Raflewski Performance Academy goes live at PGA National Ireland

November 29, 2020

Gareth Raflewski with former world number one Lydia Ko

World-renowned short-game coach Gareth Raflewski has returned to his roots after opening his first performance golf academy in Europe at PGA National Ireland Slieve Russell.
A first of its kind in Ireland, the new Raflewski Performance Academy in Ballyconnell, Co.Cavan, features a state-of-the-art performance studio and is being led by PGA National Ireland’s head professional Gordon Smyth.
Raflewski – who is based in Canada but grew up in Omagh, Northern Ireland – has worked with 65 of the game’s best players across the LPGA and PGA Tours, including three women’s number ones over the past three years, and golfers across Ireland can improve their games using the same methods that have made the coach such a global success.
Smyth is a long-time friend of Raflewski’s and, when the chance to work with one of the world’s leading performance coaches arose, it was an opportunity that he didn’t have to think twice about taking.
“As a coach, to be able to go on Tour (PGA & LPGA) and also be mentored by someone like Gareth is incredible,” said Smyth.

“His stable of stars, both on the PGA Tour and the LPGA Tour boasts an unbelievable pool of talent from Major winners to world number ones, so to be able attend events and shadow what he’s doing is phenomenal for me and hopefully in turn, it will be great for Irish golf too.”

With Raflewski’s players having amassed over $10 million collectively in 2019 alone, his coaching skills are certainly a formula which is gaining worldwide attention.
Players using the Raflewski Performance Academy will be able to benefit from some of the latest technology in golf, from the GC Quad which should help players dial-in their wedge game like never before, to cutting edge systems like the Sam Putt Lab, Capto 3D Putting, Swing Catalyst and a bespoke ‘Well Putt’ indoor green.
From the studio, golfers will then take their new-found information to the multiple short-game areas on-site at PGA National Ireland, training their skills with drills and repetitions before putting this practice into play on the golf course.
Smyth added: “We initially planned to launch the new academy in the spring but Covid-19 brought a halt to those plans. A proposed extended stay in Canada in April was cancelled but near daily Zoom meetings with one of the world’s best have still been hugely beneficial.
“I’ve been like a sponge, absorbing as much information as possible from Gareth, and I can’t wait to pass on the skills and knowledge of one of the most respected coaches in world golf to a new golfing audience.”
Raflewski Golf Europe is now taking bookings at https://raflewskigolf.com/europe/ .
Gift certificates are available to purchase at https://raflewskigolf.onlinegolfshop.ca/and for more information about Raflewski Golf Europe, visit www.raflewskigolf.com.    www.slieverussell.ie

Kilpatrick goes back to back with victory at St Patrick’s UGA event

November 18, 2020

Richard Kilpatrick

Richard Kilpatrick went on a back nine spree at St Patrick’s Golf Club, to soar to the top of the leaderboard in the latest PGA Ulster Golfers’ Alliance event.
The Banbridge golfer followed up his recent success at Lurgan GC by posting a five-under-par 64 in Downpatrick.
A birdie three from eight feet on the sixth green launched Kilpatrick’s bid for success but he immediately gave back his advantage at the seventh when he failed to get up and down for par.
Similar trouble befell the Banbridge pro at the short eighth but he reached the turn in regulation 35 when he pitched to four feet for birdie at the par four ninth hole, after being 40 yards short of the green with his tee-shot.
He was back in the red after driving to the front of the 10th green and getting up and down for birdie three. However, again he tossed away his advantage at the short 11th by finding water off the tee.
That was the end of the winner’s woes. He grabbed an eagle on the 13th when he drove 20 yards short of the surface and pitched in. Richard then pencilled in back-to-back finishing birdies at 17 and 18, getting up and down at the short par four 17th and then rolling in a five-footer on the last.

PGA Ulster Golfers’ Alliance Tournament at St Patrick’s
64 (-5) – R Kilpatrick (Banbridge).
66 – S Thornton (Tulfarris Golf Resort).
69 – M Alexander (Blackwood), C Lyall (Donaghadee).
70 – D Hughes (Massereene).
71 – Tara Gribben (Warrenpoint), P Hanna (Lurgan), A Mulhall (Ardglass).
Amateurs: Nett 44 pts – J Connolly 14 (Blackwood).
42 – D Duff 14 (Carrickfergus).
41 – S Purdy 16 (Ballyclare).
40 – J McClure 19 (Blackwood).
Gross 67 (-2) – D Vaughan +1 (Ardglass).

