Rafferty finishes third in South African Strokeplay

Caolan Rafferty

Caolan Rafferty continued his excellent start to the 2020 season with a third place finish at the South African Strokeplay Championship which was played over the Firethorn course at Randpark Golf Club, the venue for last month’s South African Open on the European Tour.

He went into the event after finishing sixth in the African Strokeplay Championship the previous week in what was his first tournament outing of the year and has returned home to Ireland full of optimism for the season ahead.

“It was a good two weeks down in South Africa. I didn’t really get off to a quick start in either of the events, I was a bit slow to get going and bit rusty after not playing a lot of golf. But, to be able to finish sixth and third having not really been on top of my game was really good. I certainly have a few positives to take out of it. In both tournaments, as the weeks went on, I played pretty good golf and last week I played really well in the final two rounds to get third place which was really nice.”

Rafferty opened with a two under par 70 in the first round at Randpark, shooting three birdies and a bogey, but despite being under par he found himself back in 16th place, six shots behind leader Jamie Wilson of Scotland. A one under par 71, courtesy of two birdies and one bogey, in the second round saw him fall ten shots behind the new leader, 16-year-old Casey Jarvis, but the failure of his Ireland team-mate, Tiarnan McLarnon, to make the cut reaped a rich dividend for Rafferty.

“Tiarnan caddied for me in the final two rounds and he was a great help through just simply talking about things. I saw the course in a different way with somebody else chipping in with their thoughts and that helped big time. We were communicating and going at it, taking shots on when we felt we could.”

Four birdies in the first five holes of the third round certainly cemented the partnership and when Rafferty claimed another birdie at the ninth, he found himself eight under for the tournament and heading back into contention. A bogey at the par five 11th threatened to upset the momentum but Rafferty reeled off back to back birdies at the 13th and 14th and then claimed his eighth birdie of the day at the par three 17th to finish with a seven under par 65 to move to 10 under.

That saw him leap up the leaderboard from T21 to fourth place and although leader Jarvis, with Nick Price’s former caddy on his bag, was eight shots ahead of him, Rafferty was only four strokes off second place.

“I wouldn’t say it was an easy seven-under but I hit it really close all day. I holed a couple of putts but nothing really too mad and I missed a couple of putts as well,” said Rafferty.

In the final round Rafferty didn’t get out of traps as fast as he would have liked and had only moved to 11 under by the turn after birdieing the fifth and ninth and bogeying the eighth. However, he did finish strongly and fired home four birdies in five holes from the 12th to move to 15 under with two holes to go.

That left him one shot adrift of Kyle de Beer who was in second place but Rafferty couldn’t bridge the gap to the South African and had to settled for third on 15 under as Jarvis romped to victory with an amazing final total of 25 under, having shot five birdies and an eagle in the final round.

“The scoring was outrageous in Randpark. They set the course up really well and set it in a way that you could make birdies if you hit it in the right places but you could still make bogies. It was a nice way to play a golf course that presented the chances when you put the ball in play and put the ball in position.”

Lawlor comes from behind to win EDGA Scottish Open

Brendan Lawlor came out on top when the inaugural EDGA Scottish Open was held alongside the European Tour’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club over the weekend.

The 36 hole event featured ten players from the World Rankings for Golfers with Disability taking each other on over the same layout the European Tour field were tackling in the third Rolex Series event of the season.

Lawlor carded a 77 in round one on Saturday to lie third overnight and produced the lowest round of the event when he shot a level par 71 to finish on six over, one shot clear of World Number One George Groves.

“It feels great,” said Lawlor after his victory. “Today everything clicked, I smoothed it off the tee, I didn’t miss many fairways and the putts dropped when I needed them to drop. I had a few bogeys coming in but we’ll put that down to a wee bit of nerves.

“I felt I played a lot better than six over on Saturday. The course was really, really hard and was playing 7,200 yards with no run on the ball because it was quite wet. However, I felt I had a chance being three behind with only two players ahead of me and I got off to the start I wanted to on Sunday.”

Lawlor started the day three shots behind Groves but was brilliant on the front nine, birdieing the fourth, fifth and seventh to lead by one at turn despite dropping a shot on the ninth.

Groves – who has a paralysis of the left arm called Erb’s Palsy – made gains of his own on the first and seventh but dropped shots on the second, third, sixth and eighth, and further bogeys on the tenth and 11th left the Englishman two behind, with Lawlor also bogeying the 11th. Lawlor dropped a shot on the 13th but moved back two ahead as he picked it straight back up on the next. A bogey on the 17th then set up a tense finish but Groves parred his final seven holes to leave Lawlor signing for a 71 to claim the title and add another memorable week to his CV.

“Everyone out here are unbelievable payers and it’s great to showcase it. To be out here this week competing with all the pros and having the chance to play off the same tees, it’s a privilege for all of us,” said Lawlor.

