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.”

Rafferty focused on achieving more goals in 2020

CAOLAN RAFFERTY

CAOLAN Rafferty is still focused on amateur achievements as heads into 2020 and towards a major decision on his future direction.

The 27-year-old Dundalk golfer is in the final year of his Business degree at Maynooth University and has always insisted that any thoughts of turning professional won’t be entertained until after he graduates. But he admits that, even a few months out from his arrival at that significant crossroads, he is far from making his mind up on his future.

“I am genuinely still in limbo,” admitted Rafferty. “I don’t know whether to make the jump or go out into the big bad world and get a job. “It‘s something that I will sit down and have a chat about with my coach Dougie (Bell) and with Neil (Manchip). Neil will be a big help because he has been through situations like that with Shane (Lowry) and the boys and then obviously I’ll sit down with my family and see what they all make of it too.”

At present, Rafferty’s golfing focus is very much on the amateur game where he still has a lot of unfinished business despite having won the South of Ireland and West of Ireland Championships over the past two years and appeared in the Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool last September.

“2020 is going to be another busy year. There are a couple of extra teams involved in this year so hopefully I will make a few of them and the end goal this year is the Eishenhower Trophy. I just missed out last time when it was on in Carton House.

“Looking back, 2019 is as good a year as I probably could have hoped for. I think if someone had said to me, at the start of the year, this is what you are going to achieve in 2019, I would have took everything off them and ran for the hills.

“From the start of the year in South Africa right through to playing Walker Cup there is very little that I would change. So yeah, I would rate it as pretty much as good as I could have done.”

Having reached the semi-finals of the South African Amateur Championship, where he was beaten by one hole, Rafferty came home and captured the West of Ireland at Rosses Point.

“The win in the West was another big thing in the year. To win anything is big but to win one of the big championships here in Ireland is obviously that little bit sweeter. I think to win it the way I did win it as well, by a few shots, was nice.”

Rafferty’s other big highlight of 2019 was his appearance at the Walker Cup where he picked up one win from two outings in the singles having been overlooked for the foursomes on both days along with fellow Irishman James Sugrue.

“The Walker Cup was unbelievable from the minute you get there to the end of it. Obviously, I would have liked to play another game, maybe play foursomes on one of the days, but that’s just the way things go. But, other than that, it was just a fantastic week and I got to meet a great bunch of lads.”

Having beaten America’s Alex Smalley 2&1 on the Saturday afternoon, Rafferty was paired again with the Duke University golfer on the Sunday afternoon and was involved in a pulsating match that was eventually decided in favour of the American on the 17th.

“To just get a point on the board was fantastic. It would have been a bit sickening to go and get none but to actually get a point was sweet,” recalled Rafferty.

“I know I’ll never get a roar like I did on the Sunday when I chipped in on the fifth or chipped in on the seventh out of the bunker. There were a few moments in the match where I could have been dead and buried but the cheers and little things like interacting with the crowd was really cool.”

However, 2019 wasn’t without its disappointments with Ireland losing the Home Internationals in Lahinch and Dundalk again coming up short at the All-Ireland Barton Shield Finals while the loss of a five-shot lead in the final round of the R&A Scholars Tournament at St Andrews in April is still a raw memory months later.

“The winner gets a slot in the Palmer Cup which was on in America last year so to have a five-shot lead going into the last day and not get the win hurt a bit. But, at the same time, it fired me up and I went out the week after and won the West where I also had a five shot lead going into the last day.

“St Andrews was a disappointment, but I learnt an awful lot about myself and learnt a lot about how to deal with a disappointment like that there and how to cope a little bit better when you are five shots ahead. It seems like an awful lot but it’s only one hole at the end of the day in golf.”

Members of the Irish squad recently met up with Open Champion Shane Lowry and Rafferty admitted that many of the insights that the Offalyman shared with them that day struck a chord with him.

“Meeting Shane was class. He is such a genuine lad. He kind of just put it all into perspective. He was open and very honest. He gets nervous, everyone gets nervous and he said there are days that he has learned an awful lot about himself. The things that I could draw out of it, I went through myself.

“He knows what he wants, and he does what he wants, when he wants. That’s an attitude that gets you a good bit in golf. It’s important to please yourself and forget about what everyone else is saying about you. There are always going to be the people saying you should be doing this or should be doing that. Shane mentioned that about people saying he should have done this, or he should have done that, or he should still be something else, but at the end of the day he’s the one standing with a major and a lot of wins under his belt. You have to respect someone when they are so honest about it.”

Rafferty will be part of a group of Irish players who will once again start their season in South Africa and he admits that it has been of great benefit to him in each of the last two years.

“I always find that South Africa is really important to kick-start your season. You are going down there and playing some of the best courses in the world and because it is so early it gets you going earlier in the year. It shortens the winter and sharpens your tools and allows you to hit the ground running because you don’t want to be behind the mark at the start.

“You take a lot of confidence when you go down there and you compete against some of the best golfers in the world. You are playing golf courses that we don’t normally play and, if you do finish well, it just goes to prove that you have more in the bag than you would find if you were just at home playing links all the time.”

Rafferty will start 2020 as number one in the European Golf Association rankings and 15th in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, just one slot below his all-time high of 14th. Making the WAGR Top 10 is a major goal for the coming year but his belief hasn’t wavered that if he can continue to play good golf, everything else will look after itself.

“I’m just going to focus on playing good golf. If you play well all year, it will all look after itself and you won’t have to do anything different. It was something Shane alluded to. He plays his own game, he plays his own style, he doesn’t try to do anything different and that’s something I have spoken about with Neil and Dougie. It’s playing with what you have got. It’s not going to be pretty every day but if you can get around the golf course that’s half the battle. If I do that, all the rankings will look after themselves, teams will look after themselves, and tournaments will look after themselves.”

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.