 30 yards over the back and ended up against a tree. I had to alter my swing to hit it and then tried to chip in but it ran by. He was always making four and although my par putt burned the edge it didn’t drop.

“I would have taken hand and arm off you if you had offered me the week I’ve just had before coming out. I have competed against a field of top class players and reached the semi-final.”

Rafferty’s stats for the week were pretty impressive, He completed 116 holes and recorded three eagles, 36 birdies, 70 pars and seven bogies and only failed to complete one hole all week.

“My scoring was really good. If it had been a strokeplay event I would have been around 35 under for the week so I am really looking forward to next week and hopefully continuing my form. However, you never know what is going to happen in golf. It’s a funny old game and next week could be a complete disaster.”

Next week’s tournament is the South African Amateur Strokeplay at De Zalze Golf Club where Rafferty will be hoping to continue his climb up the World Rankings and cement his place in the World’s top 50 as well as continuing to press his claims for a place on the Britain and Ireland team for the Walker Cup in September at Hoylake.

Double victory for Rafferty in Colombia

Caolan Rafferty and Tiarnan McLarnon

Caolan Rafferty and Tiarnan McLarnon

There was double success for Caolan Rafferty at the Copa Fedegolf at Barranquilla Country Club in Colombia.

Rafferty and partner Tiarnan McLarnon from Massereene Golf Club came from behind to win the Copa Fedegolf team event for Ireland by 12 strokes.

Rafferty also shot a 66 in the final round to win the individual title by one shot.

Ireland went into the final round one stroke behind Argentina’s Sebastian Bergagna and Horacio Carbonetti in the team standings.

They were three behind Bergagna and Carbonetti after six holes but then moved up a gear to take the team title with a final score of one-under 575.

“It was good,” Rafferty told irishgolfdesk.com. “The key was that we both played solid because it isn’t easy to get two lads shooting good scores for four rounds.

“Most of the other teams had one good and one poor score each round.”

In the individual competition, Rafferty was three strokes behind Chile’s Lucas Rosso with a round to play after rounds of 75, 69 and 70 but closed with a six under 66, finishing with a birdie at the last to edge out his rival by one stroke, finishing on eight-under 280.

“I played really well,” Rafferty said. “I missed a lot of putts over the week with the greens being so different.”

McLarnon was eighth on 221 through 54 holes after 74, 72 and 75, then closed with a 74 to finish sixth on seven-over.

Rafferty heads to the European University Championships in Prague next week before defending the Dundalk Scratch Cup on Sunday, September 17.

 

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.