Rafferty rolls back the years to lead the Irish Amateur Championship

Ronan MacNamara

Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) (Photo by Matthew Lewis/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)

Caolan Rafferty showed flashes of his brilliance from yesteryear as he edged his nose in front at the halfway stage of the Flogas Irish Men’s Amateur Open Championship.

The Dundalk man birdied the last for a second round of 68 to hit the summit on seven-under at the Island as he seized on the favourable afternoon conditions to lead by one from Harley Smith.

Rafferty played the Lee Valley Scratch Cup this year but other than that he has been playing nine holes and preferred lies so he was pleasantly surprised to be at the top through 36 holes.


“I’m playing steady, the birdie on the last will make the drive home that bit shorter, especially when you drop one on 17,” said the 30-year-old. “Two good days, playing solid so hopefully I can keep it going.

“I’m playing within myself not trying to chase anything to get there and just doing my own thing.”

Rafferty had the wrong side of the draw on Thursday as he battled a biblical rain shower on his way to the clubhouse but he closed with five successive pars and looking back he admitted they were a crucial momentum boost heading into Friday.

Two birdies in five holes put him tied at the top early on before a bogey, birdie run before the turn before birdies on 11 and 15 saw him hit the front on his own and become the first player to reach -7 before he responded to a disappointing bogey with a superb birdie on 18.

“Looking at it now it was important, you don’t want to drop shots coming in and lose momentum and be further back it’s harder to push on. I played solid yesterday when the weather was poor. We had a pet day today it was much easier today so you had to make the most of it and luckily enough I made a bit of ground.”

Rafferty is a former West and South of Ireland champion but these days he’s a “society golfer” as he puts it working as a greenskeeper at Dundalk Golf Club and he only intends to play this week, the St Andrews Links and the East as his summer of golf.

“Still none! I got up this morning and went to work for a couple of hours I’ll keep doing my own thing I’m here to enjoy a couple of days off playing a really good golf course. I’m sure it’ll creep into my mind now that I am in contention. I’ll keep doing my thing.

“I’ve not played a lot lately so it’s nice to be doing what I’m doing, new set of clubs for the year so it’s all fitting in nicely.”

English starlet Smith battled hard for his one-under 71 to reach six-under-par. The putts took a while to drop for the 18-year-old but he birdied 17 and held a clutch six footer for a par on 18.

“It was very nice. I hit the ball really well today,” said Smith. “I only missed two fairways and three greens. My ball striking was really good but Ididn’t quite hole my putts today, but I stuck in at the end and holed 2 or 3 really nice putts.
“I was very disciplined again and I was sticking to my own game plan. I was being mature into the greens as they are very tricky.”
His fellow countryman Zachary Chegwidden is a shot further back in third and then there is a three-shot gap to fourth place where Welshman Matt Roberts and Portmarnock’s James Fox lie on two-under after rounds of 71 and 70 respectively.
Chegwidden is thoroughly enjoying his maiden visit to the Irish Amateur Championship.
“I love it, first time over here in Ireland playing golf. It’s an enjoyable experience, I was meant to play the Irish AM two years ago in the European Club and missed out on that and I love being here. I’ve had the good side of the draw with good weather this morning and yesterday afternoon, I’m enjoying the Emerald Isle!”
A group of five share sixth place on one-under-par, six adrift of Rafferty including East of Ireland champion Alex Maguire and former Irish Amateur, Close and South of Ireland champion Robbie Cannon who rolled back the years with a second round 69.
Maguire made a sensational bogey after taking a penalty drop in the left rough to keep his hopes alive while three birdies in four holes to start his back nine lifted Cannon into the mix.
“I was delighted to get away from 18 with a five. Once you go left you can make any number. I was kicking myself off the tee and I was thinking I could be a long way behind but to save five was huge,” explained Maguire.
“We had the worst of the weather yesterday, it was miserable for 14 or 15 holes so it was about battling to keep yourself in the tournament. Long way to go but my driving wasn’t great but the rest of my game was really good. I’m happy to be out playing golf and enjoying it I recently had a baby so haven’t played too much,” said Cannon.
The amateur course record equalling 67 from Smith was matched on Friday afternoon by Portmarnock’s Geoff Lineman as he etched his name into the history books with a five-under round of his own after an opening round 80.
Lenehan is ten shots back on plus three.
The other big movers of the day were John Gough who climbed to level-par with a 69 while Gerard Dunne carded a 69 of his own to move to three-over.
Scoring HERE

Stay ahead of the game. Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest Irish Golfer news straight to your inbox!

More News

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy & Terms of Service apply.