Info courtesy of Tony McGee

McDowell has new appreciation for major opportunities at Augusta

November 7, 2020

Graeme McDowell is hoping a new attitude can put some of his Augusta National demons to bed next week at The Masters.
McDowell previously described his relationship with Augusta as ‘love/hate’ but having failed to earn an invite in 2017, 2018 and 2019 the 41-year-old has a new appreciation for any major opportunity.
“I think the hate side of it has probably gone away because I haven’t been there for a while and it is my favourite golf course in the world,” said Graeme who is completing his preparations by competing in the Houston Open on the PGA Tour this week.
“There’s very few golf courses in the world where there’s not a bad hole and to me there’s just not a bad golf hole at Augusta, it’s just a phenomenal test from beginning to end.
“I think there’s a certain complacency when you’ve been in the top 50 in the world for five, six, seven years in a row and these major championships are just part of your schedule and I think you kind of forget to appreciate them as much as you should.
“They are phenomenal opportunities and you’re one of the best golfers in the world going out in a major championship with a chance to win. That’s a special opportunity and when that’s taken away from you due to some bad golf then you start fighting and scrambling for starts trying to get yourself exempt.

“You know, take The Open at Royal Portrush last year for example. Having to get through the Canadian Open to get there, that kind of stuff. It makes you appreciate the opportunity a lot more than you did when they were just there all the time.”

Graeme made a bright start to the 2020 season and in February he won the Saudi International, his first title on the European Tour since 2014. That win put him back into the top 50 in the world and secured his spot in The Masters field for April but then the coronavirus pandemic took hold and everything changed.
He has struggled to rediscover that early season form on his return to competitive golf but heading into Masters week he believes he’s moving back in the right direction.
“So I think going there next week, I’m very excited about it. There’s like a fresh feeling and I’m looking forward to being back out at one of the most historic major championships there is,” he added.
“Like I say, I do love the golf course and I’m starting to putt the ball probably the best I have this year so going in there with a hot putter is something I’m looking forward to.
“I’ve always been a little frustrated with Augusta because I’ve never really putted the best I can, so going in there with a fresh head and fresh set of eyes and a little bit of a sort of an appreciative attitude is hopefully going to stand me in good stead.
“I’m just looking forward to being out there on that golf course next week. It should be really cool, you know, I feel like I’m 25 again going back into my first Masters. It really is like it’s been that long that I’m excited. It’ll be like Christmas Day when I get out onto the golf course and I just appreciate the opportunity.”

The NI Golf Channel · The NI Golf Channel Podcast Ep 88

Simon’s short game is razor sharp at Killymoon UGA event

October 21, 2020
Simon Thornton

Chipping and putting was the secret of Simon Thornton’s success at Killymoon as he stormed to the top of the leaderboard in the Ulster Golfers’ Alliance tournament at Killymoon GC.
The Irish PGA Champion, who started his round at the 10th gave a short game masterclass as he went to the turn in 18pts with a birdie at the par five 14th cancelled out by a bogey at the 17.
The Tulfarris Golf Resort professional picked up the pace on his closing nine, adding birdies at the first, second and fourth as he finished the event with 39 points, four clear of home professional Gary Chambers with Richard Kilpatrick in third with 34 points.
Carrickfergus member Richard Coulter snatched the amateur’s nett award, with a better back nine, as he shared 39 points with Greencastle’s Paul Ferguson while Jordan Hood (Galgorm Castle) took the gross prize on 72.
The Lurgan foursome of professional Philip Shaw and amateurs Joe Dowey, Olcan Kearney and Jim McKee won the team section as they combined to card 94 points.
The next Alliance event is scheduled for November 7 at Lurgan GC.

