Rafferty wins Scratch Cup for third time in four years

Caolan Raffertty

Caolan Rafferty has won One Finance sponsored Dundalk Scratch Cup for the third time in four years after dominating proceedings over his home course today.

The 26-year-old Walker Cup player followed up a bogey-free five under par 67 in the first round of the 36 hole competition with a four under par 68 to finish on nine under and five clear of Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell in second place.

“It’s a good feeling,” said Rafferty afterwards. “I played really well and as Conor (Purcell) said I didn’t miss too many shots today. I put myself in good position off the tee and then hit my approach shots to within makeable positions. The birdies I did make, I chipped in twice, but the rest of them were pretty much straight-forward. Overall, it was pretty solid.”

Rafferty began his first round with five straight pars before birdieing the par five sixth and turned on two under after a birdie at the par four eighth. More birdies followed at the 10th and 14th before he sank a 15ft putt on the last for his fifth birdie of the round.

Campbell, who won in 2017, fired seven birdies on his way to an opening round of 68 which left him one shot behind Rafferty at the halfway mark of this 36 hole competition with Royal Dublin’s Richard Knightly two shots further back after a two under par 70 which included a run of three birdies from the 10th.

Campbell drew level with playing partner Rafferty at the beginning of the second round when he birdied the opening hole to move to five under and then holed his ninth birdie of the day on the third to join Rafferty on six under after he too had a three at the par four hole.

But the Warrenpoint man, who won this competition in 2017, saw his challenge fade away as he bogeyed three of the next four holes to drop to three under while Rafferty moved to seven under by birdieing the par three fifth.
Immediately ahead of them, Knightly was also going backwards thanks to a double bogey seven at the sixth and a bogey five at the eighth.

Rafferty picked up shots at the 10th and 11th, where he chipped in, to move to nine under before having his first bogey in 32 holes when he chunked a chip on the short par four 14th and failed to get up and down.

“I’m still annoyed about the only bogey I made. I tried over the last two years to go around without a bogey but I bogeyed 16 last year and 14 this year for my only bogeys of the tournament. It would have been nice to go 36 holes without a bogey but that’s the joys of it and a win is a win at the end of the day.”

Rafferty got his round back to nine under on the last when, much to delight of the large home support, he drained a 30ft putt for his 10th birdie of the day to round off a highly impressive performance in which he seemed oblivious to the incessant rain that fell throughout the afternoon round.

The only other sub-70 round in the afternoon came from course record holder and last year’s runner-up, Gerard Dunne of Co Louth, who shot a three under par 69 to finish in third place overall, six shots adrift of the winner.

LEADERBOARD:
135 – Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) 67, 68.
140 – Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint) 68, 72.
141 – Gerard Dunne (Co Louth) 72, 69; Paul Conroy (Enniscorthy) 71, 70.
144 – Marc McKinstry (Cairndhu) 73, 71; Conor Purcell (Portmarnock) 71, 73; Richard Knightly (Royal Dublin) 70, 74.
145 – Jake Whelan (Newlands) 72, 73
146 – Eoin Murphy (Dundalk) 76, 70; Stephen Coulter (Warrenpoint) 71, 75;
147 – Eugene Smith (Portmarnock Links) 75, 72; Liam Grehan (Mullingar) 73, 74; Max Kennedy (Royal Dublin) 71, 76.

RESULTS
1st Caolan Rafferty (+6, Dundalk) 135 (67/68), 2nd Colm Campbell Jnr (+4, Warrenpoint) 140 (68/72), 3rd Gerard Dunne (+3, Co Louth) 141 (72/69), 4th Paul Conroy (+1, Enniscorthy) 141 (71/70). Best Nett: Fionntan Lawlor (3, Corballis) 145 (76/69). 1st 18 Gross: Richard Knightly (+2, Royal Dublin) 70. 1st 18 Nett: Liam Abom (1, Edmondstown) 70. 2nd 18 Gross: Eoin Murphy (+1, Dundalk) 70. 2nd 18 Nett: Lee Mitchell (2, Knock) 71/36. 1st Round CSS 74/75. 2nd Round CSS 74. Player name Handicap rd1 rd2 Total score

