Fairweather bounces back from North of Ireland defeat to book place in NI Open

July 19, 2017

Paul Hughes, Captain Galgorm Castle Golf Club, Valerie Penney, Specsavers Ballymena, Colin Fairweather, NI Amateur Open champion 2017 and John Carruthers, Honorary Secretary Galgorm Castle Golf Club

Knock’s Colin Fairweather came out on top of a three-way playoff to win the 36-hole Northern Ireland Amateur Open sponsored by Specsavers Ballymena.
The 26-year-old birdied the first extra hole at Galgorm Castle to beat Thomas Mulligan (Laytown & Bettystown) and former winner, Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene GC).
In doing so, the 26-year-old, earned a place in the field alongside the professionals at the Galgorm Resort & Spa Northern Ireland Open, Presented by Modest! Golf (Aug 10-13).
“I just wanted to win. I wasn’t really thinking about the chance of playing in the NI Open,” said Colin who lost out to Rowan Lester (Hermitage) in the final of the North of Ireland Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush.
“I didn’t get it last week, but I got that winning feeling again today. It didn’t matter where it was or what tournament it was in. I just wanted to win something, especially after last week when I finished runner-up at Royal Portrush.

“It took me a wee while to get over that so it was great to bounce back so quickly. I’ve always wanted to play in the Challenge Tour event as well, so this win meant an awful lot to me.”

Thomas Mulligan

Colin was leading by one playing the final hole when he lost his ball off the tee. He eventually made a bogey six at the par-five to force his way into the playoff alongside McLarnon and Mulligan.
“It was really tough today, even though the weather was perfect. They have let the rough grow up with the Challenge Tour event in mind,” added Colin.
“I felt I had the advantage on the hole because I was the longest off the tee. I was determined to stay aggressive, you only have one shot at a playoff.”
The trio went back down the 18th and Colin didn’t make the same mistake in sudden death, hitting a long drive down the fairway before firing a seven-iron onto the green to set up a two-putt birdie from 20 feet.
McLarnon missed a five-footer for his birdie, while Mulligan lost a ball off the tee, and though he still managed a par, it was Fairweather who took the spoils.
While Mulligan lost out in the playoff, the 17-year-old had already secured the second NI Open place up for grabs courtesy of Modest! Golf’s invite for the leading under-18 player.
“It’s great, I came here to secure the under-18 invite and massive thanks to Modest! Golf for the opportunity,” said the Leinster player, who also represented GB&I in the Jacques Leglise Trophy in 2016.
“I had a poor second round but am delighted to have earned my place in the NI Open and I can’t wait to play here again in a few weeks.”
Entry to the NI Open is free, simply register online at http://www.niopen.golf.
This year’s event introduces the exciting new Shootout Sunday knockout format, which is sure to provide plenty of drama for the players and spectators.

Rowan Lester finds key to success at North of Ireland Amateur Championship

July 15, 2017

Rowan Lester (Hermitage) winner of the North of Ireland Amateur Open Championship sponsored by Cathedral Eye Clinic at Royal Portrush Golf Club with (l-r) David McMullan (Capt. Royal Portrush), Eamonn O’Connor (Chairman GUI Ulster Branch) and Andrew Spence (Cathedral Eye Clinic).
Picture: Golffile | Thos Caffrey

Rowan Lester (Hermitage) staged a back nine fightback to win the Cathedral Eye Clinic North of Ireland Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush on Friday.
Three down after seven and struggling for consistency off the tee, the 21-year-old beat home favourite, Colin Fairweather (Knock) by two holes.
“I knew I was playing good. I knew that if I could keep it solid and not have any bogeys that I would get back,” said Rowan who fired a course record 64 (-7) on the Valley Links during qualifying.
“In match play, three is comfortable. Two or one up is never comfortable. I knew just to hang in there.
“I always like leading. When I go down I normally find it hard but today I knew I was going to come back.
“I didn’t necessarily think I would win but I knew I would get back and make it tight. I just had that feeling.”
A student at Texas Wesleyann University, Rowan found himself out of position off the tee on a number of occasions but superb up and downs on the ninth and 10th, kept him in touch with Fairweather as bad weather closed in around the final.
“Nine and 10 were key. If I had lost those holes it was game over basically,” he added.

