Rafferty helps International team to victory in Palmer Cup

Caolan Rafferty warms up on the range at the 2020 Palmer Cup

Caolan Rafferty warms up on the range at the 2020 Palmer Cup

After seeing almost all his plans for 2020 derailed because of COVID-19,  Caolan Rafferty got the perfect Christmas present when he helped the International team retain the Palmer Cup at Bay Hill Golf Club in Florida.

Created by the legendary Arnold Palmer, the Ryder Cup-style event involves the best male and female college players from America and the Rest of the World. It was due to be played last summer in Lahinch but had to be postponed because of COVID-19.

It was moved to America and took place just before Christmas with the International team showing no ill-effects from a disrupted year as they ran out convincing winners by 40.5 to 19.5, winning all four sessions over the three days of the event.

At the start of the year Rafferty had targeted a place at the Palmer Cup as one of his season goals in a bid to finish his time as a Harrington scholar at Maynooth University on a high.

A lack of competitive golf, a hand injury that required surgery back in September, and a period of isolation on arrival in America meant Rafferty’s preparation was far from ideal but he got off to a winning start on Day One when he partnered Olivia Mehaffey from Banbridge to victory in the Mixed Foursomes.

The Irish pair beat Quade Cummings and Jaime Jacobs by one hole in a match where they were never behind after birdieing the second to go one up. They were two up with four to play but lost 15 and 17 to birdies before snatching victory with a par on the last.

“I played okay but Olivia, thankfully, played really well. I just helped out when I could and it was nice to get a point on the board early,” said Rafferty,

The International team opened up a 9-3 lead after the first day and then extended that to 15 points after the morning fourballs on Day Two which Rafferty had to sit out as a positive COVID case on the USA team meant they couldn’t field in all the matches.

He returned for the afternoon mixed foursomes alongside Mehaffey but they were just edged out by one hole by the America pair of Evan Katz and Gina Kim. The Irish pair had taken an early lead with a birdie on the third but then lost the fourth and seventh. They got back to all square by winning the 10th but lost the next hole to par and were unable to get back on level terms as the Americans held on to win by one hole.

“Like the day before we played decent golf and it just came down to a putt here and there that could have gone our way. I suppose it just showed the standard we were playing at. There was nothing between us.”

The International team took the session 12-5 and went into the last day singles leading by 26.5 to 9.5 and needing just four points to secure overall victory.

The International selectors decided to lead with all-Irish attack with Mehaffey, Mark Power and Rafferty handed the first three slots in the singles. Mehaffey halved her match to set them on their way before Rafferty delivered the international’s first win of the day when he beat Evan Katz by one hole.

The Dundalk player had got off the perfect start by winning three of the first five holes but he then lost six and seven to birdies and when he lost nine and ten to pars he found himself one behind.

However, he bounced back by birdieing the 11th and regained the lead with a par on the 13th. However, Katz refused to submit and struck back on the 16th which he won with a birdie. Rafferty then needed to hole a knee-jerking four-foot putt on the 17th to remain all-square before winning the match on the last.

“We both played sloppy golf on the front nine but there was a lot of good golf on the back nine. On 18 I hit a 5 iron from the rough to 35 feet while he missed the green long and didn’t get up and down. It ended up that I had two putts for the win but first putt held its line across the slope and went in for birdie which was a nice way to finish especially considering it’s a similar putt which we see the pros having when they play the Arnold Palmer invitational at Bay Hill.”

The International team took the singles 14-10 to run out winners by 40-5 to 19.5 and retain the Palmer Cup. For Rafferty, it was a week to remember at the end of a year to forget.

“It was great that it was played because it wasn’t looking likely for a long time. Lahinch would have been fantastic venue but getting the opportunity to play in Arnold Palmer’s back garden at Bay Hill was very special.

“The team gelled so well. It was as if we knew each other for ages. Nothing felt awkward and there was good craic between us all. The whole week was great with the opportunity to meet loads of new people and experience a fabulous venue. I was told it would be special and it surely was.” 

