Rafferty returns home to a hero’s welcome
Caolan Rafferty returned home to Dundalk Golf Club to a hero’s welcome on Sunday having spent the last two weeks living out a suitcase as he played three tournaments in three counties and emerged with a win, a second and a fourth place.
The win came in the West of Ireland Championship last Sunday week when he became the first player from Dundalk Golf Club to win the event as he added the West to the South of Ireland title he won in Lahinch last year.
He headed straight from the presentation ceremony at Rosses Point to Dublin Airport where the Irish team was gathering ahead of an early morning flight last Monday to Spain for the European Masters in Sotogrande.
Fifteen countries from across the continent teed it up with Ireland looking to lift a title they last held in 2016 while Rafferty and team-mates Conor Purcell, Mark Power and Robert Brazil were also hoping to land the individual honours although Rafferty admitted that was a secondary concern.
“I was only interested in helping the team this week,” said the 26-year-old. “I knew from last year anything under six over was good for team purposes.”
As it happened Rafferty finished on eight over after the four rounds of play which was just two shots behind the individual winner Tom Sloman of England. He opened with a four over par 76 and followed that with a 73 and 74 before finishing the tournament with a 73 in round four.
“The course was so tough and Rob Brazil, with a 69 in the last round, was the only player over the four days to shoot a sub-70 round. The wind was up and the pins were hidden on really quick greens. If you missed a green it was so hard to get up and down.
“I got off to a bad start on the first day and was four over after nine. Tiredness definitely kicked in but I tried to rally back and post a half decent score. I kept telling myself just one more round and managed to cover the back nine in level par for a 76.
“Going into the last round, myself and Conor felt if we posted under par we could win the team event or, at worse, finish second. Third wasn’t the end of the world but it would have been nice to have finished higher.”
With the Walker Cup selectors watching the action in Spain unfold, Rafferty had the consolation of being the best of the four Irish players as Ireland finished third behind England and were pipped by one shot for second place by Holland.
“From a personal point of view I was delighted to finish fourth in the individual competition after a long few weeks on the road. It wasn’t the easiest course to come and play after the few weeks I had, playing three tournaments in succession in three different countries.”
Rafferty will now take a well-deserved break and head back to Maynooth University where he has a lot of college work to catch up on. It will also give some time to reflect on the past few weeks.
“I feel really happy with myself that I was competitive at three big tournaments and managed to also get a win. It was tough living out of a suitcase for three weeks so I know now how the pros feel. It’s always good to win one early and follow it up with a decent finish and there’s still plenty of golf to be played this year.”