Dundalk head for Mount Juliet seeking senior double

 

Aaron Grant

WHEN Dundalk won the AIG Barton Shield Leinster title at Mount Wolseley four weeks ago, a massive weight was lifted off the shoulders of Aaron Grant.

The 31-year-old had endured many years of heartache in the quest to be part of a successful senior team but the smile on his face when Dundalk sealed their win over Enniscorthy in the provincial final said it all.

“It’s been a long journey. I have been playing senior golf for the club since I was 15 so to finally be part of a Dundalk team that won a senior pennant was a great feeling. To go on and win an All-Ireland would be unbelievable.”

Having waited a long time to get his hands on one blue Leinster pennant, Grant now finds himself heading to Mount Juliet this weekend with his senior panel team-mates hoping to land a second when Dundalk and seven other clubs tee it up in Leinster Finals of the AIG Senior Cup.

The Senior Cup is the Holy Grail of inter-club golf club in Ireland and was first played for in 1900, five years before Dundalk Golf Club was founded. Having achieved the objective of landing a first ever senior club title last month, Grant and his team-mates are now keen to do the double.

“I believe you have got to take your chance when it comes along. We don’t know what is going to happen next year so this is a great opportunity for us and we will be doing our best to take it,” said Grant.

Dundalk qualified for the Leinster Finals after three impressive wins over Killeen Castle, Headfort and Co Louth in the regional qualifying round of the Senior Cup at Laytown & Bettystown last June.

The Dundalk squad spent the weekend in Mount Juliet preparing for the Leinster finals and according to Grant nothing is being left to chance.

“We have two great managers in Alan McCabe and John Conlon and they are brilliant. They don’t leave any stone unturned and their attention to detail is amazing. It’s great for us, as players, because it lets us concentrate on playing golf.”

One of the features of the Barton Shield Leinster Finals was the large crowd from Dundalk who made their way to Tullow and a big contingent is expected to travel to Mount Juliet on Saturday to support the team in their Leinster quarter-final against The Island.

“There is a great buzz around the club at the moment. Our success is down to a great juvenile programme that the likes of Paul Malone, Vincent Conlon, Jim Carragher and Liam Mernagh have looked after for years. Leslie Walker, our club professional, has also done a great job in bringing players through and his experience is invaluable.”

The match against The Island will tee off at 8am on Saturday morning and the format is five players playing singles matchplay off scratch. Dundalk managers Alan McCabe and John Conlon will select from an eight strong panel, every one of whom is showing good form at the moment.

“Since the Barton Shield win they have all been focused on securing one of the five places on the team to face The Island on Saturday and they have certainly given us plenty to think about. We’ll have a few tough calls to make but that’s the way we want it, everybody pushing hard for selection.” said Conlon.

If Dundalk get through, they will face the winners of the quarter-final between Dun Laoghaire and Tullamore at 2pm on Saturday. Old Conna, Portmarnock, Carton House and Enniscorthy are in the bottom half of the draw and the final is scheduled for Sunday morning at 10am.

Having battled alongside the likes of Peter Rogers, Declan Toal and Simon Waters for many years trying to make a breakthrough, Grant admits he is exciting by the potential of the current senior panel which includes the likes of newly crowned South of Ireland champion Caolan Rafferty, Boys internationals Eoin Murphy and Josh Mackin, Brendan Lawlor who is currently ranked second on the European Disabled Golfers Association Tour, as well as Conor Curran, Neal MacKell and Andrew Keenan.

“We now have the strength in depth to know that whatever five are picked to play they are capable of delivering five points,” observed Grant. “We’ve never been in that position before and the young players who are coming through are getting better and better all time.”

Little wonder that Grant is walking around with a spring in step and finally realising a dream that was first ignited many years ago when he watched his neighbour Justin McArdle hitting golf balls from the Sean O’Mahony’s pitch on the Point Road and trying to land them in the centre circle of Clancy Park.

“Justin was a big inspiration to me and I am lucky that I always got wonderful encouragement and support from my parents, my wife, Maria, and my children while others, like Terry Sloane, helped me in the early days to get to play in the boys and youths championships and events like the Mullingar Scratch Cup,” recalled Grant who famously beat a certain Rory McIllroy in 2004 at the Connacht Boys Championship in Portumna.

Grant has been a man on a mission ever since then and this weekend is merely the next chapter in what he hopes will be a year to remember for Dundalk Golf Club.

