Rafferty takes positives from Irish Open experience at Mount Juliet

Caolan Rafferty took lots of positives from his involvement in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open which was played at Mount Juliet over the past week.

The Dundalk Golf Club player, who has been one of Ireland’s leading amateur players over the past few years, received his first ever invite to a European Tour event a few days before the event teed off and, while his interest ended after the second round, he admitted that he enjoyed every moment of the experience of rubbing shoulders with the likes of Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry and Padraig Harrington.

“It was a great week. I got to compare my game with the top lads and found what I have to work on and what I’m doing that is good,” said Rafferty who shot two rounds of six over par 78 to finish on 12 under.

“Being able to say I played in the Irish Open is nice even though my scores weren’t wonderful. Watching the top players on the range and being quite close to them was a nice experience and one I won’t forget.”

With his Dundalk Golf Club team-mate Eoin Murphy acting as his caddy, Rafferty arrived in Mount Juliet on Tuesday. After getting form-filling and his COVID tests out of the way, he played nine holes with Open champion Shane Lowry and his Ireland team-mate Mark Power, another amateur in the field.

“It was great to share the experience with Eoin and nice to have someone with me who I know well and get on with. It was a great experience for him too, to see the lads, be in that environment for a few days and see what it’s like on tour.  

“Playing with Shane Lowry was another great experience. A member from Dundalk met Shane at the game between Louth and Offaly in Navan and told him I was playing. Shane straight away said: ‘Tell him to join me and Mark, we’re going out in a practice round on Tuesday,” Rafferty explained.

“He’s so sound and helped us out where he could. It was great to see him play and see how good he is.

“I played the 18 holes on the Tuesday and then chilled out. On Wednesday I went to the range and met up with the Srixon reps to check out a few things and got my driver shaft sorted which is now giving me an extra 15 yards off the tee.”

Rafferty was drawn alongside two of the most experienced professionals in the field for his two rounds and admitted that he really enjoyed playing alongside Paul Waring and Edoardo Molinari.

“I couldn’t have asked for two better playing partners. They both made me feel very welcome and comfortable. They had a laugh on the way around too which was great.

Rafferty saw at first hand the small margins that make the difference between success and failure at the top level of professional golf. Molinari was two under at the halfway stage and Waring was level par, but both missed the cut which fell at three under par.

Looking back on his own rounds, Rafferty felt he didn’t do himself justice as he had three birdies, 10 bogeys, one double bogey and one triple bogey over the 36 holes.

“I just didn’t play well. I didn’t play as well as I know I can, and I made some silly mistakes as  well as getting a few bad breaks.”

Having completed his degree at Maynooth University, where he was on a Harrington Giolf Scholarship, the Covid pandemic thwarted Rafferty’s plans to have a go at winning his Tour Card. However, he says that his experience at Mount Juliet is unlikely to have any influence on the future direction of his golf career.

“I’m not going to let two rounds of golf decide on what I do,” he said.

Rafferty’s failure to make the cut did have one positive outcome as it meant the 28-year-old was able to take up the opportunity to drive a Formula 1 car around Mondello race track on Saturday and he admitted it was just the tonic he needed after the disappointment of missing the cut at Mount Juliet.

“When it all went belly up with the golf I headed up the road to Kildare. It was great to have that there to take my mind off the golf and switch off for a day or two even though I would have loved to be in Mount Juliet for another two days. But that’s golf and these things happen.”

Rafferty didn’t get too much downtime after Mount Juliet and Mondello as he was on an early morning flight to Spain on Sunday for the European Team Championships which take place at the PGA Catalunya Resort in Spain having being moved from the Vasatorp Golf Club in Sweden because of travel restriction concerns.

“It’s always nice to get the chance to play for your country and we haven’t had the chance to do that the last while. I would like to think we have a good chance at this year’s Europeans. We have a good mix in the team and we all get on well together so, hopefully, all going well we will qualify in the top tier and then give the matchplay a good run.”