Full Results

Position-Name-Handicap-R1-R2-Total

1 RAFFERTY, CAOLAN -6 67 68 135

2 CAMPBELL, COLM JNR -4 68 72 140

3 Conroy, Paul -1 71 70 141

4 Dunne, Gerard -3 72 69 141

5 MCKINSTRY, MARC -1 73 71 144

6 KNIGHTLY, Richard -2 70 74 144

7 Purcell, Conor -5 71 73 144

8 Whelan, Jake -2 72 73 145

9 MURPHY, EOIN -1 76 70 146

10 COULTER, STEPHEN -2 71 75 146

11 Smith, Eugene -2 75 72 147

12 Grehan, Liam -2 73 74 147

13 Kennedy, Max -2 71 76 147

14 LENEHAN, GEOFFREY -3 74 74 148

15 Mitchell, Lee 2 76 73 149

16 CURRAN, CONOR 1 77 72 149

17 Carter, Shaun -2 75 74 149

18 GRANT, AARON -1 73 76 149

19 Dullaghan, Cian -2 73 76 149

20 Cullen, Gary -3 74 75 149

21 Boggan, Ciaran 1 75 75 150

22 Farrell, Evan -1 75 75 150

23 McCabe, Joshua -2 76 74 150

24 Lawlor, Fionntan 3 79 72 151

25 Shipp, Evan 1 72 80 152

26 Copeland, Gerard -1 74 78 152

27 ALDERDICE, ZAK 4 77 76 153

28 ABOM, LIAM 1 71 82 153

29 Geraghty, Cian 0 82 72 154

30 Pepper, Tomas 2 77 77 154

31 Coyle, Daniel 0 78 76 154

32 Mc DONNELL, CHARLIE 2 76 78 154 33

Holland, Daniel -2 72 82 154

34 GORHAM, MARK 3 75 80 155

35 Denvir, Charlie -2 75 80 155

36 Kelly, Tom S 2 78 78 156

37 HESSION, SHANE 3 77 79 156

38 McGlynn, Shane 1 79 77 156

39 BRENNAN, GERRY 4 76 80 156

40 Mulligan, Daniel 2 75 81 156

41 Plunkett, Thomas -1 77 79 156

42 MURDOCK, CONALL 5 77 80 157

43 Connell, Charlie 2 79 79 158

44 Doggett, Benjamin 1 79 79 158

45 RAFFERTY, KYLE 5 75 83 158

46 McCabe, Stephen 3 76 83 159

47 MacKELL, NEAL 3 75 84 159

48 Grant, Niall 2 82 78 160

49 Cully, Liam 3 81 79 160

50 O’Connor, Tadhg 3 81 79 160

51 Duffy, Bevan 2 83 78 161

52 Winters, David 1 77 85 162

53 HURLEY, ALAN 5 84 84 168

Caolan Rafferty receives the Dundalk Scratch Cup from Dundalk Golf Club Captain Pat Davis and Event Sponsor, Martin McDonnell of One Finance.

Rafferty leads Scratch Cup after bogey-free 67

Caolan Rafferty leads the One Finance sponsored Dundalk Scratch Cup after this morning’s opening round.


The 26-year-old Walker Cup player shot a bogey-free five under par 67 over his home course and holds a one-shot lead over Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell going into this afternoon’s second round.


Rafferty, who is bidding for a third win in four years, opened with five straight pars before birdieing the par five sixth and turned on two under after a birdie at the par four eighth. More birdies followed at the 10th and 14th before he sank a 15ft putt on the last for his fifth birdie of the round.

Campbell, who won in 2017, fired seven birdies on his way to an opening round of 68 which left him one shot behind Rafferty at the halfway mark of this 36 hole competition.
Royal Dublin’s Richard Knightley is lying third three shots off the lead after a two under par 70 which included back to back birdies at the third and fourth and a run of three successive birdies from the 10th.

He is one shot clear of a group of five players on 71 which includes Australian Amateur champion Conor Purcell, who played alongside his Walker Cup teammate Rafferty and Ireland international colleague Tiarnan McLarnon. Purcell ended up on one under despite shooting three birdies over his first seven holes.

The second round takes place this afternoon.

LEADERBOARD: 67 – Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk); 68 – Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint); 70 – Richard Knightley (Royal Dublin); 71 – Max Kennedy (Royal Dublin), Stephen Coulter (Warrenpoint), Liam Abom (Edmondstown), Conor Purcell (Royal Dublin), Paul Conroy (Warrenpoint). 72 – Evan Shipp (Headfort), Jake Whelan (Newlands), Daniel Holland (Castle), Gerard Dunne (Co Louth).