Dundalk Senior Panel: Conor Curran, Aaron Grant, Andrew Keenan, Brendan Lawlor, Neal MacKell, Josh Mackin, Eoin Murphy, Caolan Rafferty. Managers: Alan McCabe and John Conlon.

ENDS

CHAMPIONS! Dundalk claims first senior title

DUNDALK Golf Club made an historic breakthrough at the weekend by winning the Leinster Final of the AIG Barton Shield and claiming the club’s first ever senior title.

They did it in style with impressive victories over Corrstown, Elm Park and Enniscorthy in the provincial finals which were held at Mount Wolseley Golf Club in Tullow, Co Carlow, on Friday and Saturday.

The Barton Shield is one of the two senior trophies on offer for Irish golf clubs each and features the top amateur players in the country. It is played off scratch in a foursomes matchplay format with two pairings representing each club and the aggregate score from each match deciding the match.

For joint managers Alan McCabe and John Conlon it was the culmination of three years’ work having taken over responsibility for the club’s senior panel in 2016.

“We reached the Leinster quarter-finals the first year and then got the semi-finals last year and lost to the eventual winners,” said Conlon. “We set ourselves a target of going one better this year and once we got to the final we were determined to take the opportunity because we knew we had no divine right to think we will ever get a second chance.”

Dundalk headed to Tullow with an eight man panel made up of the experienced Aaron Grant, Irish international Caolan Rafferty, Boys Internationals Eoin Murphy and Josh Mackin and low single figure players Conor Curran, Brendan Lawlor, Andrew Keenan and Neal MacKell.

“While only four played, this was very much a group effort and everybody in the panel bought into what we were trying to do which was winning a Leinster pennant,” said McCabe. “The four who didn’t play all had important supporting roles over the weekend while Conor Curran played a major part in ensuring we got through our regional qualifying tournament back in May when Caolan Rafferty was away on international duty. He typified the spirit we have in this group.”

Dundalk qualified for the Leinster Finals by finishing second in qualifying at Balcarrick and then beating Greenore and Royal Dublin in the matchplay rounds to book one of the eight places on offer.

Dundalk were drawn in the top bracket against Corrstown while Elm Park faced Kilkenny, Portmarnock met Dun Laoghaire and Enniscorthy played Tullamore.

McCabe and Conlon paired Aaron Grant and teenager Josh Mackin in the top match while Caolan Rafferty partnered Eoin Murphy in the bottom match for the quarter-final against Corrstown on Friday morning.

Dundalk quickly took control of the tie against the Dublin club and at no stage was either pairing behind in their respective matches.

In the bottom match, Rafferty and Murphy won the second but lost the sixth to go back to all square. They then won the next two holes and turned for home two up. After halving the 10th in birdies, the Dundalk pair then won the next four holes with birdies to be six up when they were called in after 14 holes.

In the top match, Grant and Mackin also won the second hole and Grant chipped in from off the ninth green for a birdie two to give the duo a three hole lead at the turn. They lost the 11th but won 14 to be three up with four to play and, although they lost the 15th, they halved the 16th to ensure Dundalk’s victory.

Elm Park defeated Kilkenny in their quarter-final match and stood between Dundalk and a place in the final. Team managers McCabe and Conlon kept faith with the morning pairings and they justified their selection with a magnificent five hole victory over the biggest golf club in Ireland.

However, they were made to fight extremely hard for their win with both pairings finding themselves trailing at different stages and having to dig deep to haul themselves back into their respective matches.

In the top match, Grant and Mackin faced an Elm Park pairing that included Irish Boys International Charlie Denvir who tried to drive the green on fourth but found a greenside bunker from which Elm Park failed to get up and down. Aaron Grant then rolled in a 15ft birdie putt to put Dundalk in front.

Elm Park won the next to get it back to level and then went ahead on the par three sixth after Denvir’s tee shot set up a winning birdie but it was back to all square a hole later.

Dundak turned one hole up after winning the ninth with a par but a great chip from Denvir set up a winning birdie for Elm Park on the 10th and he hit another great chip on the 11th to set up another win as the Dubliners went ahead with seven holes to play.

After halving 12, thanks to another great putt from Grant, Dundalk got it back to all square and the match turned in Dundalk’s favour in dramatic fashion on the 15th hole. Mackin’s tee shot found the 10th fairway from where Grant played a superb recovery shot to be pin high in a greenside bunker where he was joined by Elm Park after Denvir pulled his wedge shot from the middle of the fairway. Dundalk made five after Grant’s putt was conceded and Elm Park missed their putt to give Grant and Mackin a one shot lead they held until they were called in on their way to the 18th tee.