Ulster Golfers’ Alliance at Killymoon
Professionals: 67 (-3) – S Thornton (Tulfarris Golf Resort).
71 – G Chambers (Killymoon).
72 – R Kilpatrick (Banbridge).
74 – D Hughes (Massereene), V Teague (Loughgall).
75 – P Shaw (Lurgan), P Gray (Blackwood).
Amateurs: Nett 39 pts – R Coulter (Carrickfergus) 1st on back 9.
39 – P Ferguson (Greencastle) 2nd on back 9.
38 – O Kearney (Lurgan).
Gross 72 – J Hood (Galgorm Castle).
Team: 94 pts – Pro P Shaw with amateurs J Dowey, O Kearney & J McKee (all Lurgan).

Scoreboard – Killymoon UGA

Experience counts for Catlin as he reels in Dubai Duty Free Irish Open title

September 28, 2020

John Catlin Picture: Getty Images

Contrary to popular belief, it turns out you can put a price on experience and that figure is almost €200,000.
Three weeks ago, American John Catlin held off the challenge of former world number one, Martin Kaymer to win the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía at Valderrama and in doing so pocketed €196,690.
On Sunday, the 29-year-old from Sacramento found himself back in contention at Galgorm Castle and he didn’t need a second opportunity posting a final round 64 to secure his second European Tour title of the season at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
“(Winning at Valderrama) was massive. You never know if you’re going to win or not, to get that monkey off my back at Valderrama really freed me up today to know I could do it,” said Catlin.
“I was able to look at myself in the mirror and tell myself that I’ve been here before and I can do it again.”
Catlin started the day four strokes behind 54-hole leader Aaron Rai but quickly moved up the leaderboard as he made the turn in three under par.
A bogey on the 13th, his only dropped shot in 27 holes, was cancelled out by a long birdie putt on the 15th which drew him level with Rai on eight under.
He pulled clear after another gain on the 16th hole and then signed for a ten under par total after a stunning three wood from 268 yards left him with an easy two-putt for his seventh birdie of the day at the last.
Catlin added; “It’s pretty odd. So many years of hard work have gone into this moment. It was my goal to win again at the start of this week, to have accomplished it is something truly, truly special.

“I had nothing to lose. I was going after every flag, I had good numbers and the greens were soft. So I started taking aim and hit a couple in their close. I made a long one on 15 and that three-wood on 18 was so satisfying. It was 268 yards to the hole, cold and damp. To just hit a big high draw in there like I know I can, under those conditions, really is hard to put into words.”

Rai who was bidding to go wire-to-wire, birdied the 17th to move to nine under but needing a birdie to force a play-off, his errant second shot found trouble on the left-hand side of the green and a dropped shot handed Catlin his second victory in four weeks.
“I’m feeling a little bit disappointed. I can’t hide that. But I played solid for most of the week and 18 was just one of those things. It’s golf, and it happens, but John played incredibly well today and deserves it,” said Rai.
“It’s nice this week, it’s the first time I’ve been in contention throughout the whole week and stayed there. There’s a lot of positives to take, I felt like I handled myself well on the outside and, more importantly on the inside, a lot more positives than negatives to take out of this week.
“I didn’t really look (at the leaderboard) around 14 and 15. I was aware coming off 17 what the situation was, but that was it all day. I wasn’t trying to focus on the leaderboard. I was quite aware of what was happening then.”
Australian Maverick Antcliff and Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond shared third place on seven under par, while the Swedish duo of Joakim Lagergren and Oscar Lengden finished tied for fifth.

Open champion Shane reiterates commitment to Irish Open

September 24, 2020

Shane Lowry (Getty Images)

Kudos to Shane Lowry. He’s been away from his wife and daughter for over nine weeks but the reigning Open Champion was determined to compete in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Galgorm Castle.
“You don’t really make plans too far down the road with the way things are in the world at the moment,” said Shane who, at 30th in the world is the highest ranked player in the field.
“So when this venue and the date came up, I wanted to come and play because I feel like I owe it to the Irish Open. Not owe it, it’s maybe a weird word, but I owe it to them, and the Tour, to support the event, to come here and try and give it my best shot to come out and win it again.
“That is the reason I am here this week and I don’t think there will ever be a time that I won’t play in the Irish Open and that is what I have shown this week, just how I feel about the event.”
Shane flew in from the US Open on Monday and spent a couple of socially distanced days at home before making his way up to Ballymena and entering the European Tour’s Covid-secure bubble. No fans will be allowed on the grounds at Galgorm Castle this week as the European Tour continues to put safety first.
Shane added; “We were in touch with everyone involved and we figured out what was the right thing to do. I got to see them (his wife and daughter), but not too closely. I’m looking forward to a few weeks off, I’m looking forward to spending some time with them, be able to walk Iris down to school – it’ll be pretty nice.

