Dundalk’s Caolan Raffery returned a one-under-par round of 71 on the final day to claim a share of 6th spot at the African Amateur Stroke Play Championship at Glendower Golf Club in South Africa.
Rafferty finished as the leading Irishman on seven-under-par for the tournament, seven shots behind eventual winner, James du Preez of Prethoria.
The Castle’s Alex Gleeson was next best of the Irish despite a closing four-over-par round of 76 dropping him a few places down the leaderboard into a tie for 12th.
Kilkenny’s Mark Power ended his tournament on a positive note with a three-under-par round of 69, good enough for a one over total and a share of 14th. Tramore’s Robin Dawson was one shot further back on plus two after a disappointing 76 today.
Good scoring proved much harder to come by on a tricky afternoon and Mallow’s James Sugrue was another who struggle – his 74 saw him claim a share of 31st. Naas’ Jonathan Yates broke par today by a single stroke to end his challenge in a tie for 36th on plus 7 while the less said about Tiarnan McLarnon’s 84 the better. Sorry Tiarnan!
In the team competition, the SA Junior selection proved too hot to handle, edging out Ireland 1- Power, Dawson, Gleeson and Rafferty- by four strokes for the 54-hole team competition. To Ireland’s credit, they claimed second place by a whopping eight strokes – a fantastic effort.
The day was all about the home winner, however, and for champion du Preez, the victory was an emotional one after a string of bad luck threatened his future in the game for some time. A recurring back injury took him out of the sport and he dropped as low as 130th in rankings last year.
He showed glimpses of the form that carried him to the number two spot in the South African Golf Association Open Amateur Rankings in 2016 with a top five finish in the South African Stroke Play Championship at Pecanwood last week.
Success in the African Amateur boosted him to seventh in the standings, but it was much more than a win for du Preez. It exemplified just how far one can get with the right kind of determination.
“I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis. It’s a form of arthritis that primarily affects the spine and it’s basically a life sentence,” said Du Preez.
“I had surgery in 2012, which meant six months off. That’s been the story year on year. It was hard at first to accept this news, but I’ve made peace with it. I’d say it’s much harder on the people around me, like my parents and friends.
“The last two years have probably been the toughest of my life. I didn’t play for about 15 months. There was times when golf was probably the last thing I thought about. I started working with a friend of mine in the coffee industry, which was really cool and it brought some balance back into my life.
“I worked with a great team at the HPC Tuks Golf Academy. I follow a strict gym routine to strengthen my core muscles and I have surrounded myself with people all trying to find a way for me to manage the condition so I can pursue my goal of playing pro golf.
“I’m in a really good space compared to two years ago. As golfers, we often make decisions based on what we want to happen that can be to our detriment. We forget that it’s just golf. At the end of the day, there is so much more to life than what happens on the golf course. This win is a confirmation that I’m doing the right things, and that the people in my life are the right people.”
Well said and well done.