Rafferty relishes Senior Open debut at Royal Porthcawl
Ronan Rafferty has been relishing the prospect of turning out in his first British Senior Open Championship at Royal Porthcawl on the south Wales coast ever since his 50th birthday back in January.
And Rafferty from Warrenpoint, who retired from the European Tour in 2003, is particularly delighted to be at Porthcawl as he has played the course overlooking the Bristol Channel more times than most of those in the field.
He played here in the 1980 Amateur Championship, competed in Coral Classics in the early 80s and represented Ireland in Home Internationals at this course.
"It is a stunning course to look at and equally great to play. I am raring to go, although year one in the Seniors is a case of learning the ropes again," said the Northern Irishman.
"I love links golf – I won the Irish Amateur at Royal County Down and am now an honorary member of that great club."
He was something of a teenage prodigy, winning the British Boys' title at 15 and playing in the Walker Cup at 17. Rafferty goes out last in the first round today with American Olin Browne and former Ryder Cup captain Mark James.
Des Smyth, one of this year's Ryder Cup vice-captains, is in the field and goes out today with Gary Hallberg and Carl Mason.
Smyth, who hails from Co Louth, won the Madeira Island Open in 2001 at the age of 48 and could still be a threat. Philip Walton and Denis O'Sullivan are two other Irishmen in the line-up .
It is thought to be the strongest field ever for this tournament – Mark Wiebe defends the title he won at Royal Birkdale and Bernhard Langer, who lost to him in a play-off, is in fine form.
The legendary Tom Watson, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Colin Montgomerie and Ian Woosnam are all well worth watching.