Rafferty’s next objective is to make the Great Britain and Ireland team which will play the USA in the Walker Cup at Seminole Golf Club in Florida next May. He was recently named on the squad from which the travelling team will be picked and is determined to make it back to back appearances in one of golf’s biggest events.

“It’s always a great achievement to make that panel so I’m delighted. I’m just going get the foot down and start getting ready for whatever will be the first event in 2021. Hopefully I can play my way back onto the final 10-man team again.”

Impressive Whelan wins Dundalk Scratch Cup by five shots

Jake Whelan from Newlands produced a sublime performance to captured the 58th Dundalk Scratch Cup sponsored by One Finance.

The 26-year-old fired two three under par rounds of 69 to win by five shots from Cian Geraghty of Laytown & Bettystown and Roganstown’s Arron Edward-Hills on a day when a strong wind, tricky pins and slick greens presented a formidable challenge for the top class field.

Whelan led at the halfway stage after shooting an opening 69. The Dubliner, who has strong Dundalk connections, was two under after five holes following birdies at the first and fifth but dropped a shot on the par three ninth to turn in one under. Down the back he birdied the short par four 14th and the long par four 16th to come home in 34 and set the pace at three under.

That left him two shots clear of Dundalk’s Aaron Grant, Roganstown Aaron Edward-Hills, the 2018 North of Ireland winner, and Portmarnock’s Geoff Lenehan with Jack McDonnell of Forest Little and Daivd Shiel of Powerscourt a shot further back on level par.

 Grant, who won this competition in 2013, opened with a birdie on the 10th, his first hole, but turned level after bogeying the 18th. He responded to that setback with back to back birdies on the first and second and parred his way in to sign for a one under par 71.

Edward-Hills also began on the back nine and got off to a blistering start with birdies at the 10th, 11th, 14th and 15th to lie four under after six holes. A bogey at 16 interrupted his momentum but he still completed his first nine in three under par. He was still three under with two to play, after a bogey on five was cancelled out by a birdie on the par five seventh, but dropped to one under following a double bogey six on the tricky par four eighth where he three putted from close range.

The defending champion, Caolan Rafferty, who was bidding for his third successive title and fourth in all, went out in one under par thanks to a birdie on the par four 11th. However, a wayward tee shot on the first, his 10th, led to a double bogey six and that was followed by a bogey five on the next.

He got back to level par for the round with birdies on the third and sixth but a bogey on the par five seventh meant he came home in 38 for a first round total of one over par 73 which was matched by his playing partner Colm Campbell.

In the second round neither Rafferty or Campbell were able to mount a charge. Rafferty did birdie the ninth to turn level but fell away down the back nine and eventually finished on four over par with Campbell matching him.

Edward-Hills set the clubhouse lead when he carded a second round of level par 72 to finish on one-under and was joined by Laytown & Bettystown’s Cian Geraghty who shot a second round 69 to go with his 74 from the morning. After a bogey at the fourth moved him to three over, Geraghty birdied the sixth, eighth, 12th and 17th to move through to the pack into second.

If Whelan was feeling the pressure holding the halfway lead he didn’t show it. Starting his second round on the 10th he reeled off ten consecutive pars, including a sublime up and down from the back of the first green. Then he holed a long putt from the front of the second, his 11th, for birdie to move to four under.

Although he handed that back at the next with a bogey he showed his confidence on the par five sixth when hit a driver off the fairway from 260 yards out and left the ball eight feet from the pin. His eagle putt didn’t drop but his tap-in birde brought him back to four under and he then birdied the par five seventh to move to five under before finishing in style by sinking a birdie putt on his final hole, the par three ninth, to finish on six under.

“This is the biggest win of my career,” said Whelan afterwards. “It is one of the biggest Scratch Cups and there are some great names who have won it in the past. I am delighted for my family as we have strong links to the area and my father was a member here.

“I hit the ball well all day and I also putted well for a change,” said Whelan, who added that he intends to keep an appointment he had made last week for a putting lesson on Tuesday with Dundalk professional Leslie Walker.  

