Caolan Rafferty says he was “rusty” across the two events he participated in during a two week spell in South Africa this month, but that his caddie and the design of the course ultimately helped him to two top six finishes.
Rafferty was the best place international player at the South African Stroke Play in Johannesburg this week, earning a third place finish with a five under par final round. The Irishman had come into the tournament fresh from finishing tied for sixth at the African Amateur at Leopard Creek. He scored two over par on the final day to end on +3.
The South African Strokeplay Championship was played over the Firethorn course at Randpark Golf Club, the venue for last month’s South African Open on the European Tour and his third place finish there, behind 16-year-old winner Casey Jarvis and Kyle de Beer.
But, Rafferty admits, he wasn’t at the top of the game as he teed off for round one of each tournament.
“It was a good two weeks down in South Africa,” he said. “I didn’t really get off to a quick start in either of the events, I was a bit slow to get going and bit rusty after not playing a lot of golf. But, to be able to finish sixth and third having not really been on top of my game was really good.
“I certainly have a few positives to take out of it. In both tournaments, as the weeks went on, I played pretty good golf and last week I played really well in the final two rounds to get third place which was really nice.”
The competition was fierce at Randpark at the South African Strokeplay. So much so that despite Rafferty shooting a two under par 70 in the first round, he found himself back in 16th place, six shots behind leader – Scotland’s Jamie Wilson.
A one under par 71, courtesy of two birdies and one bogey, in the second round saw him fall ten shots behind the new leader – teen sensation Jarvis. However, the failure of his Ireland team-mate, Tiarnan McLarnon, to make the cut reaped a rich dividend for Rafferty.
“Tiarnan caddied for me in the final two rounds and he was a great help through just simply talking about things,” said Rafferty. “I saw the course in a different way with somebody else chipping in with their thoughts and that helped big time. We were communicating and going at it, taking shots on when we felt we could.”
Four birdies in the first five holes of the third round were early fruits of the duo’s labour and when Rafferty claimed another birdie at the ninth, he found himself eight under for the tournament and back in contention at the top of the leaderboard.
Despite a bogey at the 11th, Rafferty reeled off back to back birdies at the 13th and 14th and then claimed his eighth birdie of the day at the par three 17th to finish with a seven under par 65 to move to -10. That left him within touching distance of fourth.
“I wouldn’t say it was an easy seven-under but I hit it really close all day. I holed a couple of putts but nothing really too mad and I missed a couple of putts as well,” the Dundalk-based amateur said.
He finished strongly and fired home four birdies in five holes from the 12th to move to 15 under with two holes to go. He was unable to catch South African native de Beer who remained one shot ahead in second but nevertheless, Rafferty praised the Johannesburg course.
“The scoring was outrageous in Randpark. They set the course up really well and set it in a way that you could make birdies if you hit it in the right places but you could still make bogies. It was a nice way to play a golf course that presented the chances when you put the ball in play and put the ball in position.”
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/ Dundalk Golf Club Notes
Storm Dennis ensured there were tricky conditions to test the field in last Sunday’s Four Man 14 Hole Scramble and in the end it was the experienced quartet of Pat Curran (14), Tadhg O’Sullivan (22), Andrew Shekleton (14) and Seamus Kelly (18) that prevailed.
The winners had just 0.3 of a shot to spare over the runners-up who were a formidable outfit themselves with two five handicappers in Conor McCaughey and Colin Roche as well as Martin Cairns (16) and Adrian Kenny (18).
The 14-hole course did not include the third, fourth, 15th and 16th holes so after opening with two pars, the winners moved the par three fifth where Shekleton’s tee-shot set up their first birdie of the round.
His tee-shot at the next, the par five sixth, also proved decisive in setting up another birdie and they then parred the next three holes to turn for home in 26.
It was O’Sullivan’s drive at the par five 10th that laid the foundation for their third birdie of the round and at the index one par four 11th it was off Curran’s drive that they delivered the fourth and final birdie of their round.
They then successfully negotiated the final five holes without dropping a shot to finished with a gross score of 52 which became a nett 43.5 after their team handicap of 8.5 was deducted. A previous success over the winter by Pat Curran saw 0.3 added to their score to leave them on 43.8 but it was still enough to denied McCaughey and his team-mates who finished on 44.1 after their various deduction.
The Captains’ Drive-In will take place this Sunday, February 23, at 1pm. There will be a 14 Hole Champagne Team of Four competition for the men in the morning with a shotgun start at 9.30am and the Drive-In will be followed by a Mixed Foursomes competition with a shotgun start at 1.16pm. Music and entertainment will be provided in the evening in the Clubhouse. To assist the restaurant on the day it is recommended that players book in advance if dining after golf.
Sunday, February 16 – Four Man 14 Hole Team Scramble: 43.8* – Pat Curran (14), Tadhg O’ Sullivan (22), Andrew Shekleton (14), Seamus Kelly (18). 44.1/29* – Conor McCaughey (5), Colin Roche (5), Martin Cairns (16), Adrian Kenny (18). * Reductions apply.