DETAILED ROUND 1 SCORES
Place Player name (H’cap) Score Front Back

1 RAFFERTY, CAOLAN (-6) 67 34.0 33.0
2 CAMPBELL, COLM JNR ] (-4) 68 33.0 35.0
3 KNIGHTLY, Richard (-2) 70 36.0 34.0
4 Kennedy, Max (-2) 71 38.0 33.0
5 COULTER, STEPHEN (-2) 71 37.0 34.0
6 ABOM, LIAM (1) 71 35.0 36.0
7 Purcell, Conor (-5) 71 34.0 37.0
8 Conroy, Paul ( -1) 71 33.0 38.0
9 Shipp, Evan (1) 72 35.0 37.0
10 Whelan, Jake (-2) 72 35.0 37.0
11 Holland, Daniel (-2) 72 35.0 37.0
12 Dunne, Gerard (-3) 72 34.0 38.0
13 GRANT, AARON (-1) 73 38.0 35.0
14 Grehan, Liam (-2) 73 37.0 36.0
15 MCKINSTRY, MARC (-1) 73 37.0 36.0
16 Dullaghan, Cian (-2) 73 36.0 37.0
17 LENEHAN, GEOFFREY (-3) 74 39.0 35.0
18 Cullen, Gary (-3) 74 39.0 35.0
19 Copeland, Gerard (-1) 74 36.0 38.0
20 Keating, Dylan (-3) 74 36.0 38.0
21 Carter, Shaun (-2) 75 39.0 36.0
22 Boggan, Ciaran (1) 75 39.0 36.0
23 Denvir, Charlie (-2) 75 38.0 37.0
24 RAFFERTY, KYLE (5) 75 38.0 37.0
25 MacKELL, NEAL (3) 75 38.0 37.0
26 GORHAM, MARK (3) 75 38.0 37.0
27 Mulligan, Daniel (2) 75 38.0 37.0
28 Smith, Eugene (-2) 75 38.0 37.0
29 Farrell, Evan (-1) 75 35.0 40.0
30 MACKIN, JOSH (-1) 76 39.0 37.0
31 McCabe, Stephen (3 ) 76 39.0 37.0
32 Mitchell, Lee (2) 76 39.0 37.0
33 BRENNAN, GERRY (4) 76 38.0 38.0
34 MURPHY, EOIN (-1) 76 37.0 39.0
35 Mc DONNELL, CHARLIE (2) 76 36.0 40.0
36 McCabe, Joshua (-2) 76 35.0 41.0
37 MURDOCK, CONALL (5) 77 40.0 37.0
38 ALDERDICE, ZAK (4) 77 40.0 37.0
39 CURRAN, CONOR (1) 77 39.0 38.0
40 LAWLOR, BRENDAN (0) 77 39.0 38.0
41 MURPHY, MAURICE J 3 77 39.0 38.0
42 Pepper, Tomas (2) 77 39.0 38.0
43 Plunkett, Thomas (-1) 77 39.0 38.0
44 HESSION, SHANE (3) 77 39.0 38.0
45 Winters, David (1) 77 38.0 39.0
46 McLarnon, Tiarnan (-4) 77 38.0 39.0
47 Kelly, Tom S (2) 78 42.0 36.0
48 Coyle, Daniel (0) 78 42.0 36.0
49 O’CALLAGHAN, NIALL (2) 78 41.0 37.0
50 WALSHE, CLEM (4) 78 39.0 39.0
51 Connell, Charlie (2) 79 42.0 37.0
52 McGlynn, Shane (1) 79 40.0 39.0
53 Lawlor, Fionntan (3) 79 40.0 39.0
54 Doggett, Benjamin (1) 79 38.0 41.0
55 Cully, Liam (3) 81 42.0 39.0
56 O’Connor, Tadhg (3) 81 40.0 41.0
57 Geraghty, Cian (0) 82 44.0 38.0
58 Cullen, Christopher (3) 82 43.0 39.0
59 Grant, Niall (2) 82 43.0 39.0
60 ROGERS, PETER (2) 82 42.0 40.0
61 LAVERTY, JOSEPH (6) 83 43.0 40.0
62 Duffy, Bevan (2) 83 41.0 42.0
63 HURLEY, ALAN (5) 84 44.0 40.0
64 Tracey, Ciaran (2) 85 41.0 44.0

CSS 74 Home, 75 away

History made as Rafferty heads for Walker Cup

This weekend, Caolan Rafferty will be part of the Great Britain and Ireland team trying to win back the Walker Cup from the USA at Royal Liverpool Golf Club as he becomes the first player from Louth to play in amateur golf’s most famous team competition.