“I kept laying up to a number that I like. I did the same on 12, hit a really good shot into seven feet. Winning that hole was big.”

Rowan Lester lines up a putt on the eighth green

Fairweather still led by one at that stage but the momentum was clearly with Lester and he pressed on.
He added; “I got a big half on 14. It’s always a tough shot into the green. I was completely out of position but from there I didn’t miss a shot.
“I said to myself standing on the 15th tee, ‘if I can play the last four in level par I will win’.”
He levelled matters at the 15th with a par to Fairweather’s dropped shot, halved the 16th, won the 17th to go ahead for the first time and wrapped up the match in style with a fine approach to the home green.
A beaten finalist in the 2015 South of Ireland Championship, Fairweather was left to rue a missed opportunity.
“I was playing well at the start and had it going straight off the tee then he got the momentum coming through on the 12th,” said Colin.
“When he won that hole and was able to get on the tee ahead of me he was then able to get into his rhythm which I found hard to cope with.

“I was never really on my A game all week. I battled around all week but I just fell short.”

Colin is waiting for surgery to treat varicose veins and was feeling the effects as the week wore on but refused to blame that for defeat.
“I noticed it at the start of the season and as the summer has worn on it has got more achy,” said the 26-year-old.
“It is such a weird thing to have but I got an injection and I got a stocking on it at the start of the week that took most of the pain away. It’s not an excuse.”

Cathedral Eye Clinic North of Ireland Amateur Championship match play results

Fairweather digs deep to reach last four at North of Ireland while Gleeson loses his head

July 14, 2017

Alex Gleeson gets ready to tee off on the eighth

Knock’s Colin Fairweather battled some bad weather and an on-going leg injury to reach the semi-finals of the Cathedral Eye Clinic North of Ireland Championship yesterday.
The 26-year-old Irish International is suffering from circulation problems and needed an injection just to make the first tee on Monday. As a precaution, he opted not to play any practice rounds and after starting slowly, he has worked his way into the tournament.
On Thursday he beat Gareth Lappin (Belvoir Park) and then Derek Downie (Kirkistown Castle) to set up a last-four meeting with leading qualifier Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk GC).
“I finally holed a few putts there which was a help for the confidence going around,” said Fairweather.
“The putting in qualifying was fine but you know what it’s like, each day can be different.
“On the first day I struggled with my whole game. It was only my ‘B’ or ‘C’ game.

“I am slowly getting the confidence back and finding a way to get it around. It’s coming together.”

His opponent this morning, Caolan Rafferty, got a scare in the last 16 yesterday when he was taken to the 19th by Tandragee’s Ross Dutton. The Dundalk man didn’t make the same mistake in the last eight, beating Darragh Coghlan (Portmarnock) 4&2.
“We both got off to a slow start, then picked up a wee bit but the rain swept in which doesn’t allow for any good golf,” said the 24-year-old.
“My bad golf was better than Darragh’s bad golf. I think we can agree on that one.

“It was a struggle this afternoon. Some of it was tired golf and the rest was the elements. I will try and get the feet up this evening and get ready for the morning.”

The other semi-final this morning will see Alex Gleeson (Castle) take on Rowan Lester (Hermitage).
If Gleeson does win the title he will have to do it without an eight iron after the club broke mid round in his 2&1 victory over Paul Murphy (Rosslare) yesterday afternoon.
“I was playing the 13th and the head of my club flew off at impact and landed in a bush,” said Alex, the reigning Irish Close Champion.
“I couldn’t find it, but it shouldn’t be too much problem to get around it tomorrow using a seven or nine iron.”
Lester proved too strong for Ronan Mullarney (Galway) in the final match of the day, winning 3&1.
A student at Texas Wesleyan University, he wasn’t happy with his morning display in beating Cian Geraghty (Laytown/Bettystown) 2&1.
“I was struggling a bit with the long game. I wasn’t committing to the shots but I did that better this afternoon,” he said.
The semi-finals get underway this morning at 8.30am.

