Caolan Rafferty may have extra edge on the field for this year’s One Finance sponsored Dundalk Scratch Cup.
For the past few weeks the Walker Cup player has been working with the Course Staff at Dundalk Golf Club and admits that it has given him a new insight.
“I have a lot more appreciation for the work the lads do,” he admitted.
With his degree in Business at Maynooth University, where he was on a Paddy Harrington Scholarship, now completed and the elite golf season severely curtailed because of COVID-19, Rafferty was at a loose end when the opportunity to join Course Superintendent Damian English’s team on a temporary basis came along.
“When I got the exams out of the way I was obviously delighted to get the results but it opened the floodgates to just play more and more and more and you don’t realise how much golf you actually are playing.
“Working with the greenkeeping staff on the course at Dundalk Golf Club has given me a new appreciation for playing golf. I had played so much golf and was not really fully focused on it and was getting down in the dumps by going out and shooting level par or one under or one over. I was never shooting anything outside the 70s but I felt I should have been doing better and was getting frustrated trying and trying and trying.
“But, since I started working with the lads, and getting an appreciation for everything that they do day in day out and the teamwork involved, I now appreciate golf a lot more. I am now up early and finished early and I still have time to do my golf.”
Rafferty finished fourth at the Mullingar Scratch Cup and was tied 17th at last weekend’s Munster Stroke Play Championship but he will start as favourite on Sunday having won three of the last four stagings of the Dundalk Scratch Cup
“It was only the other day that I realised I had won three of the last four and I know Collie (Colm Campbell) will be delighted to know that he’s the one that broke the run and he will be back down to do that again no doubt.
“It’s my home club and so you want to go and perform at your best. Normally there would be a lot of locals out watching and it is nice to play well. I have played pretty well each year and shot some nice scores along the way. I am just going through a patch at the moment, I haven’t really been playing great, so hopefully Sunday will kick-start me and get me going again.”
Irish international Campbell, from nearby Warrenpoint, will be leading a top class field hoping to prevent Rafferty from becoming the first player to win the famous trophy three years in a row and strong challenges can also be expected from the likes of Masserene’s Tiarnan McLarnon, Seapoint’s Dylan Keating and Co Louth’s Gerard Dunne who is also the course record holder. Rafferty’s fellow clubmen, Aaron Grant and Eoin Murphy, will also fancy their chances over their home track.
After a promising start to the year in South Africa, Rafferty saw his golfing schedule for 2020 halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic and is deeply appreciative of the efforts of the Golfing Union of Ireland to put together a four round Bridgestone Order of Merit that will culminate with the Irish Amateur Close in Rosapenna.
“They could have very easily pulled the plug on events like other Unions did so to be able to get the four events that we have means we are kind of lucky to have a mini sort of season as such.”
As well as playing the Connacht Strokeplay and the Irish Close, Rafferty is also hoping to make it to the Palmer Cup at the Bay Hill Golf Club in Florida in December. The original event had been scheduled for Lahinch but was moved back to the United States when the pandemic struck.
After that his goal is to make a second Walker Cup appearance when the 2021 match takes place at the Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Florida next May but he admits it is difficult now to plan anything long-term.
“I just have to play things by ear and see how they go,” he says.
He had planned to go to Tour School this year as an amateur and see how things worked out but that plan is now on hold until 2021 at the earliest.
“Everything is very much up in the air at the minute,” he admits but he is determined to have a shot at the professional ranks.
“I would never fall into the category of saying why didn’t I do something. I wanted to do everything I have done so far in my life and, so far, everything I have done has worked out in my favour. I said to myself why not give it a run now, especially with the last couple of years I have had. I have nothing really to lose except maybe a year or two of working in a different career, that’s all.”