The Walker Cup, which predates the Ryder Cup by five years, started in 1922 although there had been an informal match in 1921 at this year’s venue in Hoylake. It is a biennial match between the best amateur golfers in Britain and Ireland and their counterparts in America.

The inclusion of Rafferty, along with Mallow’s James Sugrue and Portmarnock’s Conor Purcell, brings to 47 the number of Irish players who have played in the Walker Cup over the last 98 years and the Dundalk Golf Club player finds himself joining an elite group that also includes many great players like Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Padraig Harrington and Rory McIlroy.

Having started his career in Greenore Golf Club, it was the opportunity to join Dundalk Golf Club in 2014 which proved to be a significant turning point in Rafferty’s golfing career. Situated 10 minutes from his home in Dromiskin, he was now able to play regularly. His handicap tumbled and he started climbing up the world rankings. He also became part of Dundalk’s Junior Golf Programme and was encouraged to not only play in the major Irish championships but also those in Britain.

“When the opportunity arose to join Dundalk I couldn’t turn it down because it so close to home. Everybody agreed at the time that it was for the better. That kick-started me and having it so close that I could go over whenever I wanted, I found myself playing more and more and more.”

Last December he was one of 26 players named on the Walker Cup panel who were brought to Hoylake for a few days of practice and he admits that it was only then that he realised he had a chance of playing in one of golf’s most famous tournaments.

“It genuinely had never crossed my mind up until that point. I wasn’t on any Irish or Leinster team until 2016 so getting them ticked off was the priority.”

Rafferty’s laid-back nature meant that making the Walker Cup didn’t become an all-consuming passion although that didn’t stop it becoming a regular topic of conversation among those he met on and off the golf course. When asked about his chances of making the team his reaction was always along the lines that ‘if is meant to be, it’s meant to be’. He added: “People thought I was joking but genuinely if it was going to happen it was going to happen.”

He had been told in December by the Walker Cup captain Craig Watson to keep doing what he was doing and he stuck to that game plan. The Scratch Players World Amateur Rankings is a system that tracks the current form of the world’s top players and Rafferty spent most of the year in its top 10 while Mark Eley, who runs the Golf Bible website, wrote: “Caolan has risen out of the pack in 2019 with a number of excellent results. The West of Ireland was his only win but look at the number of top 10s. He has a good links pedigree and has performed well in various match play events too.”

Rafferty was at the American Amateur Championship in the week leading up to announcement of the Walker Cup team on Monday, August 19 and was getting worried that he hadn’t heard anything by the time he due to head to the Airport on the day before. His phone had run out of credit earlier in the week and he was depending on the wifi in the house he was staying in to keep in touch.

“I had packed the car up with the suitcases to head to the airport. I ran back into the house because I decided I’d check the emails before I left. I had been checking them daily but hadn’t checked them on the Sunday and I decided to do it then because I knew the team was being announced on the Monday, The thing then binged and in popped an email from Craig to say that he had been trying to ring me and the phone wasn’t working and he wanted to let me know that I was picked.”

It made for a pleasant journey home even though flight cancellations meant he didn’t get back to Dundalk from North Carolina until the Tuesday. But the celebrations were in full swing by then and the messages of congratulations were flowing in.

“The phone has been going non-stop whether it’s people calling me, texting me or reaching out to me on social media. The support has been really good. I just want to move on and get ready in my own wee way but you have to accept that everybody does want to congratulate you because it is such a big thing.

“This shows far I have come on and how well I am improving. To actually have it now signed and sealed is lovely. It is really nice to sit back and not to have the worry of it, not that I was worrying in the first place,” he said, smiling! Rafferty headed to Liverpool on Sunday to join the other players on the ten man team for a week of preparation before the two-day event commences on Saturday.

Rafferty, at 26, is the oldest player on the team by three years and is 10 years older than the youngest member, England’s Conor Gough. But he says there is a good bond between the group of English, Scottish and Irish players, their captain and his selectors.

“The team is very close. You have a mix of all types of people and we all get on so well. I noticed at all the practice sessions that it didn’t matter who you were with, there was a laugh and a joke in the match and plenty of abuse thrown whether it was needed to be thrown or not. We all get on really well.

“There is no one who feels superior in the group and there is no one who wants to be superior either which is good. That will create a better team atmosphere which will be a big help to us in trying to win.” GB&I won the Walker Cup on home ground in 2011 and 2015 but lost it in America last time out so Rafferty is hoping that home advantage will be a benefit this time around.

