Caolan Rafferty shows class with opening 65 at Rosses Point

29-year-old cards bogey-free round to recover from Covid disappointment in round one

Caolan Rafferty of Dundalk leads at Rosses Point. Photograph: Tony Marshall/R&A/R&A via Getty Images

Dundalk’s Caolan Rafferty proved the adage that form is fleeting but class is permanent when he took advantage of excellent first round conditions to open with a six-under 65 in the Connolly’s Audi sponsored West of Ireland Amateur Championship at County Sligo’s Rosses Point Links.

The 29-year-old was one of the big victims of the Covid-19 pandemic when lack of playing time, coupled with a niggling injury, saw him bumped out of the automatic places via the world mmateur golf rankings in the final qualifying event for the 2021 Walker Cup.

The former South of Ireland and West of Ireland champion was disappointed not to retain his place in the Great Britain and Ireland team that lost so narrowly at Seminole though he feared the worst as he’d spent more time working on the greens staff at Dundalk during the pandemic than playing.

He’s fallen from a career-high of 17th to 439th in the world as he’s now a permanent member of the greens staff at Dundalk.


But he showed he’s still a dangerous man with card and pencil in hand as he made seven birdies and a bogey in a 65 in light winds and a mixture of sunshine and showers to lead by three strokes from Ballyhaunis’ Andrew Hickey, and internationals Alan Fahy from Bray and last year’s West of Ireland runner-up Liam Nolan of Galway.

The cream certainly came to the top as the breeze dropped late in the day and internationals Keith Egan from Carton House and Co Sligo’s TJ Ford shot 69s to share fifth place with Forrest Little’s Jack McDonnel as defending champion Hugh Foley from Royal Dublin joined Grange’s Jake Whelan and Balmoral’s Conor Clarke in posting a one-under 70 for a share of seventh.

“I didn’t do anything wrong,” said Rafferty, who put on a ball-striking clinic as he made six of his seven birdies inside eight feet. “I hardly missed a green and just kept it in play.”

Winner of this title when it was a 72-hole strokeplay event in 2019, Rafferty birdied the second, fourth, seventh and eighth with his only bogey coming at the par-five third, where he left his third just off the green and took three to get down.

He made his only sizeable birdie putt of the day at the 460-yard 14th, where he rolled in a 25 footer to go four-under, then brushed in an eight-footer at the 15th for another before reducing the 18th to a drive, a lob wedge and four-foot putt.

He knows making the Walker Cup team at St Andrews next year will be a huge challenge now that he’s a part-time golfer again, but he believes his more relaxed attitude to the game has helped.

“It’s nice to get out and enjoy myself again,” said Rafferty, who won the Laytown and Bettystown Scratch Cup a few weeks ago in just his fourth competitive outing this year.

“I was asked if I fancied my chances this week, and I said I’d laugh if I was in contention. I’m just coming over to enjoy it because if you’re not enjoying it, there’s no point in being here.”

The West is being played under a new format this year with the top 16 after three strokeplay rounds going out to do battle in match play on Monday and Tuesday.

“If I qualify for the last 16, it will nearly be my best performance in matchplay here,” joked Rafferty, who in fact reached the quarter-finals in 2018.

West of Ireland Amateur Championship, sponsored by Connolly's Audi, Co. Sligo GC (Par 71), first round:

65 C Rafferty (Dundalk)

68 A Fahy (Bray), A Hickey (Ballyhaunis), L Nolan (Galway)

69 K Egan (Carton House), T Ford (Co. Sligo)

70 J McDonnell (Forrest Little), H Foley (Royal Dublin), J Whelan (Grange), C Clarke (Balmoral)

71 E McCormack (Galway Bay), J Boles (Charleville), J Hewitt (Tandragee), M Deasy (Douglas), S O’connor (Castlebar), D O’Riordan (Fermoy), R Cannon (Balbriggan), D Shiel (Powerscourt), D O’Sullivan (Tralee), A Mulholland (Castlerock), T Higgins (Roscommon), R Griffin (Ballybofey & Stranorlar), M Boucher (Carton House)

72 G Lappin (Belvoir Park), M McClean (Malone), H Gillivan (Westport), P O’Keeffe (Douglas), S Mcloughlin (Co. Sligo), C Rabbette (Esker Hills), S Walker (Roscommon), C Hickey (Dooks)

73 T Abom (Edmondstown), T Dowdall (Woodbrook), A Marshall (Lisburn), D Kitt (Athenry), L Lyons (Limerick), J Hill (Galgorm Castle), A Hill (Roscommon), A Brady (Co. Sligo), E Murphy (Dundalk), J Cleary (Elm Park), D Muldowney (Carton House), S O’Brien (Nenagh), E Sullivan (Carton House), D Connellan (St. Anne’s), D Flynn (Carton House), R Latimer (Clandeboye)

74 C Campbell (Warrenpoint), M Giles (Greenore), C Harkin (Letterkenny), B Reilly (Royal Tara), R Brazill (Naas), T Byrne (Royal Curragh), R Williamson (Holywood), S Dowling (The Island), A McCormack (Castletroy), T Cafferky (Ballinasloe), S O’Connell (Athenry), A Gaynor (Co. Sligo), A Benson (West Lothian), C Ryan (Bray), K McCarron (North West), J Murphy (Dundalk), D Brady (Co. Sligo), M Shiel (Galway Bay)

75 J Rowe (Belvoir Park), P Coughlan (Castleknock), J Rackard (Enniscorthy), H Fanagan (Milltown), R Moran (Castle), J Lyons (Galway), S Flanagan (Portmarnock), R Hynes (Oughterard), A Barr (Ballymena), A King (Faithlegg)

76 A Dooley (Carton House), R Knightly (Royal Dublin), G O’Neill (Malahide), F Dobbin (Malone), L O’Connor (Edmondstown), P O Dochartaigh (Gweedore), J Kelly (Ardee), J Fox (Portmarnock), D McCormack (Corrstown), S Cunningham (Esker Hills), M Cain (Cork), S Underwood (Co. Sligo), S Carroll (Ballybunion), L Cunningham (Galway Bay), A Mccabe (The Links Portmarnock)

77 A Collins (Laytown & Bettystown Gc), R Carvill (Warrenpoint), S Ryan (Royal Dublin), R Halpin (Dun Laoghaire), D Reddan Jnr (Nenagh), C Murtagh (The Island), J Mitten (Westmanstown), W Beatty (Greenacres), R Kennelly (Castleknock)

78 P McGrath (Galway Bay), J Hood (Galgorm Castle), S Cullen (Slieve Russell), L Kelly (Belvoir Park), G Finnegan (Co. Sligo), S Downes (Royal Dublin), A Kelly (New Forest), S McDermott (Slieve Russell), R O’Connor (Co. Sligo), A Challoner (Galway Bay), K Patton (Lisburn), Q Carew (Castleknock), R Walsh Jnr (Douglas)

79 R Abernethy (Dun Laoghaire), N Crawford (Mourne), J Sheahan (Galway Bay), R O’Reilly (Cregmore Park), K Robinson (Castlewarden), A McNulty (Lahinch)

80 J Walsh (Douglas), D Lally (Blainroe), R McCrory (Lurgan);

81 D Marshall (Naas), M O’Sullivan (Ballyneety), J Hayden (Grange), L Abom (Edmondstown), T O’Connor (Athlone)

82 S McGlynn (Portmarnock)

83 B St. John (Portmarnock)

84 H Kane (Bahamas Golf Federation), T Plunkett (Crover House)

86 E Lisibach (Glasgow)

92 M McCaughey (Bundoran)