Friday, June 14, 2024

East of Ireland joy for Rafferty at last – News – Irish Golf Desk

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Dundalk’s Caolan Rafferty put two years of heartbreak behind him when he married a deft putting touch with some brilliant iron play and closed with a superb seven-under 65 to claim the Kingspan-sponsored East of Ireland Championship at County Louth.

Second in 2022 and beaten in a playoff last year, he feared the worst when he three-putted the 18th for a bogey that left him just one ahead of Royal Dublin’s Max Kennedy on 15-under-par.

Kennedy was four shots behind an inspired Rafferty with four holes to play, but after making birdies at the 15th and 16th to head to the 18th needing a birdie four to force a three-hole aggregate playoff, he pitched to seven feet only to miss his right to left breaking putt and add a 68 to his third round 67.

“Made hard work of it on the last, but it was nice to get it over the line,” a relieved Rafferty said.

“Played really solid today, didn’t do anything really wrong just held a lot of putts. I just went out with the mindset of needing to shoot a low one.  

“Actually the joke with the caddie was that if I shot 64, he would go off the drink for the month so just fell short of it, he’s delighted I three-putted the last in one sense

“It was just one of those days where anything I looked at was going to go in and I kept giving myself chances.”

A former winner of the ‘West’ and the ‘South’, Rafferty made no secret of the fact that the ‘East’ was the title he craved most and after coming second in 2022 and 2023, he exuded a sense of relief.   

“I wanted to win this pretty bad, so I just knew I had to keep at it keep at it and see what happens,” he said.

“It’s one of them; you just put so much into it and then keep falling short and then when I did what I did on 18, I was like, don’t tell me I’ve done it again.”

After carding a bogey-free 68 in the morning to go into the final round just two shots behind halfway leader Jack McDonnell and his Royal Dublin clubmate Kennedy on eight-under, Rafferty birdied the second, fourth, fifth and seventh to turn in 33 before racing four shots clear thanks to further birdies at the 10th, 12th, 13th and 15th.

Brilliant par saves from eight feet at the ninth and 17th were also crucial and Rafferty revealed he’d worked hard on his putting.

“I changed the putter two weeks ago, spent three and a half hours on the putting green, which I’ve never done in my life,” he said of his work with Dundalk’s PGA professional Leslie Walker.  

“And we figured something out that might just give me a bit of feel and a bit of confidence.

“I know the greens well here anyway but today I read them really well and my pace was good so it was just a case of really trusting it”

He added: “I just knew that I had to go low. I only made three bogeys all week, which is a good sign as well. But I just knew if I kept doing what I was doing I would give myself a good few chances even though I didn’t hit the ball overly well, I still had a lot of chances in the first three rounds just didn’t hole a lot so I said if they start dropping, which they did early on, that we’d be all good.”

McDonnell, undone early on by a double bogey seven at the third, shot 74 to tie for third on eight-under alongside two under 21s in Tralee’s Mark Gazi (70-68) and Seapoint’s Dylan Keating (69-67).

East of Ireland Amateur Open Championship, sponsored by Kingspan, County Louth GC (Par 72)

Final

273 Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) 71 69 68 65;

274 Max Kennedy (Royal Dublin) 68 71 67 68;

280 Mark Gazi (Tralee) 73 69 70 68, Jack McDonnell (Royal Dublin) 66 71 69 74, Dylan Keating (Seapoint) 69 75 69 67;

284 Matthew McClean (Malone) 70 71 71 72;

285 David Shiel (Enniscrone) 75 71 72 67, Adam Smith (Mullingar) 72 70 69 74;

286 Adam Buchanan (Royal Portrush) 74 71 71 70, David Lally (Blainroe) 68 70 77 71;

287 Aaron Marshall (Lisburn) 73 71 70 73, Harry Gillivan (Portmarnock) 72 73 72 70, Evan Farrell (Co Louth) 70 69 69 79;

288 Gavin O’Neill (Malahide) 70 74 72 72, Cian O’Connor (Roscommon) 71 73 73 71, Gerard Dunne (Co Louth) 77 68 70 73, Simon Walker (Roscommon) 67 74 72 75, David Reddan (Nenagh) 75 70 74 69, Brian Doran

(Millicent) 71 69 73 75, David Kitt (Athenry) 73 71 72 72, Shane McDermott (Slieve Russell) 73 72 70 73;

289 Marc McKinstry (Cairndhu) 71 73 74 71, Sean McAufield (Ardee) 73 68 72 76, Seamus Cullen (Slieve Russell) 71 74 76 68;

290 Luke O’Neill (Connemara Golf Links) 72 74 72 72, Stephen Grant (Birr) 71 71 72 76, TJ Ford (Co Sligo) 71 70 74 75, David Howard (Fota island) 73 67 73 77, Eoin Murphy (Dundalk) 72 68 77 73;

291 Ian Lynch (Rosslare) 72 74 73 72, Hugh Foley (Royal Dublin) 71 71 73 76, Paul O’Hanlon (Carton House) 72 68 79 72;

292 Thomas Abom (Edmondstown )74 70 73 75, Jake Whelan (Grange) 70 72 71 79, Ross Latimer (Clandeboye) 75 71 76 70, Jordan Boles (Charleville) 74 72 72 74;

293 Morgan Cain (Cork) 72 74 71 76, Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock) 67 75 80 71, Colm Campbell Warrenpoint 69 73 78 73;

294 David Foy (Laytown & Bettystown) 71 73 77 73, Eoin Sullivan (Portmarnock) 70 74 76 74, John Cleary (Elm Park) 72 74 74 74, Darcy Hogg (Belvoir Park) 74 71 75 74;

295 Peter O’Keeffe (Douglas) 71 75 72 77;

296 Rory Gallagher (Galway Bay) 74 72 72 78, Jamie Butler (Naas) 74 71 76 75;

297 Adam Fahey (Portmarnock) 72 73 72 80;

298 Darragh Flynn (Carton House) 71 75 79 73, Matthew Grehan (Tullamore) 71 74 78 75;

299 Conor Hickey (Dooks) 71 75 78 75;

300 Ryan McNelis (Fintona) 74 72 77 77, Jack Blake (The Island) 71 74 78 77;

301 Seán Desmond (Monkstown) 73 73 79 76.

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