Walker Cup stars heading for Dundalk Scratch Cup

Walker Cup and Ireland stars Caolan Rafferty, James Sugrue and Conor Purcell will switch from being teammates to rivals this Sunday (September 15) when they tee it up at the One Finance sponsored Dundalk Scratch Cup at Dundalk Golf Club.
Last weekend the trio were part of the Great Britain & Ireland team in the Walker Cup at Hoylake before travelling to Lahinch to represent Ireland in the Home Internationals.
The presence of three players from the World’s top 60 is sure to attract big crowds to Dundalk for the 36 hole tournament which will have shotgun starts at 9am for Round 1 and 2pm for Round 2.
Rafferty is the defending champion and is bidding to win a third title in four years while Sugrue from Mallow is the Amateur champion and Portmarnock’s Purcell is the Australian Amateur champion.
The three Walker Cup players will start as favourites but there are plenty of players in the star studded field that will fancy their chances of lifting the famous trophy. Previous champions include the likes of three-time major winner Padraig Harrington while another former Walker Cup players, David Sheahan, was the first winner in 1963.
Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell won the event in 2017 while Co Louth’s Gerard Dunne set a new course record in last year’s second round and both will be expected to feature strongly as will another former winner, Gary Cullen, while current Boys’ internationals Max Kennedy and Dylan Keating will see this as their opportunity to make their senior breakthrough.
Rafferty will lead a strong home challenge into this year’s competition as members of the club’s senior panel will be battling to nail their places in next week’s All-Ireland Barton Shield semi-final against Rosses Point in Westport. Over their home course, the challenge of Aaron Grant, Eoin Murphy, Josh Makin and Brendan Lawlor cannot be underestimated. 
The greenkeeping staff at Dundalk have been working hard over the last few weeks to have the course in top shape for Sunday and Dundalk Captain Pat Davis said everybody is looking forward to the event.
“We have a great field this year and are delighted that James Sugrue and Conor Purcell are able to play given their busy schedules. The course is in superb condition and we are expecting a lot of people to come out and take advantage of the opportunity to see some of our top amateur golfers in action,” he said.

Rafferty bidding for second Dundalk Scratch Cup victory

Pictured at the launch of the 2018 Dundalk Scratch Cup sponsored by One Finance were (from left): Pat Cleary (Lady Captain); Martin McDonnell (One Finance), Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk & Ireland), Niall McDonnell (One Finance) and Gerry Byrne (Captain).

SOUTH of Ireland champion Caolan Rafferty will be the big draw when the One Finance sponsored Dundalk Scratch Cup takes place this Sunday (September 16) over 36 holes at Dundalk Golf Club.

Since he first won the competition in 2016, Rafferty has firmly established himself as one of the top amateur players in Ireland and is currently the second highest ranked Irishman in the World Amateur Golf Rankings where he sits this week in 63rd place.

He will head home to Dundalk after spending the earlier part of this week in the Welsh seaside resort of Conwy as part of an Irish team looking to win the Home Internationals for a fifth year in a row.

Last year, Rafferty had to settle for third place behind Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell in his defence of a title that includes the likes of three times major winner Padraig Harrington among its former champions since its inception in 1963 when David Sheahan was the first winner.

Rafferty’s presence alone is sure to guarantee a large crowd at Dundalk on Sunday as the locals avail of a rare opportunity to see the 25-year-old in competitive action over his home course.

Rafferty will lead a strong home challenge into this year’s competition with all eight members of Dundalk’s Senior Panel included in the field as they battle for places in next month’s All-Ireland Barton Shield semi-final at Thurles Golf Club.

Entries are still open but the field already includes plenty of quality with the likes of Colin Woodroofe, Aaron Marshall, Eugene Smith, Max Kennedy, TJ Forde, Jack McDonnell and Cian Geraghty among the early entrants for an event that is firmly established as one of the top Scratch Cups in the country.

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 the course record of 64, which was set last year by Aaron Grant, could be under threat.