Behind them, Rafferty and Murphy had won by four holes after showing great character to bounce back after losing the opening two holes.

They won the next two to get back to all square and then took control of the match when they birdied the sevenths and parred the eighth to open up a two hole lead.

They went three up after winning the 10th and although they lost the 12th to a birdie four they birdied 14 and 15 to go five up and a half on 16 was enough to seal Dundalk’s place in the Leinster final for the first time.

Enniscorthy shocked pre-tournament favourites Dun Laoghaire, winning the other semi-final by three holes, and they teed it up alongside Dundalk on Saturday morning.

Dundalk kept faith with the quartet that got them to the final and in the top match Grant and Mackin opened up an early lead when their opponents three-putted the opening hole.

They held that lead to the fifth, when a lost ball off the tee opened the door for Enniscorthy to draw level. Two great bunker shots by Mackin on the next two holes prevented Enniscorthy from taking the lead and the youngster then played a superb approach into the eight to set up a 15ft birdie putt from Grant to win the hole.

They went two up after winning the 10th despite finding the trees down the left from the tee from where Mackin could only pitch the ball back onto the fairway. Enniscorthy, sensing an opportunity, decided to lay up in front of the stream protecting the narrow green but Grant called their bluff by producing the shot of the week, a magnificent two iron into the wind from 238 yards which he left six feet from a back pin. After Enniscorthy made five, Mackin showed nerves of steel to sink the birdie putt to win the hole in four.

On the next hole Mackin rolled in a par putt to move Dundalk three up and although they lost the 14th to a remarkable birdie they halved the next two holes and were two up playing the 16th when they were called in.

Behind them Rafferty and Murphy quickly got holes on the board by winning the opening two holes and went three up with a win on the fourth. A superb tee-shot from Murphy set up a six foot birdie putt and a win from Rafferty on the sixth and although they lost the ninth, they turned three up.

Their lead was reduced to two after they lost the par three 11th to a birdie but they responded to that set back in magnificent style by eagling the par five 12th. A birdie at the 14th moved them back to four up and when Enniscorthy failed to match their birdie at the 15th, they moved to five up.

That left Dundalk’s aggregate score at seven holes ahead with six to play and triggered joyous scenes as the large crowd of club and family members who had travelled south to support the team over the two days celebrated with the players, caddies and managers.

“The support was fantastic,” said McCabe. “It was definitely a big help to us and we greatly appreciate the efforts people made to get to Mount Wolseley. Hopefully, they will be able to travel in big numbers to Thurles in October for the All-Ireland Finals.”

Before that, Dundalk have a chance to complete a Leinster double as they have also qualified for the provincial finals in the AIG Senior Cup, the first time in the club’s history that they have qualified for both elite Leinster finals in the same year.

They will play The Island in the quarter-final at Mount Juliet on August 25 with the semi-final scheduled for that afternoon and the final the following day.

“All the focus for the next five weeks is going to be on Mount Juliet,” said McCabe. “It’s a different type of format but we will prepare properly for it and there is no doubt that winning the Barton Shield pennant will give all the panel members great confidence heading to Mount Juliet.”

Dundalk Captain Gerry Byrne said had been a great weekend for the club. “It is a great feeling to see the club win its first senior pennant and it was very pleasing to see them win it playing some fantastic golf. Great credit must go to the players, caddies and managers as well as the magnificent supporters who really got behind the team all weekend. Most of our senior panel have come through our excellent juvenile programme and the likes of Paul Malone, Vincent Conlon, Jim Carraher, Liam Mernagh and our club professional Leslie Walker have now seen a lot of their hard work over the years come to fruition at the top end of Irish club golf.”

BARTON SHIELD LEINSTER FINALS RESULTS

Quarter Finals

Dundalk bt Corrstown by 8 Holes.

Elm Park bt Kilkenny by 3 Holes

Enniscorthy bt Tullamore by 4 Holes

Dun Laoghaire bt Portmarnock by 8 Holes.

 

Semi Finals

Dundalk bt Elm Park by 5 Holes

Enniscorthy bt Dun Laoghaire by 3 Holes

 

Final

Dundalk bt Enniscorthy by 7 Holes

 

Back nine seals it as Redmond wins Professional’s Prize

Sixteen handicapper Kevin Redmond produced a level par back nine to take Leslie Walker’s Professional Prize on countback on a perfect day for golf last Sunday.

Redmond signed for a four under par 68 and his superb score over the final nine holes saw him pip Eddie Rocks (10) and Gerard Daly (13) who had also finished on four under par.

