Caolan Rafferty led the way after the second stroke play qualifying round in The 122nd Amateur Championship at Royal St George’s and Prince’s today.
The 25-year-old Irishman carded a ten-under-par 62 to match Kevin McAlpine's Amateur Championship qualifying score on the Old Course at St Andrews in 2004. Richard Finch posted the lowest qualifying score with a 61 at Pyle & Kenfig in 2002.
Rafferty also broke the course record of 64 at Prince’s set yesterday by Gisli Sveinbergsson.
Rafferty, who finished tied seventh at the Lytham Trophy, eagled the par five 2nd hole and reached the turn in six-under-par before going on a run of five birdies in six holes from the 10th. A bogey at the last, after finding a bunker, left the Dundalk golfer on ten-under-par.
“The wind was up today but everyone knows back home that I love the wind and playing links golf in the wind suits me right down to the ground,” said Rafferty. “It might be a bit of a graft when it comes to getting a score out of it but today I just kept hitting it to ten to 12 feet and I couldn’t miss it.
“It is nice to know that I am the leading qualifier in this field. The players are the best of the best. They are the closest thing to professionals that we are going to see. To come out on top is always nice.
“Match play is a funny game. You can play really poorly and win a match or you can play really well and lose a match. You just have to take it one step at a time in match play and not get down about it. I enjoy match play so I’m looking forward to it.”
Rafferty finished a shot clear of Italy’s Alberto Castagnara. The 20-year-old Italian carded a two-under-par round of 68 to finish on nine-under-par and secure his place in the match play stage which gets underway at the renowned Sandwich links tomorrow.
Castagnara, who was on the reserve list for the championship and secured his place following a withdrawal, got off to a good start in calm conditions on the Kent coast with a birdie at the 2nd. He picked up three further shots, including a birdie three on the 17th, with bogeys on the 4th and 15th holes the only blemishes on his card.
After finishing his round, Castagnara went back out to caddie for his brother Guilio, who missed the cut on nine-over-par. “I couldn’t believe that I played that good,” said the Italian. "I think today I played also even better than yesterday. I just missed a lot of putts but still I made two-under so yeah that’s incredible."
One shot further back was English international Harry Ellis. The 21-year-old former English Amateur Champion produced seven birdies, including three in his last four holes, on his way to a five-under-par 65 at the same venue.
Ellis commented, “I’ve been down to Royal St George’s many a time and I’ve never played that good round here. That gives me a lot of confidence going into the match play element.”
Harrison Endycott, who was part of the winning Australian team in last year’s Eisenhower Trophy at the World Amateur Team Championships in Mexico, carded three birdies on the back nine on his way to a 65 at Royal St George’s and a seven-under-par total which was later matched by Welshman Evan Griffith.
Endycott’s countryman Zach Murray was among a clutch of players who finished on six-under-par including the current European Amateur Champion Luca Cianchetti and his fellow Italian Stefano Mazzoli, who won the title in 2015. Scotland’s Chris Maclean and Swede Oliver Gillberg, were on the same mark.
The cut for the championship fell on one-under-par with 77 players qualifying.
Follow scoring updates from the Match Play at Randa.org.