“Nine weeks away, without making excuses, it probably affected me a little bit towards the end, it was maybe too difficult. When you start playing badly you wonder what you’re doing it for, what’s the reason you’re here, why are you bothering doing this.

“It was tough and it was a learning curve. We’re in strange times in the world and in our lives so you have to try and make the best decisions you can and get on with it.”
Galgorm will be a new experience for Shane but it’s only short drive from Portrush where he memorably lifted the Claret Jug some 15 months ago.
He added; “I’ve had some good success here [Northern Ireland]. The last time I was here was The Open last year. It’s nice to be here but it’s another golf course, another venue and another tournament so I’m here to play the best golf I can.
“It’s nice to be here as Open Champion and it’s nice to be at the Irish Open. I wish there were crowds here and that I could enjoy it that way, but it is what it is.
“We’ve played a lot of tournaments with no fans in the last while. The big tournaments are just strange, they’re weird. Playing the U.S. Open and US PGA with no crowds, I think it’s definitely affected some people.
“It definitely helps – I haven’t been in contention a lot since coming out of lockdown, so who am I to say – it probably affects people in the right way that are in contention. There are certain times when you’re playing a final round in a big tournament where you get into a scenario and the crowds are in your head or in your way, all that type of stuff. It plays a big factor.
“It’s normal life for us now. I’ve played ten tournaments, maybe more, since we’ve come back. I’m learning how to deal with it. The week here will be a lot different to a normal Irish Open. It’s normally a bit of mayhem. It might help me perform better, who knows, we’ll see.
Shane gets his opening round underway today (Sept 24) at 9.25am alongside George Coetzee and Lucas Herbert.

Harrington and Lowry in DDF Irish Open field but McDowell opts out to defend PGA Tour title

September 13, 2020

Padraig Harrington will make his first competitive appearance in nearly seven months when the three-time Major winner targets a second victory in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Galgorm Castle Golf Club from September 24-27.
The 49-year-old was due to be captaining the European Ryder Cup team at Whistling Straits but instead he will join fellow major champion Shane Lowry, in the field at Galgorm.
Harrington last played on the European Tour at January’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic, while his last competitive appearance came at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, before the COVID-19 pandemic curtailed his season.
“I’m really looking forward to returning to competitive golf at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open,” said Harrington.
“It’s obviously a tournament which holds a very special place in my heart and I guess it’s a nice coincidence that it falls on the week that was originally scheduled for The 2020 Ryder Cup.

“It has been a long time off for me so I’m not sure what to expect, especially without the home fans who always spur me on, but I’m excited to get the competitive juices flowing again and hopefully put on a good performance for all the viewers watching on television.”

Lowry will be making his first appearance on the European Tour – outside of the WGC-Mexico Championship, WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational and US PGA Championship – since February, when he claimed a top 15 finish at the Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisors.
The Offaly player’s Open victory last year was his fifth European Tour title and came six months after he had broken a five-year winning duck at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA, sealing his first Rolex Series title.
“While it’s been extremely challenging for all players to plan their global tournament schedules this season, I wanted to do everything possible to get home to play the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and I’m delighted that I’ve been able to commit to this year’s tournament given the circumstances,” said Lowry.
“Obviously I was really looking forward to playing in front of our home fans as the Open Champion this year, which would have been really special, but sadly it’s not to be.

“I’m sure everyone will be supporting from home and watching the event on TV, so hopefully I can put in a good performance at Galgorm Castle and give the Irish fans something to shout about. I’ve been fortunate enough to win the Irish Open already and I would dearly love to win it again.”