Final Leaderboard:  138 – Jake Whelan (Newlands) 69, 69. 143 – Cian Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown) 74,        69; Arron Edward-Hills (Roganstown) 71, 72. Robert Moran (The Castle) 74, 70. Jack Mc Donnell (Forest Little) 72, 72. 146 – Dylan Keating (Seapoint) 75, 71; Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock) 71, 75. 147 – Hugh Foley (Royal Dublin) 74, 73. 148 – Sean Keeling (Roganstown) 77, 71; Gerard Dunne (Co Louth) 75, 73; Joseph Byrne (Baltinglass) 74, 74; Colm Campbell Jnr (Warrenpoint) 73, 75; Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) 73, 75; David Shiel (Powerscourt) 72, 76. 149 – Richard Knightly (Royal Dublin) 75, 74; 150 – Paul Conroy (Enniscorthy) 78, 72, Jason Rackard (Enniscorthy) 75, 75; Daniel Mulligan (Laytown & Bettystown) 75, 75; Aaron Grant (Dundalk) 71, 79.

Official Results: 1st Jake Whelan (Newlands) (+2) 138 (69/690).  2nd Cian Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown) (+1) 143 (74/69) 3rd Aaron Edward-Hills (Roganstown) (+4) 143 (71/72). 4th Robert Moran (The Castle) (+4)           144 (74/70). Best Nett: Sean Keeling (Roganstown) (2) 144 (75/69). 1st 18  Gross: Geoffrey Lenehan (Portmarnock) (+3) 71/36. 1st 18 Nett: David Shiel (Powerscourt) (0) 72/37. 2nd 18 Gross: Dylan Keating (Seapoint) (+3) 71. 2nd  18 Nett: Graham Callaghan (Co Louth) (0) 72/36.

1st  Round CSS 76 reductions only

2nd Round CSS 74

ENDS

PHOTO: The 2020 winner of the Dundalk Scratch Cup Jake Whelan of Newlands Golf Club pictured with sponsor Martin McDonnell, Managing Director of One Finance, and Dundalk Golf Club Captain Trevor Giff. 

Crowe’s purple patch reaps a winning dividend

A PURPLE patch midway through his round provided the platform for Noel Crowe (19) to claim the Members Prize during the annual Past Captains’ and Members Prize which attracted an entry of 236 players.

He got off to a good start with six two point bogies equally divided either side of a four point par at the index one fourth.   

That left him on 16pts after seven holes and six holes later, as he walked to the 14th tee, he was on 34pts after shooting a breath-taking six successive three-point pars from the eighth to the 13th.

That 18pt haul meant he could even afford a blank at the par four 15th as he picked up two points at the 14th, 16th and 18th and three points for another par at the 17th to finish on 43pts.  

It was enough to take the Overall Prize with Andrew Brodigan (12), who shot 42pts, having to settle for second place while Cormac Malone (18) claimed third on countback thanks to a fine back nine of 23pts.

Walker Cup star Caolan Rafferty (+5) warmed up for the forthcoming Dundalk Scratch Cup by shooting 39pts to take the gross prize while Fionn Cunningham (18) with 37pts was the Juvenile Prize winner. Anthony O’Donoghue (12), Conall Mullins (13) and Gerry Campbell (25) were the category winners.

Brendan Keane (12) with a score of 40pts won the Past Captains’ prize with Peter Rogers (3) claiming second after a round of 37pts.

Saturday, August 22 and Sunday, August 23 – Past Captains and Members Prize – Overall: Noel Crowe (19) 43pts, Andrew Brodigan (12) 42pts, Cormac Malone (18) 41 /23pts. Gross: Caolan Rafferty (+5) 39pts. Past Captains Prize: Brendan Keane (12) 40pts, Peter Rogers (3) 37pts. Cat 1 (<13): Anthony O’Donoghue (12) 41/20pts, Dillon Greene (5) 41pts. Cat 2 (13-17): Conall Mullins (13) 40pts, Fergal Mckenna (16) 39/23pts. Cat 3 (18+): Gerry Campbell (25) 41pts, Mark Coan (25) 40pts. Juvenile: Fionn Cunningham (18) 37pts. CSS: Saturday 37pts, Sunday 37pts.

