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.
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