“To play in such a fantastic event, it’s an amazing achievement for EDGA to get us in and for the European Tour to accept that disability golfers are talented is fantastic as well. Inclusion is everything in the world and it’s fantastic to be accepted.

“For so many professional golfers to accept what we’re doing and accept that we can play with them, it’s fantastic. They can see our talent and that’s helping too.”

Lawlor will be back mixing it with the pros in August when he takes part in the European Challenge Tour’s KPMG Trophy in Belgium in August which was his prize for winning G-Golf Knockout against Adem Wahbi at the Belgian Knockout a few weeks ago.

The World Number Three, who is a member of Dundalk’s Senior Panel, plays off scratch and has Ellis-Van Creveld syndrome, a disability characterised by a shorter stature and shorter limbs.

The EDGA Scottish Open is the first of two disability championships scheduled alongside Rolex Series events on the 2019 Race to Dubai, with the 36 hole EDGA Dubai Finale due to feature as part of the season ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai at Jumeirah Golf Estates in November. 

“I felt I played a lot better than six over on Saturday. The course was really, really hard and was playing 7,200 yards with no run on the ball because it was quite wet. However, I felt I had a chance being three behind with only two players ahead of me and I got off to the start I wanted to on Sunday.”

Lawlor started the day three shots behind Groves but was brilliant on the front nine, birdieing the fourth, fifth and seventh to lead by one at turn despite dropping a shot on the ninth.

Groves – who has a paralysis of the left arm called Erb’s Palsy – made gains of his own on the first and seventh but dropped shots on the second, third, sixth and eighth, and further bogeys on the tenth and 11th left the Englishman two behind, with Lawlor also bogeying the 11th. Lawlor dropped a shot on the 13th but moved back two ahead as he picked it straight back up on the next. A bogey on the 17th then set up a tense finish but Groves parred his final seven holes to leave Lawlor signing for a 71 to claim the title and add another memorable week to his CV.

“Everyone out here are unbelievable payers and it’s great to showcase it. To be out here this week competing with all the pros and having the chance to play off the same tees, it’s a privilege for all of us,” said Lawlor.

“To play in such a fantastic event, it’s an amazing achievement for EDGA to get us in and for the European Tour to accept that disability golfers are talented is fantastic as well. Inclusion is everything in the world and it’s fantastic to be accepted.

“For so many professional golfers to accept what we’re doing and accept that we can play with them, it’s fantastic. They can see our talent and that’s helping too.”

Lawlor will be back mixing it with the pros in August when he takes part in the European Challenge Tour’s KPMG Trophy in Belgium in August which was his prize for winning G-Golf Knockout against Adem Wahbi at the Belgian Knockout a few weeks ago.

The World Number Three, who is a member of Dundalk’s Senior Panel, plays off scratch and has Ellis-Van Creveld syndrome, a disability characterised by a shorter stature and shorter limbs.

The EDGA Scottish Open is the first of two disability championships scheduled alongside Rolex Series events on the 2019 Race to Dubai, with the 36 hole EDGA Dubai Finale due to feature as part of the season ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai at Jumeirah Golf Estates in November. 

Knockout win tees Lawlor up for Challenge Tour date

Dundalk Golf Club’s Brendan Lawlor is set to tee it up with pros after winning an invite to the 2019 KPMG Trophy, a European Challenge Tour event which will be played in Belgium from August 29 to September 1.

The final day of the recent Belgian Knockout tournament on the European Tour featured the G-GOLF Knockout which was a nine-hole stroke play knockout match between two golfers with disability. Lawlor, the current World Number Three in the World Rankings for Golfers with Disability (WR4GD), defeated home favourite and WR4GD Number Five Adem Wahbi by three shots at Rinkven International Golf Course to earn his invite to the Challenge Tour event.

“It’s a fantastic accomplishment, we’re both winners today but I’m getting the prize, it’s really good,” said Lawlor after his victory. “Disability golf is getting more and more seen now all over the world and the European Tour have joined with EDGA, so we’re getting more chances like this to put on a wee show for the fans.

“It’s mind-blowing to get the invite. It’s my first outing in my first professional event. For a disability golfer to play, I think it’s the first time it’s ever happened, so it will be huge step forward for golf, not only for myself but for disability golf, to show other people what I’m capable of,” said Lawlor.

Lawlor also played with the pros in the pro-am on the eve of last month’s Betfred British Masters where the European Tour announced two tournaments for Golfers with Disability. The 36-hole EDGA Scottish Open and the 36-hole EDGA Dubai Finale will be played over the weekends of two of this season’s biggest Rolex Series events, the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club and the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai at Jumeirah Golf Estates.

Scoring for both tournaments will feature on the European Tour’s website and App for fans to follow, while television coverage of both contests will form part of the world feed broadcast, and the winner in Scotland will also take part in the main prize-giving ceremony on Sunday afternoon.