Redmond hadn’t looked like a winner after his opening nine holes which he covered 40 nett, four over par. After a steady start he was one under par nett after a par at the second but a quadruple bogey eight at the eighth and double bogeys at the fifth and seventh left him with a lot of work to do down the back nine.

He was a completely different player heading for home as he rolled in one birdie, seven pars and one bogey for a level par 36 which was a nett 28, eight under par.

Rocks took Category One and Daly won the Veteran’s Prize while the evergreen Peter Rogers (1) claimed the Gross Prize with a 74. Eamonn Laverty (15) and Colm O’Hanrahan (25) took the Category Prizes.

Damien English (10) won the Wednesday Open Singles on countback from Jamie McCaul (20) while Daniel Nordone (18) captured the Juvenile Prize with 41pts and then went on to win Sunday’s Juvenile Prize, off 16, when he shot a 73.

Sunday, June 24 – Professional’s Prize (Leslie Walker) – Overall: Kevin Redmond (16) 68/28. Gross: Peter Rogers (1) 74. Veteran: Gerard Daly (13) 68.    Cat1: (+1-12): Eddie Rocks (10) 68, Alan McDermott (6) 71. Cat 2: (13-16): Eamonn Laverty (15) 69. David Brennan (16) 71/34. Cat 3: (17+): Colm O’Hanrahan (25) 69/32.5, Derek Teather (17) 69. Juvenile: Daniel Nordone (16) 73. CSS: 73.

Golfer of the Year Leaderboard (after four rounds): 218 – David Brennan; 219 – Brendan Keane; 220 – Gerard Daly, Peter Rogers, Neal MacKell; 221 – Jimmy O’Connor, Edward Rogers; 222 – Pat Donaghy, Ciaran Johnson, Ciaran Sheridan.

Top class field assembled for Dundalk Scratch Cup

A top class field has been assembled for the One Finance sponsored Dundalk Scratch Cup which takes place this Sunday (September 17) over 36 holes at Dundalk Golf Club.

It includes a host of top players including the recent winner of the Irish Close Championship Jamie Fletcher from Warrenpoint and the player he beat in the final, Athenry teenager David Kitt,

Over 25 plus-handicap players will tee it up over Dundalk’s testing championship course including defending champion Caolan Rafferty who will lead a formidable home challenge that includes course record holder and former winner Aaron Grant, Boys internationals Eoin Murphy and Josh Mackin, and veteran stalwart Peter Rogers and another former local winner, Dan Coyle.

Tiarnan McLarnon, who partnered Rafferty to success in Colombia last week, is also in the high-quality field along with the likes of Colm Campbell, Jack Doherty, Aaron Marshall, Ross Kelly Eugene Smith and Geoff Lenehan.

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 club professional Leslie Walker believes that the course record of 64, which was recently set by Grant, could be under threat.

“With the quality of the field and the course set-up, I’m looking forward to a low-scoring event and I think it will be a great opportunity to see some of the top amateur players in action,” said Walker.

Rafferty, who is the defending champion, says he would love to retain his title after an amazing season which has seen him win the silver medal for leading qualifier at the British Amateur and North of Ireland Championships as well as helping Ireland to victory in the Home Internationals and the Copa Fedegolf in Colombia where he also won the individual event.

“It was a big breakthrough for me last year when I won it and I am delighted that I kicked-on after that. I’d love to retain the title but I know that it’s not going to be easy looking at the quality of the field. Hopefully local knowledge will count for something!” said Rafferty who will spend this week playing for Maynooth University at the European University Championships in Prague.

This year’s event has a new sponsor in One Finance and Club Captain Mickey Coburn said it is great to have them on board.

“We are delighted to welcome on board One Finance as the new sponsors of the Scratch Cup and look forward to working with them to consolidate the competition’s status as one of the top 36 hole senior scratch cups in Ireland.

The Dundalk Scratch Cup commenced in 1963 when it was won by David Sheahan and previous champions include three-times Major winner and European Ryder Cup player Padraig Harrington.

PHOTO: Pictured at the launch of the 2017 Dundalk Scratch Cup sponsored by One Finance were (from left): Leslie Walker (Club Professional), Niall McDonnell (One Finance), Caolan Rafferty (Current Holder) and Dundalk Golf Club Captain Mickey Coburn.

 

 

Dundalk duo qualify for Morocco final

Leslie Walker

Club captain Mickey Coburn and Club Professional Leslie Walker produced a dominant performance to reach the SkyCaddie PGA Pro-Captain Challenge final by winning their qualifier at Seapoint Golf Club.

