Raff Rising: Walker Cup the best experience I’ve ever had

Ronan MacNamara

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

Dundalk’s Caolan Rafferty would be a very outside pick for the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team this September and although he is not thinking about it, his form is proving difficult to ignore.

Rafferty will most likely need to pick up a win before the selection deadline in August but despite his limited schedule, he has caught the eye this season with incredible consistency.

The 30-year-old was a Walker Cup player at Royal Liverpool in 2019 alongside Conor Purcell and James Sugrue. Despite only playing just two singles matches after his planned foursomes partnership with Amateur Champion Sugrue was scuppered by the Mallow native’s back injury, Rafferty loved the experience.


“It was unbelievable. From meeting up with the lads the first day, I was lucky to have the two Irish lads with me. We had great craic all week,” said Rafferty.

“The whole buzz of what the Walker Cup is and what we had to do off the golf course was just so different to what you do each week. To tee it up then was unreal. Teeing it up in the singles the atmosphere was unreal, there was only a couple of thousand but it felt like a million people on the first tee.

“Literally the crowd walks up to your golf ball, you nearly don’t have enough room to swing at times, they’re that close to you which is great compared to being stuck on the sidelines at professional events.

“Anyone I spoke to who was at it all said it was the best experience they’ve ever had being at a golf event because you were able to get so close and get involved in it. They all loved it.

“There were boys looking into your golf bag and trying to see what club you were hitting.”

The COVID-19 Pandemic hampered his hopes of being selected on the 2021 GB&I side in Seminole having dropped outside the top-2 automatic places due to a lack of action. Since then, Raff has been very much a part-time amateur having taken up a full time role at Dundalk Golf Club as a Greenkeeper.

However, the former South and West of Ireland champion is still as consistent as ever with three top-7 finishes and a last-32 appearance in last week’s Amateur Championship while he also had four top-10s in five singles events last year.

Now on the cusp of the top-100 in the WAGR (109th), could he launch the most unlikely of Walker Cup bids?

“Look, Walker Cup was never even in my head when I made it that time back at Hoylake (in 2019). It wasn’t something that I dreamt about at the time because I was a late bloomer on the scene. I just let the golf do the talking and if it was good enough, which it was that year to get me in. It was great. Probably the best experience I’ve ever had at amateur level.

“So again I don’t know whether I’m playing enough golf to even be in contention or not but whenever I do play, all I can do is keep competing well and beating the boys that are going to be getting picked ahead of me. If I can keep doing that, who knows what’s going to happen.

“Yeah, whenever I do play it’s pretty good at the minute. Couple of good results this season so far from what I’ve played, and just really comfortable with my game at the minute.”

While he doesn’t compete full time on the amateur circuit he feels a more laid back approach to competition has benefited his golf.

“Playing a lot, not playing a lot, but playing nine holes and stuff at home and going under par regularly is a big help as well, because you’re not afraid to do it anymore. Whereas over the years, you wouldn’t have got a chance to do that as much, and it was always a bit of a struggle in competition golf because you’re grinding every week, but definitely the more social, laid-back aspect has helped me a lot.”

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