Entries open on Thursday for Dundalk Scratch Cup 2020

 

Many of the top amateur players in Ireland will be heading to Dundalk on Sunday, September 13, determined to stop local hero Caolan Rafferty from winning his third successive One Finance sponsored Dundalk Scratch Cup.

Only Rafferty (2018-19), JB Carr (1965-66) and Declan Brannigan (1972-73) have won back to back Dundalk Scratch Cups so the Dundalk player will be bidding to make history by becoming the first to win three-in-a-row in what will be the 58th staging of the event.

Entries will open on Thursday, August 27, for the tournament which is one of the longest running and most prestigious Senior Scratch Cups in the country with a roll of honour that includes three times Major winner Padraig Harrington.

Entries must be made through the Pro Shop at 042-9321731. The entry fee is €50 which includes soup and sandwiches after round one and a post tournament meal. The prize-fund is €2,500 with €250 for a course record and €150 for a hole in one. Entries will close on Wednesday, September 9.

Round One of the 36-hole tournament will tee off between 8am and 9.40am from the first and 10th tees with Round Two commencing at 1pm. Because of government restrictions no spectators will be permitted at the event with only the players and those involved in running the tournament allowed on the course.

Rafferty, who is currently ranked No.1 on the European Amateur Golf Rankings, is bidding for his fourth title in five years with Warrenpoint’s Irish international Colm Campbell the only player to have broken Rafferty’s dominance when he won in 2017.

Dundalk Golf Club Captain, Trevor Giff, said: “It has been a tough year for all our elite players because the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected their schedules, However, we know that many of them would have pencilled Dundalk in September into their diaries at the beginning of the year and we look forward to welcoming them to our course.”

Martin McDonnell, Managing Director of sponsors One Finance, said: “One Finance are delighted to be once again sponsoring the Dundalk Scratch Cup. It is a competition that has always attracted the top amateur golfers and it has certainly brought out the best in Caolan Rafferty over the last five years. He will be bidding for history this year which is going to make the event even more special than it usually is.”

ENDS THIS

PHOTO CAPTION: Pictured at the launch of the One Finance sponsored Dundalk Scratch Cup were (from left): Martin McDonnell, Managing Director, One Finance; Trevor Giff, Captain, Dundalk Golf Club; Caolan Rafferty, defending champion and John O’Sullivan, Head of Operations, Dundalk Golf Club.

Rafferty finishes fourth at Mullingar Scratch Cup

Caolan Rafferty finished joint fourth in the Mullingar Scratch Cup at the weekend after shooting rounds of 72, 69 and 70 for five under and was five shots behind the winner Jason Rackard of Enniscorthy.

It was an impressive start to the GUI season for Rafferty who climbed through the field from T19 after the first round of the tournament which was reduced to 54 holes after a two-and-a-half hour fog delay on Saturday meant the cancellation of a round.

Eoin Murphy, who had to kick his heels for most of Saturday as he was in the final group, shot 78 to miss the cut by three shots.

Week dominated by titanic battles with Ardee in cup competitions

Last week was dominated by a series of titanic inter-club battles with neighbours Ardee as the clubs met in the Senior Cup, Jimmy Bruen Shield and Barton Cup having already clashed in the Junior Cup the previous weekend when Ardee ran out winners by 3.5 to 1.5.

Hopes of immediately gaining revenge for that defeat last Thursday in the Senior Cup were dashed when the young Ardee team emerged 3-2 winners in dramatic fashion. The match was in the balance after Aaron Grant and Caolan Rafferty won while Andrew Keenan and Conor Curran were beaten. Eoin Murphy was two up with three holes to play but failed to close out the match and ended up losing on the 20th.

The Jimmy Bruen Cup team were next on the Friday and there was plenty of drama here as well. Damian English and Aidan Thornton lost 6&5 in Ardee but Eugene Hanratty and Conor Murphy won 4&3 while in Dundalk Emmet Savage and Ciaran Sheridan lost on the 17th but Joseph Laverty and Michael Staunton secured a sensation victory on the 18th when Laverty holed his approach for an eagle two to win one up. That left everything hanging on the final match in Ardee where teenagers Ciaran Johnston and Chris Clarke were all square through 19 before bad light halted play.

