Top 20 finishes for Rafferty, Mackin and Murphy in Spain

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dundalk players in action at home and abroad

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dundalk lose in Barton Shield All-Ireland semi-final

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”

Mackin second in Leinster Boys Championship

Josh Mackin went agonisingly close at Waterford Golf Club last week to adding the Leinster Boys U18 Championship to the Ulster title he won a few weeks ago.

He was eventually edged out by Roscommon’s Simon Walker who won by two shots, but only after Mackin saw his double hopes ended on the final hole of the 54 hole event when he racked up a triple bogey seven having not scored worse than bogey on his previous 53 holes.

Mackin had opened the tournament with a two under par 71 when a hole in one at the seventh kick-started his round after six straight pars. Back to back birdies at 10 and 11 followed but he bogeyed 14 and 16 to finish with a 69 and klie one shot off the lead.

In the second round he had three bogies on the front nine but rolled in three birdies down the back to get back to level for the day before dropping a shot on the 18th which proved to be the most difficult hole on the course all week.

He started the final round in third place two shots behind the leaders, Walker and Seapoint’s Dylan Keating, and opened with a bogey which he got back by birdieing the fourth. Three successive birdies from the 11th left three under for the round and he went to the 18th tee leading the Championship only to run into trouble on the tree-lined last hole.

There was some consolation after the tournament when Mackin was selected on the Leinster team for the Boys Interprovincial Championships at Athlone Golf Club from July 23 to 25 and he is still hopeful of making the Irish team for the Home Internationals in August.

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.