Rafferty claims third place at South African Strokeplay Championship
Dundalk Golf Club’s Caolan Rafferty continued his excellent start to the 2020 season with a third place finish at the South African Strokeplay Championship which was played over the Firethorn course at Randpark Golf Club, the venue for last month’s South African Open on the European Tour.
The 26-year-old went into the event after finishing sixth in the African Strokeplay Championship the previous week in what was his first tournament outing of the year and has returned home to Ireland full of optimism for the season ahead.
“It was a good two weeks down in South Africa. 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.”
Rafferty opened with a two under par 70 in the first round at Randpark, shooting three birdies and a bogey, but despite being under par he found himself back in 16th place, six shots behind leader Jamie Wilson of Scotland.
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, 16-year-old Casey Jarvis, but 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. 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 certainly cemented the partnership and when Rafferty claimed another birdie at the ninth, he found himself eight under for the tournament and heading back into contention.
A bogey at the par five 11th threatened to upset the momentum but 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 under. That saw him leap up the leaderboard from T21 to fourth place and although leader Jarvis, with Nick Price’s former caddy on his bag, was eight shots ahead of him, Rafferty was only four strokes off second place.
“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,” said Rafferty.
In the final round Rafferty didn’t get out of traps as fast as he would have liked and had only moved to 11 under by the turn after birdieing the fifth and ninth and bogeying the eighth. However, he did finish strongly and fired home four birdies in five holes from the 12th to move to 15 under with two holes to go.
That left him one shot adrift of Kyle de Beer who was in second place but Rafferty couldn’t bridge the gap to the South African and had to settled for third on 15 under as Jarvis romped to victory with an amazing final total of 25 under, having shot five birdies and an eagle in the final round.
“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.”