The Dundalk pairing will now play in the £22,000 final, in association with Golfplan, which will be played on November 21 and 22 at Mazagan Beach Resort in Casablanca, Morocco.

They carded a 10 under par round to return a total of 46 points without dropping a shot. That gave them a two point advantage over Shaun Donnelly and Neal Graham of Castle Hume Golf Club and David Walker (Leslie’s brother) and Stuart Margetson of Foxrock Golf Club.

This was the first time that Coburn and Walker had actually played alongside each other. But they gelled immediately with Coburn making six birdies and a nett eagle – and the result now sees them travelling to Morocco for the final.

“If I’m brutally honest that’s the first time I’ve ever played with Leslie, it worked out very well on the day, and we started out well which was important,” said eight-handicapper Coburn.

“I really enjoyed it and I love the course. It was cloudy and no wind, we probably got the best of the day, but we had about a four hour wait to see if we’d won. You’re always hoping someone doesn’t nick it at the end.

“But I have to say this is absolutely fabulous prize.”

For Walker it was a welcome return to the winner’s enclosure on the PGA circuit but he was quick to pay tribute to his teammate.

“We played a super round, Mickey was very strong, he did all the scoring with six birdies and an eagle,” said Walker.

“It was a great links course but the rough was very difficult so you can see why some teams dropped shots, but we were in the short grass all day long.

“I’ve never played out in Morocco, it’ll be a great new experience and I hope we can compete out there.”

Cumiskey take route 66 to Professional’s Prize

The weather wasn’t the only thing that was hot at Dundalk Golf Club on Sunday as a few of the 187 strong field took full advantage of the good conditions to go low over the formidable blue course.

Fifteen handicapper Andrew Cumiskey emerged as the winner of Leslie Walker’s Professional’s Prize after shooting a six under par 66 while Aaron Grant (+1) took the Gross Prize with a two under par 70 and Denis Ryan (22) claimed the veteran’s prize with a 71. James Reillyu (26) won the Juvenile Prize.

After opening with a par, Cumiskey double bogeyed the second but got those shots back with back to back pars at the next two holes. A bogey at five was followed by a birdie at the par five sixth and pars at seven and eight. Bogeys at nine, 10 and 11 followed  by pars at 12, 13 and 14 before he took full advantage of his shots by bogeying his way home for a nett 66.

Dillon Green (7) also shot a 66 and that was good enough to take Category 1 by three shots from Barry Cunningham (8). Green’s round  included birdies at 5 and 11. Gerry O’Keefe (13) with a 67 won Category 2 by two shots from Noel Reid (16). Category Three was won by Caoimhin O’Callaghan (20) with 69 as Gavin McDonnell (19) produced  back to back birdies on 17 and 18 to slip into second with a 71.

Sunday, June 18 –  Professional’s Prize (Leslie Walker) – Winner:  Andrew Cumiskey (15) 66. Gross: Aaron Grant (+1) 70. Veteran: Denis Ryan (22) 71. Category 1: (+1-12) Dillon Greene (7) 66, Barry Cunningham (8) 69/34. Category 2: (13-18) Gerard O’Keefe (13) 67, Noel Reid (16) 69/35.  Category 3 (19-28): Caoimhin O’Callaghan (20) 69, Gavin McDonnell (19) 71/32.5. Juvenile: James Reilly (26) 78. CSS: 73.

Sun shines for Professional’s Prize

The sun shone last Sunday for Leslie Walker’s Professional’s Prize and so too did captain Maurice Soraghan (9) who shot 69 to take top prize on countback.

Robert White (2) took the Gross Prize with a one over par 73 while Michael Stewart (14) won the Veteran’s Prize with a 70.

Liam O’Reilly (9) captured the Category One prize while Barry Grennan (12) and Padraig McDonnell were the other category winners with Joseph Laverty (20) claiming the Juvenile Prize.

Sunday, July 17 – Professional’s Prize (Leslie Walker) – Overall: Maurice Soraghan (9) 69. Gross: Robert White (2) 73. Veteran: Michael Stewart (14) 70. Category 1 (0 to 11): Liam O’Reilly (9) 69, Gregory McCaughey (9) 70. Category 2 (12 to 16): Barry Grennan (12) 70/35, Danny Miele (13) 70. Category 3 (17 to 28): Padraig McDonnell (22) 71, Eamon Arthur (21) 72. Juvenile: Joseph Laverty (20) 77. CSS: 73.