Unfortunately, Graeme McDowell, who had originally agreed to act as tournament host in 2020, will not be in the field at Galgorm having opted instead to defend the Corales Punta Cana Resort and Club Championship title in the Dominican Republic.
“Defending a title is something special and an honour I have tried to take seriously all my career,” said McDowell in a statement posted in social media.
“Under normal circumstances defending this event would not take priority over playing my home Open, but the unprecedented circumstances make this a better option at this time.

“We will hopefully be back in 2021, with the event at full strength, surrounded by great Irish fans, assuming we can put the issues caused by Covid behind us.”

It will be the fourth time in nine years that Northern Ireland hosts the historic event, and the first time it will be played at Galgorm Castle. The Antrim venue has played host to successful Challenge Tour events for each of the past eight years, the most recent of which took place last week.
In 2012, Northern Ireland hosted the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open for the first time in 59 years at Royal Portrush. Royal County Down went on to welcome the event for the first time in 2015, while Portstewart Golf Club hosted in 2017.

Irish Open entry list

Thornton claims third Irish PGA crown courtesy of play-off success

September 5, 2020

Simon Thornton receives the Irish PGA Championship trophy from Roganstown GM, Ian McGuiinness (left)

Simon Thornton (Tulfarris Golf Resort) birdied the first extra hole to edge out Colm Moriarty (Glasson GC) and claim the 110th Irish PGA Championship title at Roganstown Hotel & CC.
The Newcastle based professional holed a putt from around 30 feet at the par-four first to claim his third Irish PGA Championship crown (previous wins 2018 & 2011).
“My approach flew the green and finished on the fringe. I wasn’t sure how the lie was going to be but it wasn’t too bad to be fair,” said Simon.
“I decided to putt it. It was downhill, left to right. Eight-foot out I knew it was going to be pretty good and six feet out I knew it was in all the way. It was a great feeling.”
The tournament was reduced to 36 holes after heavy rain prevented any play on day two at the Co. Dublin venue. Thornton started Thursday’s final 18 holes two shots behind the round one leaders, Moriarty and Shane Jenkinson (St Margaret’s G&CC) after opening his campaign with a one-under-par 70.

In blustery conditions, he failed to get anything going over his opening nine holes, ticking off nine consecutive pars before picking up his opening birdie of the day at the par-five 10th.
A dropped shot at the par-four 16th threatened to derail his challenge but a closing birdie at the par-five 18th saw him top the leaderboard alongside Moriarty who closed with a second-round 72 (+2).
“I didn’t get up and down from the front of the green at 16 and that was silly,” added Simon.
“I knew walking up 17 that no-one was ripping it up so I just focused on getting a birdie on the last.
“That was really all I could do and then whatever happened after that well, so be it.
“I hit a drive and three wood to leave myself with 67 yards. That’s a nice number for me. I hit it to three feet for the birdie that ultimately got me into the play-off.”
And he continued; “It doesn’t matter what it is for. When you are chasing a win in a play-off, you get those same feelings standing on the tee. Your heart is racing.
“I’m sure Colm was feeling exactly the same. I’m delighted with the win.”
Eoin O’Brien (Clontarf GC) finished third on one under par with Jimmy Bolger (Kilkenny GC) and Neil O’Briain (Old Conna GC) sharing fourth on level par.

110th Irish PGA Championship leaderboard

NI Open return a welcome opportunity for players starved of competition

August 30, 2020

Picture courtesy of Kevin Markham Photography

In a Covid-19 dominated world, the return of the NI Open this week at Galgorm Castle is a very welcome sight for many of Ireland’s young professionals.
The last formal event on the Challenge Tour schedule was the Euram Bank Open in Austria which finished on July 18th. With so few opportunities to play, the NI Open has taken on added professional, financial and personal significance for many.
Tournament Ambassador and five-time European Tour winner Michael Hoey is ‘looking forward to getting back to work’ after such a long lay-off and for the chance to compete on home soil.
“It has been a massive few weeks for Galgorm recently, so much has happened in a short time,” said Hoey, who has also won four times on the European Challenge Tour in a professional career that started out in 2002.