Cathedral Eye Clinic North of Ireland Amateur Championship match play scoring

RESULTS
Cathedral Eye Clinic North of Ireland Championship at Royal Portrush
Round 3: D Downie (Kirkistown Castle) bt J Murphy (Kinsale) 3&1; C Fairweather (Knock) bt G Lappin (Belvoir Pk) 2 holes; D Coughlan (Portmarnock) bt A Fahy (Dun Laoghaire) 1 hole; C Rafferty (Dundalk) bt R Dutton (Tandragee) at 19th’; A Gleeson (Castle) bt E Smith (Laytown & Bettystown) 3&2; Paul Murphy (Rosslare) bt F Mason (Moor Hall) 6&5; R Mulranny (Galway) bt J Yates (Naas) 4&2; R Lester (Hermitage) bt C Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown) 2 holes.
Quarter-finals: Fairweather bt Downie 2 holes; Rafferty bt Coughlan 4&2; Gleeson bt Murphy2&1; Lester bt Mullarney 3&1.

Rafferty stays on course to claim North of Ireland title

July 13, 2017


Leading qualifier, Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk GC), eased into the last 16 of the Cathedral Eye Clinic North of Ireland Championship at Royal Portrush yesterday (Wednesday).
The 24-year-old beat John McCarthy (Stackstown) 3&2 and then Dwayne Mallon (Dungannon) 6&4 to set up a meeting with Ross Dutton (Tandragee GC) this morning (Thursday).
Rafferty wasn’t particularly happy with his play in beating McCarthy yesterday morning but composed himself to take care of Mallon in the afternoon.
“I made a good start and was three up after nine. I was pretty steady, did nothing too fantastic,” he said.
“I was brutal in the morning match but I didn’t think about it this afternoon. That is something I am trying to get better at. That’s the thing about match-play, everything is up for grabs on the first tee.”
Irish international Colin Fairweather (Knock) will face Belvoir Park’s Gareth Lappin this morning in the only all-Ulster clash of the last 16.
Lappin, a student at Michigan State University, was relatively untroubled in seeing off Englishman Henry Young-Alls yesterday afternoon by 4&3. Two up after nine, Gareth halved the 10th, 11th and 12th before birdies at the 13th and 14th set up the win with a par on 15.
“The form is alright considering I’ve played very little,” said the 22-year-old.

“I played in the East of Ireland and the Interprovincials for Ulster. I think this is the furthest I have got in this event. I’ve been knocked out in the second round a couple of times.”

Fairweather, meanwhile, just about managed to beat England’s Alex Fitzpatrick to set up the clash with Lappin.Trailing by two holes at the turn, he edged ahead for the first time on 16th courtesy of a 30 foot birdie putt and hung on to win one-up.
“That putt on the 16th was the turning point. I have been a bit up and down this season,” said the 26-year-old who is nursing a knee problem.
“I had a good result at the Brabazon Trophy and made the cut at both the Spanish Amateur and the Irish Amateur Open at Royal County Down.”
Late in the day, home favourite, Tyrone Clarke, was beaten 2&1 by Rowan Lester (Hermitage).

