“The joke with the caddie was that if I shot 64 he would go off the drink for the month!”

Ronan MacNamara

Caolan Rafferty (Photo by Octavio Passos/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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Dundalk’s Caolan Rafferty credited a newfound magic touch with the putter as he made it third time lucky at the Kingspan East of Ireland Amateur Championship and ended two years of heartbreak in Baltray.

The East has always been the one he wanted to win and after finishing second in the two previous editions including a playoff defeat to Alex Maguire last year, Rafferty finally got over the line with a superb round of 65 to come from three behind overnight leader Jack McDonnell and eventually see off Royal Dublin’s Max Kennedy by a shot on fifteen-under.

The former West and South of Ireland winner reduced the overnight gap to two shots on Monday morning and he looked at ease in the afternoon, rolling in seven birdies alongside some clutch par saves as some hard work with Dundalk pro Leslie Walker came to fruition.

“I changed the putter two weeks ago and spent three-and-a-half hours on the putting green, which I’ve never done in my life,” Rafferty admitted “And we figured something out that might just give me a bit of feel and a bit of confidence.

“I know the greens well here anyway, but I read them really well, and my pace was good, so it was just a case of really trusting it.”

The former Walker Cup star had a four shot lead standing on the 17th tee but after he struggled up the par-5 18th to close with a three-putt bogey his only blemish of the day, coupled with a late charge from Kennedy in the group behind, the gap was trimmed to one and Rafferty left the 72nd hole fearing he was going to be the bridesmaid again.

Kennedy needed an eagle to win and a birdie to force a playoff. Now back towards the clubhouse he didn’t even watch the Dubliner miss from six feet to force a playoff.

The few hundred fans surrounding the 18th green were left slightly bemused as they totted up the scoring totals before realising that Rafferty was finally the winner.

It was relief for Rafferty who was looking forward to celebrating up the road in Dundalk Golf Club.

“I wanted to win this pretty bad, so I just knew I had to keep at it and keep at it and see what happens,” he said. “It’s one of them, you just put so much into it and then keep falling short and then when I did what I done on 18, I was like, don’t tell me I’ve done it again.

“I’ll have to give Max a pint whenever I see him for missing that one on the last.”

For seventeen holes at least, the 32-year-old looked back to something near his best as he rolled in birdies on the second, fourth, fifth and seventh to turn in 33 before pulling away with birdies at the 10th, 12th, 13th and 15th.

Although he admitted he was unaware of the situation coming down the last hole, his goal starting the final round was to shoot as low as possible. While a 64 was the target, a 65 means his caddie can at least join in the celebrations!

“Actually the joke with the caddie was that if I shot 64, he would go off the drink for the month so just fell short of it. He’s delighted I three-putted the last in one sense!” a relieved Rafferty joked.

“Made hard work of it on the last, but it was nice to get it over the line.

“I played really solid today, didn’t do anything really wrong just holed a lot of putts. I just went out with the mindset of needing to shoot a low one.”

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