The match was eventually concluded last Thursday when Johnson and Martin returned to Ardee. ch in our Jimmy Bruen Shield tie against the home club. The 20th, which was the second in Ardee, was par three and both Dundalk players found the green from the tee with Ardee chipping on to eight and 10 feet respectively. Johnston from 60ft got to within three feet of the hole while Clarke, rolled his swinging putt inside him. When Ardee missed both their par putts, it was left to Johnston to close out the match with a solid putt.  Dundalk will now play The Island in the next round.

Ardee’s impressive first round demolition of Headfort meant they started as raging hot favourites when the clubs met for the fourth time in eight days in the Barton Cup last Saturday but manager Carl Stewart had his homework done, got his pairings right and with watched with satisfaction as Dundalk won the three first three matches #

In Dundalk, Andrew Keenan and Conor Conroy, playing in the top match, were always in control from the moment Keenan won the opening hole. They went two up after winning the 13th and although Ardee responded immediately by winning the 14th, Conroy won the 15th and they closed out the match on 16 for a 3&2 win.

Behind them Clem Walshe and Kevin Redmond looked to be on their way victory when they were three up after eight but Ardee won the next three holes to draw level and ask serious questions of the Dundalk duo. However, Walshe and Redmond hung in and eventually got back in front on the 15th before closing out the match by taking 18 to win 2up.

That left Dundalk 2-0 ahead and they got over the line when Mark Gorham and 15-year-old Chris Clarke snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in the top match in Ardee. A purple patch from the 8th hole onwards saw Ardee open up a commanding four hole lead through 11 but Gorman and Clarke kept their nerve and dug deep. Over the next six holes they dovetailed well to bring it back to all square with one to play.  A superb 20 foot birdie putt from Gorham on the 18th nullified Ardee’s nett birdie to send the match into sudden death where it was finally decided on the 21st when Clarke showed nerves of steel to sink a slippery six foot par for par and the winning point.

The other matches were called in, giving Dundalk a 4-1 victory. Shane Hession and John Mulligan were all square going down 18 after a high quality encounter where there was never more than one hole between the pairings while Peter Rogers and Bobby McCarthy were also involved in a tight match and were on the verge of going back to all square on the 17th when their match was called in.

Wins in Senior and Junior Cups but Pierce Purcell team lose

There’s been a good start to the commencement of inter-club competitions for 2020 with two of our three teams recording first round victories over the past week.

On Thursday, our Senior Cup team had a narrow 3-2 win over Laytown & Bettytown who had won the regional qualifier last year in Dundalk and, with three matches of the five matches being played on the famous Co Meath links, they were favourites to advance.

The match was decided in Laytown after it finished 1-1 in Dundalk where Aaron Grant played some great golf to see off Jack McDonnell who had won the Balbriggan Scratch Cup the previous Sunday. McDonnell was five under through the front nine and along the way eagled the par five sixth following a drive and wedge to eight feet.

But after being two down after two, Grant hung in and won five and 11 to go level with seven to play, He edged in front by winning the 15th and then sealed a 2 and 1 victory by winning on 17.

Behind him Josh Mackin found himself three down after four but managed to steady the ship without being able to eat into his opponent’s lead and eventually ran out of holes on the 16th as he lost 3 and 2, having shaved the edge of the hole with his birdie putt.

In Laytown, Maurice Murphy played their star player Alex Maguire, recently returned from an impressive sophomore year in Florida Atlantic University, in the top match but a misbehaving driver left Maurice chasing the match from early on and he eventually he succumbed on the 14th hole.

Behind him, Eoin Murphy played Annrai Collins and after a blistering start he was three up after three holes. Although Collins pulled him back to all square after 10, Murphy’s power game was ideally suited to the newly re-routed Laytown layout and a series of 350 yard plus drives saw him regain control of the match and run out a comfortable 3&1 winner.

That left everything hinging on the final match where Irish international and Walker Cup star Caolan Rafferty was matched against the dogged David Foy. An out of sorts Rafferty, combined with some inspired iron play from Foy, saw the Dundalk player trailing by one hole with six to play.