Cathedral Eye Clinic North of Ireland Amateur Championship scoring

Rafferty tops qualifying at North of Ireland Championship

July 12, 2017


Dundalk’s Caolan Rafferty set an impressive new course record on the Dunluce Links on his way to topping qualifying at the Cathedral Eye Clinic North of Ireland Championship at Royal Portrush on Tuesday.
The 24-year-old, who also topped qualifying at last month’s British Amateur Championship, fired a bogey-free, seven birdie round of 65 over the new Open Championship layout.
Rafferty was a semi-finalist at the North of Ireland in 2015 and recently helped Leinster claim a third consecutive Interprovincial crown. His fine run of form has earned him a place in the Ireland squad and he is now setting his sights on the Home Internationals.
His two-round total of 10 under par was good enough to edge Fortwilliam’s Hugh O’Hare into second place on nine under. The 18-year-old has played very little in recent months as he focused his attentions on A-Levels but with the studying now complete, he is back on course.
A student at St Malachy’s College, Belfast, Hugh will join a growing list of Irish golfers playing on the US College system when he heads to Louisville in the autumn.
Overnight leader, Rowan Lester, safely made it through to the match-play stages which get underway this morning, with a total of 136.
The cut fell at 145 with Royal Portrush’s Jamie Fletcher the only golfer to miss out on that mark. Defending champion, Sean Flanagan, remains in contention to retain his title, easing into the knock-out rounds on a level par.
Tyrone Clarke, son of Open Championship winner, Darren Clarke, also made it through to the match-play stages after firing rounds of 69/72.
* For those of a statistical bent – the new holes – the par five seven and the par four eighth both played over par in benign qualifying conditions.
The seventh was ranked 14th – and played to a par of 5.24
The eighth was ranked second hardest – and played to a par of 4.70

Cathedral Eye Clinic North of Ireland Championship leaderboard

 

Cathedral Eye Clinic North of Ireland Championship
At Royal Portrush (Valley scores first)
Leading scores
1 Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) 68/65 – 133 (-10)
2 Hugh O’Hare (Fortwilliam) 66/68 – 134
3 Robert Brazill (Naas) 65/71 – 136
4 Rowan Lester (Hermitage) 64/72 – 136
5 Ryan Berkeley (Dun Laoghaire) 69/68 – 137
6 Eoin Leonard (Wentworth/Killiney) (67/70) – 137
7 Finlay Mason (Moor Hall) 70/68 – 138
8 Jakes Hapgood (Southerndown) 68/70 -138
9 Colin Woodroofe (Dun Laoghaire) 68/70 – 138
10 Kiet Van Der Weele (Rosendealsche) 67/71 – 138

 

Lester on top after opening day of North of Ireland Championship

July 11, 2017

Rowan Lester (Hermitage) Picture by Pat Cashman

Irish international Rowan Lester (Hermitage) leads the way after the opening round of qualifying at the Cathedral Eye Clinic North of Ireland Amateur Open Championship at Royal Portrush.
A quarter-finalist in 2015, Lester, playing The Valley Links, carded a bogey-free seven under par 64 on the revamped course.
He leads Jordan Hood (Galgorm Castle), Robert Brazill (Naas) and Ronan Mullarney (Galway) by a shot heading into Tuesday’s second round at the Dunluce Links.
“I struggled a bit at the start but adjusted on the eighth tee and from that point on I was really good,” said 22-year-old Hood who will play The Dunluce today (Tuesday).
“I was seeing the lines better on the greens and rolled in a few putts.

“The two new holes [on the Dunluce] are really good. The par five (seventh) isn’t as daunting as I first thought when I saw it and the eighth is a really good par four. It forces you to be aggressive off the tee.”

Kirkistown GC vice-captain, Neill Simpson, turned in the leading opening day score on the new Dunluce layout, a three-under par round of 69.
Simpson quit golf for almost 20 years but has returned to competitive action after rebuilding his swing under with PGA professional, Charle Bell at Blackwood GC.
His tactic of leaving the driver in the bag paid dividends as he was one of only two players – the other being Galway’s Colm Hughes (-1) – to finish the day under par on the new Open Championship layout.
Defending champion, Sean Flanagan (Co Sligo), is well placed to make the cut after an opening round of two-under par 70 on The Valley.
The leading 64 players after Tuesday’s second round of qualifying will progress to the match-play stages.

Cathedral Eye Clinic North of Ireland Amateur Championship leaderboard

The Cathedral Eye Clinic North of Ireland Amateur Championship
At Royal Portrush
Leading scores after 18 holes.
1 Rowan Lester (Hermitage) 64 -7
2 Jordan Hood (Galgorm Castle) 65 -6
3 Robert Brazill (Naas) 65
4 Ronan Mullarney (Galway) 65
5 Gregory Royston (Cotswold Downs) 66 -5
6 Hugh O’Hare (Fortwilliam) 66
7 Cathal Butler (Kinsale) 66
8 Paul Murphy (Rosslare) 66
9 Gavin Fitzmaurice (Balcarrick) 66
10 Colin Fairweather (Knock) 66

