Dundalk Golf Club’s Caolan Rafferty's super season continued last week in the North of Ireland Championship at Royal Portrush.
He won the silver medal for leading qualifier and then battled through four rounds of matchplay before losing in the semi-final to Irish international Colin Fairweather from Knock Golf Club.
The 24-year-old carded a bogey free, course record 65, on the newly redesigned Dunluce Links to lead home a field of 300, of whom 120 were plus handicappers, in the qualifying round.
He had posted a 68 in the first round over The Valley course and finished on 10 under par. Rafferty’s record round included birdies at the second and ninth and then he started his back nine with three birdies in a row before birding 15 and 17 and signing for a 65.
It was a second course record for Rafferty in less than a month as he also set a new low score at The Prince’s in England on his way to taking the silver medal for leading qualifier at the British Amateur.
That earned him promotion to the Irish international squad and his current run of form leaves him very much in the frame for a call-up for the upcoming Home Internationals.
Rafferty reached the semi-finals of the North back in 2015 and his march to the penultimate stage this year began with a 3&2 victory over Stackstown’s John McCarthy before a convincing win over Dungannon’s Dwayne Mallon in the second round.
Rafferty got a scare in the last 16 when he was taken to the 19th by Tandragee's Ross Dutton before finally squeezing through. He bounced back from that in the quarter-final against Portmarnock’s Darragh Coghlan with a 4&2 victory.
That earned him a place in Friday morning’s semi-final against Knock’s Colin Fairweather and, cheered on by a sizeable contingent of supporters from Dundalk, he recovered back from an early setback to lead at the turn.
However, a bad bounce on the 12th, where he had played a glorious approach shot, saw momentum shift in favour of the Ulster golfer but Rafferty hung in and got back to level after 16.
He had an opportunity on 17 to go ahead but his biride putt shaved the hole and Fairweather then played a superb approach at the 18th to four feet to win and advance to the final where he lost to Hermitage’s Rowan Lester.
Rafferty next mission is to help Dundalk in this week’s Barton Shield Leinster Finals at Kilkenny before he heads to Lahinch and the South of Ireland Championship.
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