But, with Dundalk’s Senior Cup campaign hanging by a thread, Rafferty rose to the challenge and popped in three birdies over the next five holes to record a great 2&1 win and earn Dundalk a place in the next round against either Ardee or Royal Tara.

The clubs met again on Friday in the Junior Cup with Dundalk have the advantage of three matches at home and they made it count as Andrew Keenan, Billy Cairns and Joseph Laverty all won while Laytown and Bettystown won their two home matches to leave the final score at 3-2.

After almost driving the first hole, Keenan was never in trouble in the top match and romped to a 5&4 victory while Cairns won 2&1. Laverty found himself two down after four holes but responded well and played some great golf as he hauled himself back into the match and on the 17th.

On Sunday the Pierce Purcell Shield team met Royal Tara with three matches taking place in Dundalk. The Meath club won the two matches over their home track by 4&2 while, in Dundalk, Ultan Herr and Emmet Savage McCabe took the top match 3&2. John Mulligan & Michael O’Sullivan were dormie two as they headed to the 17th tee but they were called in after Danny Miele & Pat Davis, in the bottom match, lost on the 15th to a strong Meath pairing.

Strong finish eases Gallagher to Paddy Markey Cup win

Sean Gallagher’s steady progress continued when he captured the Paddy Markey Cup with a birdie on the last, his second of the round, easing him past another 17 handicapper Chris Malone to victory.

Andrew McKell (29) took the Veteran’s Cup with an impressive 41pts that included two at the second and 17th while Caolan Rafferty (+5) needed countback to emerge as winner of the Gross Prize on 39pts.

The key to Gallagher’s round was a flying start and flying finish and a steady round in between. He began with two three-point pars and although he had to settle for one point after a six at the index one fourth he nailed a birdie two on the par three ninth to turn in 21pts.

He could only collect one point on the par five 10th but a three-point par at the par three 13th balanced that blip and he had accumulated 33pts when he stood on the elevated tee at the par four index four 387m long 16th hole.

Four shots later he had walked off the green with a par four and three points and another three points followed at the par three 17th before a birdie three at the par four 18th gave him a four-point haul and brought his total to 43pts having picked up 10pts over the final three holes.

The Veteran’s Cup is played alongside Paddy Markey Cup each year and Andrew McKell produced some great golf on his way to victory. His front nine included a four point par on the eighth and three-point hauls on the first, third and ninth as he turned with 20pts.

Down the back he had three-point holes at the 10th, 12th, 13th, 15th and 16th as he added 21pts to his front nine total for a overall score of 41pts. Blanks at the 2nd and 17th certainly cost him the chance to lift the Paddy Markey Cup but didn’t affect his march to victory in the veteran’s competition.

Eugene Hanratty (8), Seamus Bailey (12) and Colm Garvey (19) took the category prizes while Rory Henry (19) was the juvenile winner with an impressive 41pts.

The Paddy Markey Cup also served as a qualifier for the Harry Walsh Cup and the top 16 will battle it out for this prestigious matchplay trophy. Gallagher has been drawn against Noel Crowe in one of the ties of the round but the man to watch will surely be Oliver McGinnity who has a superb record in matchplay competitions over the past two years.

Saturday, July 18 and Sunday, July 19 – Paddy Markey Cup – Overall: Sean Gallagher (17) 43pts, Chris Malone (17) 42pts, Gross Winner: Caolan Rafferty (+5) 39/20pts. Veteran’s Cup Winner: Andrew MacKell (29) 41pts. Cat 1 (<11): Eugene J Hanratty (8) 40/20pts, Shane Hession (4) 40pts, Barry Cunningham (10) 39/21pts. Cat 2 (12-17): Seamus Bailey (12) 39/21pts, Patrick Dunne (17) 39pts, Ken Lynch (12) 38/21 pts. Cat 3 (18+): Colm Garvey(19) 40pts, Noel McGuinness (19) 39pts, Conor Marron (23) 38/20/15pts. Juvenile Winner: Rory Henry (19) 41pts. CSS: Saturday – 37pts, Sunday – 37pts.