DDF Irish Open champion Jon Rahm eyes up major breakthrough at Birkdale

July 11, 2017

Jon Rahm celebrates DDF Irish Open success

Jon Rahm won the DDF Irish Open at a canter on Sunday.
Honestly, rules controversies aside, it was men against boys stuff at Portstewart.
“I’ve never played my best golf. To actually play my best golf that I can remember till this day and shoot 24-under on this golf course and win it by six, man, that is not something I would have believed I was capable of,” said Rahm
“I learned a lot about myself and what I’m capable of, and it’s a really, really special day.”
The new world number eight is still just 22-years-old. That’s the same age as Gavin Moynihan, who played out of his skin on Sunday, compiling a final round 64 to finish tied for 14th and earn the biggest pay cheque of his career.
In comparison, Rahm is already at the stage when he doesn’t need to worry about money. He has already topped the €2.5m euro mark on the European Tour alone. It’s major titles he wants now.
“I said at the beginning of the week, even before the tournament started, that I haven’t played — again, I haven’t played my best golf on links golf courses,” he added.
“There was always something else. And to play the way I did here, it proves to me I can perform properly on a links golf course.
“And that’s what I’ve got to take to The Open. I know now that I have what it takes. Before that, there was a little bit of doubt in my mind but now I know that I have what it takes to win a tournament on a links golf course.
“The Open Championship, it’s a little different deal just because a major championship will be set up probably harder than this week was. But nevertheless, I know I can read the putts right, and I know I can interpret the wind and I can hit the shots and I can manage myself around the golf course properly enough to have a chance to win The Open.
“Will that happen? I don’t know. But I’m going to try to enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed this week.”

Beefed-up Glashedy Links primed for 2018 Irish Open challenge

July 9, 2017

The Glashedy Links

Beefed up Ballyliffin GC will welcome golf’s heavy-weights when the Irish Open heads to the Inishowen peninsula next year (July 5-8).
Ballyliffin Golf Club consists of two contrasting links courses, the Glashedy Links and the Old Course.
The Glashedy Links – where the 2018 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open will be played – opened in 1995 and was designed by Pat Ruddy and Tom Craddock.
In preparation for hosting the event, Ruddy has made a number of significant changes over the winter.

Hole 1 – A fairway bunker has been installed on the left-hand side of the fairway at 300 yards.

Hole 2 – A new tee has significantly increased the dog-leg on this hole.

Hole 3 – A new fairway bunker has been added at 305 yards.

Hole 4 – A new elevated tee has been built, 115 yards further back from the existing tee-box which extends the length of the hole to 590 yards.

John Farren, General Manager at Ballyliffin Golf Club, said: “Ballyliffin is delighted to have been selected as the host venue for the 2018 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation, especially now that it is part of the Rolex Series.
“This is an incredible vote of confidence by the European Tour and their partners and will be a huge opportunity for us to showcase Ballyliffin, Donegal and Derry on the world stage.
“We look forward to working with Fáilte Ireland and agencies on both sides of the border in promoting the region. Ballyliffin’s close neighbours and destination partners –Royal Portrush and Portstewart – have both hosted tremendously successful Irish Opens and we look forward with confidence to continuing that focus on the world class links of the North Coast of Ireland.

“At 7,423 yards, our Championship Links has staged many top class amateur and professional events in the past and hosting the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in 2018 fulfils a long term ambition of Ballyliffin Golf Club to take our place on the world stage. We look forward to welcoming the European Tour and their partners to Ballyliffin in July 2018 and can assure you we will deliver an exceptional tournament.”

A regular championship venue, Ballyliffin Golf Club played host to the North West of Ireland Open in 2002, a dual-ranking event on the European Tour and Challenge Tour which was won by Sweden’s Adam Mednick.
The European Senior Tour also visited in 2008 when Spain’s Juan Quirós pipped local hero Des Smyth to the Irish Seniors Open title by a single shot.