“Whether it comes down to the support of the crowd or whether it is the actual golf course itself or the weather you just never really know but it does seem to have an advantage.”

Support is one thing that Rafferty won’t be lacking in Hoylake. A large number of members from Dundalk, as well as Greenore, are expected to make the short journey across the Irish Sea to Liverpool with some having showed their faith a long time ago in Rafferty’s ability to make the team

“I’m finding out more and more names with people booking late now they know I am there. I know some people who booked last December when I was only on the panel. The flight out on the Friday night will be fun!

“You would like to hope that having that support will make it feel more like a normal competition than what it actually is because there is obviously going to be a lot of nerves. If it does come down to hitting the first tee shot, knowing that there is so much support there for you will make it more like your Barton Shield and stuff like that. I know once I get on the first tee that any half decent shot I hit from there will have the support cheering it on.”

September is shaping up to be a momentous month for Rafferty with the Walker Cup being followed by the Home Internationals in Lahinch and the Dundalk Scratch Cup on September 15 where he will be bidding for a third win in four years against a field that will include his Walker Cup and Ireland team-mates Sugrue and Purcell. Then it’s off to Westport for the Barton Shield All-Ireland Finals on September 22 as Dundalk bid for a first ever Senior All-Ireland title after losing in last year’s final to Athenry.

“Hopefully all will go the right way and if we do get the win at each one it will definitely be the best September I have had in a long time because all you normally do is start college or school. There’s plenty of golf this year.”

Rafferty selected on GB&I Walker Cup team

Caolan Rafferty has been selected on the Great Britain and Ireland that will play USA in the 2019 Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool Golf Club on September 7 and 8.

This is the first time a player from Dundalk Golf Club has been selected to play in amateur golf’s greatest team competition.

Caolan is a fantastic ambassador for our club and we look forward to seeing him on amateur golf’s biggest stage next month.

Many members are planning to make the short journey across the Irish Sea to Liverpool to ensure Caolan has plenty of support from his home club when he tees it up against the Americans.

On behalf of all the members of Dundalk Golf Club, we would like to congratulate Caolan on this special achievement and wish him all the best in Hoylake.

Here is a link to a special video that the R&A used to announce the team. https://twitter.com/RandA/status/

and here is a link to a news story about the GB&I team. htps://www.randa.org/News/2019/08/GBandI-team-announced-for-47th-Walker-Cup-match

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.     

Rafferty in Walker Cup preliminary squad

West of Ireland champion Caolan Rafferty is one of five Irish players named in the preliminary Britain and Ireland squad for the biennial Walker Cup match against American which will be held in September at Royal Liverpool.

The 26 man squad will assemble at Royal Liverpool this Tuesday for a get-together ahead of the Lytham Trophy, which takes place in nearby St Anne from Friday to Sunday. Rafferty is one of the favourites in Lytham after finishing tied 21st, tied seventh, and tied 14th on his last three visits to Merseyside.

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.

Rafferty looking forward to 2019 after memorable year

IT’s a sign of how far Caolan Rafferty has come over the past three years that he is now the highest ranked Irishman on the World Amateur Golf rankings having broken into the top 50 for the first time in recent weeks.

As 2018 draws to a close Rafferty, who turned 26 on December 22, sits at No.49 on the WAG rankings and is looking forward to 2019 knowing it could be even better than the previous 12 months.

This time last year, the Dundalk Golf Club player set himself three objectives. They were to win one of Ireland’s six major amateur golf championships, win a senior club pennant with Dundalk, and make the Irish team for the Eisenhower Trophy.

He achieved two out of the three as he beat Rowan Lester in the South of Ireland final at Lahinch in July and led Dundalk to victory over Enniscorthy in the Leinster final of the Barton Shield in June. He agrees it was a good year.

“Two out of three wasn’t bad and even the Eisenhower was close in that I was probably the fourth man of a three man team.

“I think at one stage I had five, maybe six trophies, in the house, all at the one time. It was a really good spell from say September of 2017 to now. I couldn’t really complain. I won in Colombia in September 2017 and that was my first big win. That boosted my confidence. Getting the South took a weight off my shoulders and hopefully I can add to it now because that’s the next objective.”

His other major objectives for 2019 are to make the Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team in September and also secure a place at the US Amateur Championship which takes place in August in Pinehurst.

If he stays in the Top 50 then he will automatically earn a place at Pinehurst and he agrees that it is a sign of how far he has come over the past three years that he is now realistically contemplating being part of these iconic events.