The NI Golf Channel · Dubai Duty Free Irish Open 2020 & Northern Ireland Open Galgorm Preview Special

The tournament is being supported by The R&A COVID-19 Support Fund, a £7million package to help golf deal with the impact of the global pandemic. The R&A’s Fund is providing an additional £300,000 in support of the Challenge Tour in 2020 on top of its existing annual grant.
Michael added; “We must give special thanks to The R&A and other key partners who have made it possible for the Northern Ireland Open to take place. The R&A provided additional funding for this event and support so many other events too. It demonstrates how important The Open is and how The R&A is able to support events and help grow the game.”
The tournament will be subject to stringent safety and medical protocols set out in the Challenge Tour’s comprehensive Health Strategy and will proceed subject to Government and health guidelines at the time of the event.
That means the event infrastructure has been pared right down to the bare bones. There will be no grandstands, no spectators and the competitors will have to cope without the help and support of a trusted caddy.
“I have done it before but it is unusual,” added Michael.
“It’s good, everyone will have to carry their own bag and do their own yardages. Some people will play better and unfortunately, some will struggle.”
For everyone at Galgorm Castle, the NI Open is the start of a golden three weeks which will culminate in the venue hosting the DDF Irish Open from Sept 25-27th.
“The Irish Open came about at very short notice as a result of the Coronavirus situation, quarantine, etc down south,” said Galgorm’s Director of Golf, Ross Oliver.
“We are absolutely delighted to have the honour of hosting the Irish Open and after staging professional tournaments for the last decade, it’s a fantastic reward for everyone here at Galgorm.

“We’ve sort of served our apprenticeship. We’ve delivered tournaments year after year and we have a great relationship with the European Tour and the players and officials really enjoy the venue. I think we have earned it and we’re delighted to get the opportunity.”

Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy is currently one of 17 Irish players who will compete at the NI Open.
“I’m really looking forward to competing at Galgorm. I’m also delighted for everyone there,” he said.
“To also have the Irish Open there is sensational news, not just for Galgorm but for the area. I know everyone needs to be careful at the moment, but it promises to be a sensational week.”
Also lining up is amateur Tom McKibbin (Holywood GC) fresh from playing in the Amateur Championship, John Ross Galbraith (Whitehead GC), and Ireland’s Gavin Moynihan.
European Tour Productions will have daily highlights programmes of the NI Open through www.europeantour.com and the tournament website http://www.niopen.golf.
Tournament highlights will also be shown on Sky Sports with daily updates via the local media.

Kernaghan bags Nuremore Irish PGA Assistants’ Championship crown

August 24, 2020

Nathan Kernaghan (right) with Nuremore professional, Maurice Cassidy

Massereene’s Nathan Kernaghan battled tough weather conditions to claim the rain-affected Nuremore Irish PGA Assistants’ Championship title.
In doing so the 21-year-old added his name to a list of former winners that includes David Feherty, Damien McGrane, Simon Thornton and Michael McGeady.
“I brought one of the club’s Senior Cup men, Ryan McCullough, with me to the pro-am because I wanted to see how he would play the course,” said Nathan,
“I have played in this event for a couple of years and made a bit of a mess of it to be honest.
“I wanted to see how he would play and how he would navigate it.

“I got plenty of tips out him and the odd slap on the wrist for hitting drivers at certain holes.”

Kernaghan posted opening rounds of 70/73 (-1) to lead by four at the close of play on day one.
Torrential overnight rain at the Co Monaghan venue forced tournament officials to reduce round three to 16 holes and Nathan extended his lead to five shots.
When further rain made fourth-round play impossible, Nathan was crowned champion with James McVicker finishing in second place.
He added; “The conditions for the morning round on day one weren’t too bad.
“I got the best of the weather and I knew that I had to take advantage because conditions in the afternoon were going to be very tough.
“Once we got to hole 11/12 it started to get pretty scruffy. Like everyone else, I was just trying to crawl over the line and get into the clubhouse without causing any real damage to my score.
“When the third round was reduced to 16 holes I saw that as a positive. It played into my hands even more because there were fewer holes for people to try and catch me.”
Nathan has recently finished his training and hopes to embark on a teaching career once qualified.
“I left school early to go this route,” he added.
“This win will hopefully give me a bit of impetus to get out and compete a bit more.
“I’m already looking forward to the Irish Championship at the end of the month.”