Irish Open Day Two – NI Open champ Fox at home in Portstewart

July 8, 2017


While our ‘locals’ appear to suffer in the spotlight, some people seem to thrive in Northern Ireland conditions.
Ryan Fox fits into that category. The New Zealander, a winner of last year’s NI Open at Galgorm Castle finished day two at Portstewart in a share of fourth after a second round 66.
“NI has been very good to be me so far,” said the 30-year-old from Auckland.
“I really like both courses. Galgorm Castle last year was fantastic and I think this is even better.
“I guess when you have a golf course you like and it suits your eye you can shoot some good numbers and I have taken advantage of it this week.”
Fox opened the tournament with a five-under par 67 on Thursday and a run of four birdies in his opening nine holes gave him some early momentum.
A bogey at the first, his 10th hole of the day, failed to stall him and he went on to collect three more birdies.
“I have struggled with putting for most of the year and I guess I found the greens pretty easy to read,” added Ryan.

“I think I holed three or four over 30 foot in the first two days and most of my putts inside ten foot and that helps a lot. Obviously there’s been some good shots in there, as well.”

Ryan Fox, winner of the 2016 NI Open. 

As a reward, Ryan earned a late tee time on Saturday and will play alongside Jon Rahm at 1.20pm giving him plenty of time to watch the Lions clash with the All-Blacks.
He has a special interest in the outcome as his father, Grant, a former All-Black outhalf and is currently a selector for the World Champions.
He added; “Yeah, I’m very happy I get to watch it. I missed out on the last half an hour last week and didn’t see any of the first Test.
“I think the Lions might have poked the bear a little bit. The All Blacks are generally pretty good about fronting up after they have been beaten and Eden Park is their fortress.
“I’m hoping for an All Blacks win tomorrow. I might be the only one hoping that but I’ll be wearing my All Blacks jersey for sure.”

Irish Open Day One – Relaxed McDowell starts well at Portstewart

July 7, 2017

Jon Rahm

GRAEME McDowell admits he has let his frustrations get the better of him this season but a return to familiar surroundings paid off at Portstewart yesterday.
A five-under par 67 left the Portrush native trailing round one leaders, American Daniel Im and Frenchman Benjamin Hebert by three shots at the DDF Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation.
“It’s been frustrating for all the right reasons because I’ve been playing well,” said Graeme.
“I’ve been walking away on Sunday nights not feeling like I got enough out of the week but that’s a better frustration than when you just know you’re not playing well.
“The game’s not been far away, and you know, perhaps it’s a week like this week that can give me that little bit of spark and that little bit of inspiration to really kick on for the summer.

“I’m really pleased with that start, and I’m looking forward to getting back it tomorrow.”

Starting at the 10th, Graeme reached three under quickly with birdies at the 13th, 14th and 16th but dropped shots at the 17th and 18th saw him turn in one under 35.
“It would have been easy to get frustrated at that point but I hit a beautiful shot into the second and made a couple of nice putts on that nine and turned a mediocre day into a decent day,” he added.
“I was happy with the way I rolled it on the greens generally and I hit a lot of quality shots.”
The 2010 US Open champion played some fine golf on his back nine, collecting four birdies at the second, fourth, sixth and eighth, to end the day in a share of ninth.
Irish duo, Shane Lowry and Padraig Harrington are a shot further back after a day of low scoring on the North Coast.
“I definitely feel like it’s the least I deserved out there. I felt like I played great,” said Shane.
“I’m pretty happy with that. Four under in the first round is pretty good. I’m not going to complain.”
Harrington described his round as, ‘a nice, decent score’.
“I played average, had a few chances and if things had gone my way, I certainly could have made it a few more under par but I think four-under is an ok reflection of the day.
“The likelihood is you’ve got to be focusing on 20-under par or more this week, so I need some better scores later on in the week.
“If we get some wind, that will obviously defend the course but at the moment, with beautiful conditions, these guys are good, they are going to shoot low scores.”
A pair of 64’s for Im and Hebert established the course record at Portstewart and gave the unlikely duo – with a combined world ranking of 796 – a one-shot lead over Jon Rahm, Oliver Fisher and Matthew Southgate.