“All these things are starting to come around which I never really thought of before. When I got to my first semi-final at the North in 2015 the last thing I was thinking about was where am I on the WAG. To get into the top 50 in the world is a nice achievement in itself, and there’s not too many from Ireland, never mind the smallest county in the country, have done it.”

He spent several days in the run-up to Christmas on Merseyside after being one of ten potential Walker Cup players invited to attend an informal practice session at Royal Liverpool Golf Club by Britain and Ireland captain Craig Watson and selectors Nigel Edwards and Andy Ingram. The Hoylake venue will host the bi-annual event in September and Rafferty enjoyed the experience.

“It was an interesting two days. I never played Hoylake so it was my first time there. Obviously this time of the year wouldn’t do it any justice, the weather was poor and you could see that the course was bit tired at the end of the season but the layout is fantastic. The clubhouse, everything about it, is amazing. To be part of a Walker Cup team there would be special and would be something that I would really enjoy.”

He admits he really got a taste of what it could be like in September as they were given a tour of the team room, asked to do media interviews and given an opportunity to see the massive trophy up close. He says playing in the Walker Cup has been a long-term objective over the past few years but he is not going to let it become a millstone around his neck.

“The last thing I am going to be worrying about is trying to make the team. If I play good golf that will all sort itself out.”

He believes that his poor showings in the St Andrews Trophy and the British Amateur during the summer probably cost him his place on the Eisenhower Team so he is determined to improve his consistency across the season in 2019 and believes he now mentally stronger than ever.

“I think I did show last year that I have a bit more character to me now and that I can dig deep and really push whereas a couple of years ago I probably didn’t have it in me.”

Since 2017, Rafferty has been on a Harrington Golf Scholarship at Maynooth University where he is studying for a degree in business and he admits he is now beginning to see the benefits of being a college golfer.

“The University this year was a big thing and there was plenty of golf there. Extra golf, but it added to the season. The scheduling got busier but it was a case that you were playing in big events, playing new people and seeing new courses. Last year I didn’t really grasp what college golf was about but this year I saw the value of it and how a few of those titles would be nice under my belt.

“The College golf is definitely helping. I wouldn’t be a great practiser, I’d rather play holes, but this year I got myself into a bit of a routine and I went down two or three nights a week even though keeping on top of assignments is tricky. I am balancing it better. I have a schedule to my week now. Before I went to college I was going through the motions. I felt like I had to go down and practice but now you want to go and practice. I have a better outlook and better discipline.”

Another major event for Rafferty in 2019 will be the R&A’s Amateur Championship which is being held in Portmarnock and The Island in June and he revealed that it was a big topic of conversation in Hoylake.

“They were all asking about Portmarnock and wanting to know what it is like. I think it is going to be one of the toughest courses the Amateur has ever been played on. The best of the best are going to be there so making the cut will be my first goal.”

The inter-club scene provided happiness and heartbreak during 2018 as he was part of the first ever Dundalk team to win a senior pennant but then saw their dreams of a national pennant dashed by Athenry in the final of the Barton Shield in Thurles.

“To get over the line this year and give that little bit of thrill to everybody in Dundalk by winning the Leinster pennant was nice. Because it is such an individual game to do stuff as a team is so nice.

“To be pipped in the final of the All-Ireland was heartbreaking. It is amazing how close you get. It was a rough one to take. As I said to the lads, I have had plenty of heartbreak in individual golf, in championships. To learn to lose before you win is the way I have always had it. You don’t win first time out, you have to take your defeats, know what it is to have a setback and then go again. I think next year will show a good bit of character from us to try and do it again. Athenry only won it on their third attempt so we’ll take a lot from knowing that.”

After celebrating his 26th birthday and Christmas at home in Dundalk, Rafferty flew out to America on St Stephen’s Day with Maynooth University team-mate Ronan Mullarney to take part in the 2018 Patriot All-America Invitational in Arizona and is looking forward to the year ahead.

“I am looking forward to the season in general. After Arizona, I come back and I have exams then we go for a training week to Portugal and then hopefully I will make the panel going to South Africa. It is just flying after that and it will be Christmas before I know it. It will be all go.”

One question Raffetty gets asked a lot concerns his future plans and whether or not he intends to turn professional. He admits it is something he is thinking about but not a question that he is ready yet to answer.

“I am going to do College and see what happens after that. I am still 50-50 on it and it is something I will need to have a real good think about because it is costly. I will sit down after college and I will weigh up my options. I won’t make a rash decision, I know that much.”