Caolan Rafferty is raring to go ahead of the South African Amateur Strokeplay after his semi-final defeat at the South African Amateur Championship.
The Dundalk amateur lost out by one hole to South Africa’s Jordan Duminy in the last four but was determined to take the positives out of a wonderful early season performance ahead of another bite of the cherry at De Zalze Golf Club.
“I was gutted to lose on the last hole of the semi-final but I am very happy with the way I played all week,” reflected Rafferty. “There were a lot of birdies and eagles and very few bogeys all week. The game is in good shape so I have more positives to take from the week than the defeat in the semi-final.”
Having spent January focused on his business exams at Maynooth University, where he is a Harrington Scholar, the trip to South Africa as part of the GUI national panel was an opportunity for Rafferty to ease himself into 2019 with the sun on his back.
He opened the week with a steady three-under par 9 in the first round of qualifying at King David Mowbray Golf Club before taking route 66 on day two to qualify in second spot on nine-under par.
His took that form into the knockout rounds, defeating teammate and recent Australian Amateur champion, Conor Purcell along the way but his journey would end in the last four when he came up against the only South African player still standing. His 16-year-old opponent was one of the home nation’s up and coming stars, Jordan Duminy, a product of the Louis Oosthuizen Academy.
Their match was a tight affair with never more than one hole between them. Rafferty lost the second to a par but won the next in par. The pair then halved the next nine holes before Rafferty birdied the par five 14th to go one up with four to play.
However, Duminy brought the match back to all square at the next hole with a birdie three and, after halving the next two holes in par, the pair stood on the 18th hole all square and facing the prospect of extra holes.
However, the 18th proved to be the decisive hole. Rafferty airmailed the green with his approach shot from 160 yards and ended up against a tree at the back of the green. Duminy made an easy par and Rafferty’s putt to force the match down the 19th burned the edge of the hole.
“I just got really unlucky on 18 with my second shot,” he reflected. “I got a flyer from 160 yards and went 30 yards over the back and ended up against a tree. I had to alter my swing to hit it and then tried to chip in but it ran by. He was always making four, and although my par putt burned the edge it didn’t drop.
“I would have taken the hand and arm off you if you had offered me the week I’ve just had before coming out though. I have competed against a field of top-class players and reached the semi-final.”
Rafferty’s stats for the week were pretty impressive too. He completed 116 holes and recorded three eagles, 36 birdies, 70 pars and seven bogeys, and only failed to complete one hole all week.
“My scoring was really good. If it had been a strokeplay event I would have been around 35 under for the week so I am really looking forward to next week and hopefully continuing my form. However, you never know what is going to happen in golf. It’s a funny old game and next week could be a complete disaster!”
The team now heads for the South African Amateur Strokeplay at De Zalze Golf Club where Rafferty will be hoping to continue his climb up the World Rankings and cement his place inside the World’s top-50, with dreams of a place on the Britain and Ireland team for the Walker Cup in September at Hoylake very much a reality.
South African Amateur Stroke Play (De Zalze GC, 26 February-1 March).
GUI Squad for South Africa: Robert Brazill (Naas), Robert Cannon (Balbriggan), Alex Gleeson (Castle), Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene), Ronan Mullarney (Galway), Mark Power (Kilkenny), Conor Purcell (Portmarnock), Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk), James Sugrue (Mallow).