Caolan Rafferty took another giant step towards a full international call up when he fired a course record, 10-under 62 at Prince's to lead the qualifiers for the 122nd Amateur Championship.
The 25-year-old from Dundalk matched Kevin McAlpine's Amateur Championship qualifying score on the Old Course at St Andrews in 2004 though Richard Finch posted the lowest qualifying score with a 61 at Pyle & Kenfig in 2002.
Rafferty was on course for a magical 59 when he eagled the par-five second and then birdied the fourth, fifth, seventh, eighth to turn in six under 30. He then birdied the 10th, 11th, 13th, 14th and 15th to be 11 under with three to go.
He needed two more birdies to break 60 but parred the 16th and 17th and then bogeyed the 18th to come home in four-under 32.
He still shaved two shots off the day-old course record of 64 at Prince’s set by Icelan's Gisli Sveinbergsson in round one and given that he is "only" a member of the Irish Development panel it must surely be only a matter of time before he makes the breakthrough and earns a full international call up.
“The wind was up today but everyone knows back home that I love the wind and playing links golf in the wind suits me right down to the ground," said Rafferty, who was a quarter-finalist in the West, seventh in the recent Lytham Trophy and 11th in the East.
"It might be a bit of a graft when it comes to getting a score out of it but today I just kept hitting it to ten to 12 feet and I couldn’t miss it.
“It is nice to know that I am the leading qualifier in this field. The players are the best of the best. They are the closest thing to professionals that we are going to see. To come out on top is always nice.
“Match play is a funny game. You can play really poorly and win a match or you can play really well and lose a match. You just have to take it one step at a time in match play and not get down about it. I enjoy match play so I’m looking forward to it.”
Rafferty, who opened with a level par 70 at Royal St George's finished a shot clear of Italy’s Alberto Castagnara on 10-under par 132.
The 20-year-old Italian carded a two-under-par round of 68 to finish on nine-under-par and secure his place in the match play stage at Royal St George's
Rafferty was one of eight Irishmen to qualify for the matchplay stages with Tramore's Robin Dawson tied 11th on five-under after adding a one-under 69 at Royal St George's to his four-under 68 at Prince's
Tullamore's Stuart Grehan was tied 37th on two-under 140 with Naas' Conor O'Rourke and Co Sligo's Sean Flanagan while Portmarnock's Conor Purcell, Whitehead's John Ross Galbraith and The Island's Paul McBride made it on 141.
Amateur Championship, Royal St George's (Par 70), Prince's (Par 72)
1 RAFFERTY, Caolan Dundalk -10 70 62 132
T11 DAWSON, Robin Tramore -5 68 69 137
T37 GREHAN, Stuart Tullamore -2 69 71 140
T37 O’ROURKE, Conor Naas -2 70 70 140
T37 FLANAGAN, Sean Co. Sligo -2 71 69 140
T54 PURCELL, Conor Portmarnock -1 74 67 141
T54 GALBRAITH, John Ross Whitehead -1 71 70 141
T54 MCBRIDE, Paul The Island -1 69 72 141
T90 FAIRWEATHER, Colin Knock +1 72 71 143
T90 MCLARNON, Tiarnan Massereene +1 76 67 143
T9 HOOD, Jordan Galgorm Castle +1 70 73 143
T90 PIERSE, Jack Portmarnock +1 75 68 143
T115 WHELAN, Jake Newlands +2 76 68 144
T115 LESTER, Rowan Hermitage +2 71 73 144
T139 CAMPBELL, Colm Warrenpoint +3 74 71 145
T183 MULLARNEY, Ronan Galway +5 77 70 147
T183 O’ KEEFFE, Peter Douglas +5 73 74 147
T234 LENEHAN, Geoff Portmarnock +7 78 71 149
T234 GLEESON, Alex Castle +7 71 78 149
T245 YATES, Jonathan Naas +8 75 75 150