Rafferty moves into higher orbit after West win
Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) shows off the trophy following his four-shot win in the West of Ireland Amateur Open Championship at County Sligo Golf Club, Rosses Point, 7th April 2019. Picture: Thos Caffrey /  www.golffile.ie

Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) shows off the trophy following his four-shot win in the West of Ireland Amateur Open Championship at County Sligo Golf Club, Rosses Point, 7th April 2019. Picture: Thos Caffrey / www.golffile.ie

Dundalk’s Caolan Rafferty took one small step at Lahinch last summer when he won “the South”. 

Now he’s taken a giant leap towards being considered one the best amateurs in the world following his four-stroke win in the first strokeplay staging of the West of Ireland Championship.

The 26-year old began a sun-kissed Rosses Point week ranked 41st in the world, shrugging off any questions about a Walker Cup call up as “stuff that will look after itself” if you put the scores on the board.

He'd contemplated not making the trip west at all, his mood dampened having lost a five-stroke lead in the final round of the R&A Scholars Tournament at St Andrews on Tuesday, not to mention a growing mound Maynooth University assignments.

But given his annual brilliance in strokeplay qualifying for “the West” and his love for County Sligo, it was no surprise he triumphed in style to surge to the top of the newly revamped Bridgestone Order of Merit.

Leading by four strokes from Chelmsford’s Arron Edwards-Hill after rounds of 71, 66 and 67 and by five from Portmarnock’s Conor Purcell, the world number 26, he closed with a one-over 72 to win by four shots from both men on eight-under 276.

“I was humming and hawing whether I should even come over or not given my college workload,” said Rafferty, who saw his four-shot overnight lead reduced to just two strokes from Purcell with six holes to play before outlasting his rivals down the stretch

“But I actually have a great strokeplay record from the qualifiers around here and thought, well I’m actually not too bad at stroke play around this golf course....”

One of Irish golf’s nearly men until he shook a monkey off his back by winning the South of Ireland title at Lahinch last year, Rafferty had to dig deep coming down the stretch yesterday.

He knew a challenge would come having seen Welshman Aled Greville shot a 65 to his 74 over the OId Course last week to claim the R&A Scholars crown.

“Having a four-shot lead, I was joking with my father last night, ‘aww, here we go again’,” said delighted Rafferty, who now looks certain to qualify for the US Amateur this summer. 

“But golf’s golf; you can have a five-shot lead or a ten shot lead but you never know what the next day’s going to bring.”

A steady start was crucial and he got it by playing the first six holes in one-under par, picking up a shot at the par-five fifth to remain four ahead of the posse.

“I knew when I birdied the fifth, I was 10-under then and if I could keep it around level par the lads would have to shoot a really good score to beat me,” he said.

“This golf course doesn’t throw out too many birdies. We played really good golf over the last few days to get to the score we were on, and I knew if I could hold it together, I should get the job done.”

He bogeyed the tough seventh and turned in level par 36 to Purcell’s 35 before the Portmarnock star chipped in for a birdie at the 10th and two-putted for another on the par-five 12th to get within two strokes. 

When Rafferty bogeyed the newly toughened 14th, Purcell had a testing four-foot par putt on the same green to close within one but it slipped apologetically past the edge.

As Edwards-Hill bogeyed the 16th en route to a 72 and Purcell the 16th and 17th for a 71, Rafferty parred his last four holes to complete a memorable week and join an illustrious list of West winners.

West of Ireland Amateur Open, County Sligo GC (Par 71)

Sponsored by Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa, Sligo

Final

Detailed scores

276 C Rafferty (Dundalk) 71 66 67 72;

280 A Edwards-Hill (Chelmsford) 69 72 67 72, C Purcell (Portmarnock) 66 75 68 71; 

282 J McDonnell (Forrest Little) 70 71 71 70;

285 R Brazill (Naas) 68 70 79 68;

287 T McLarnon (Massereene) 72 71 70 74;

288 S Doyle (Black Bush) 77 70 70 71, R Mullarney (Galway) 72 70 74 72, H Gillivan (Westport) 71 73 70 74, R McNelis (Fintona) 71 71 71 75;

289 G Cullen (The Links Portmarnock) 74 71 70 74, J Fox (Portmarnock) 73 70 70 76, J Sugrue (Mallow) 72 69 70 78, S Flanagan (Co. Sligo) 70 74 75 70;

290 K Egan (Carton House) 76 72 71 71, M McClean (Malone Golf Club) 74 76 68 72, M Deasy (Lee Valley) 73 73 71 73, J Byrne (Baltinglass) 73 68 77 72, L O'Neill (Connemara) 71 73 71 75, G Collins (Rosslare) 69 76 76 69, M Kennedy (Royal Dublin) 67 70 80 73;

291 N Carroll (Athlone) 73 72 74 72, C Campbell (Warrenpoint) 73 70 74 74, E Griffin (Waterford) 73 68 75 75, G McDermott (Carton House) 71 73 71 76;

292 S Murphy (Portumna) 75 69 76 72, E McCormack (Galway) 71 72 75 74, P Coughlan (Castleknock) 68 76 73 75;

293 A McCormack (Castletroy) 74 75 71 73, T Ford (Co. Sligo) 71 73 72 77, A Fahy (Dun Laoghaire) 69 76 73 75;

294 S Walsh (Portmarnock) 76 74 68 76, G Lenehan (Portmarnock) 76 72 69 77, E O'Brien (Clontarf) 72 74 71 77, R Moran (Castle) 71 74 72 77;

295 R Griffin (Ballybofey & Stranorlar) 80 66 75 74, R Black (Hilton Templepatrick) 78 72 72 73, E Smith (Laytown & Bettystown) 77 73 71 74;

296 M O'Rourke (Royal Tara) 72 72 78 74;

297 J Lyons (Galway) 75 77 71 74, P O'Hanlon (Carton House ) 75 75 71 76, D Reddan Jnr (Nenagh) 75 72 75 75, R O'Connor (Co. Sligo) 72 77 70 78;

298 C Woodroofe (Dun Laoghaire) 74 75 71 78, B Best (Rathmore) 73 74 73 78, E Murphy (Dundalk) 73 70 77 78, R Williamson (Holywood) 72 75 72 79;

299 S Ryan (Royal Dublin) 75 72 73 79;

302 G O'Mahony (Fota Island) 77 73 73 79;

303 D Flynn (Carton House) 72 75 73 83.

Missed cut

224 R McCormack (Palmerstown House) 81 70 73, C Denvir (Elm Park) 80 74 70, A Lowry (Esker Hills) 77 72 75, A Marshall (Lisburn) 75 78 71, G Ward (Kinsale) 75 75 74, P McKeever (Castle) 75 74 75, R Abernethy (Dun Laoghaire) 74 73 77, J McVicker (Knock Golf Club) 73 75 76; 

225 B Murray (Waterford Castle) 75 79 71, H Foley (Royal Dublin) 75 75 75, K Murphy (Dun Laoghaire) 74 77 74, L Power (Galway) 74 76 75, J Whelan (Newlands) 74 74 77;

226 C Ryan (Dun Laoghaire) 77 73 76, A Decorde (Bordeaux Lac) 77 72 77, R Latimer (Knock) 76 81 69, N Crawford (Mourne) 74 77 75, W Russell (Clandeboye) 74 75 77, M Nolan (Dun Laoghaire) 74 74 78, N Hearns (Mountrath) 71 79 76, 

227 D Kitt (Athenry) 78 75 74, S Greenberg (Tandragee) 77 72 78, R Galligan (Elm Park) 75 75 77, P Buckley (Memorial, USA) 74 77 76, J Sabir (Moate) 73 77 77, J Tuohy (Galway Bay) 73 77 77, J Cleary (Elm Park) 71 80 76;

228 M Sinclair (Knock) 76 75 77, F Carr (Kirkistown Castle) 74 80 74, S Underwood (Co. Sligo) 73 80 75, J Stothers (Tandragee) 72 80 76;

229 R Dutton (Tandragee) 81 75 73, S Hogan (Nenagh) 74 74 81;

230 P O'Connor (Macroom) 82 73 75, C Vaughan (Limerick) 80 76 74, J Walsh (Castle) 80 72 78, A Collins (Laytown & Bettystown) 78 77 75, F Kennedy (The Island) 77 80 73, J McCarthy (Grange) 76 80 74, S Cullen (Slieve Russell) 76 76 78, E Sullivan (Carton House) 74 76 80, T Higgins (Roscommon) 74 75 81;

231 R Clarke (The Island) 80 78 73, E Gaughan (Co. Sligo) 80 74 77, P Connolly (Killeen Castle) 78 79 74, M Kennelly (Galway Bay) 77 75 79, S Desmond (Monkstown) 77 74 80, J McCabe (Roganstown) 76 79 76, R Pierse (Grange) 75 75 81, J Maginn (Mourne) 74 77 80, R McCrudden (Royal Portrush) 73 80 78; 

232 L Hutchinson (Royal Dublin) 77 81 74; 

233 A Smith (Mullingar) 82 75 76, S Carter (Royal Dublin) 80 74 79, D Leufer (Athenry) 77 76 80; 

234 O Maguire (Slieve Russell) 81 75 78, J Rackard (Enniscorthy) 81 73 80, K Fitzpatrick (Kinsale) 78 79 77, C Byrne (Woodbrook) 76 76 82, J Monaghan (Royal Dublin) 75 80 79, G McKenna (Donaghadee) 74 79 81; 

235 S Barker (Mourne) 77 82 76; 

236 T Plunkett (Crover House) 78 79 79;

237 E Farrell (Ardee) 77 80 80;

239 A Hill (Athenry) 86 75 78, D Reidy (Co. Sligo) 81 76 82, R Knightly (Royal Dublin) 78 82 79;

244 K Murphy (Cork Golf Club) 79 81 84; 

258 G Fitzmaurice (Balcarrick) 74 86 98;

NR S Irwin (Killeen) 74 78; RTD P O'Keeffe (Douglas) 77 78, C Butler (Kinsale) 76 84;

WD A Maguire (Laytown & Bettystown) 73 76, C Dullaghan (Greenore) 77 WD, J Gibson (Fintona) 78 WD;

NS M Looby (Greystones) 82 78, E Rumley (Kinsale) 76 84;

WD J Hadnett (Castletroy) 81 WD, K Howard (Dromoland) 78 86;

RTD A Grant (Dundalk), B Cashman (Belvoir Park).