Liam Nolan believes he has found the secret to links golf and hopes his recent good form in big tournaments can see him claim his first major title at the Flogas Irish Men’s Amateur Open Championship.
After admitting it took him to adjust to the challenge of links golf, the Galway native has posted successive runner-up finishes in the West of Ireland Championship at Rosses Point showing that perhaps he has found the key to performing along the coast.
Nolan has threatened to win a host of big tournaments over the last twelve months, with a second-place finish in the Connacht Strokeplay last year and a third-place finish in the Mullingar Scratch Trophy so he arrives as one of the favourites although his preparation has been slightly hampered by some teething problems.
“I’m really looking forward to the week,” he said. “I have been enjoying links golf the last couple of years which is lovely. It took me a few years to get used to playing links but I really look forward to it now.
“The Island is lovely I have heard, I haven’t played it but I have heard great things about it.
“In terms of my preparation for the week it’s funny I got four wisdom teeth out when I came home from Lytham so relaxing has been my preparation. I have been playing the last few days, played Senior Cup and been playing well so I am really looking forward to getting back out there on Thursday and getting back to competitive golf,” added Nolan whose Galway side was beaten by a Sean O’Connell inspired Athenry in the Senior Cup last week.
Having seemingly cracked the code on links courses, Nolan only has one thing in his mind as he makes the journey from West to East this week. Winning.
“Links golf just demands so many different golf shots, you can’t be one-dimensional and I love that. I think the fact you can hit loads of different types of shots depending on wind, slopes and things I enjoy that rather than just sending the ball up into the air the whole time.
“The Irish Amateur is definitely one I want to go up and win for sure. That’s the main expectation. I had a good run at the West, it’s tough with that format because only one person comes away really happy, and that’s the winner.
“European Club is some animal off the back tees in October with good strong winds aswell. That was a challenge of golf and the mind that week for sure! I like the fact the Irish Am is in May this year and I am looking forward to getting back up there now with a nice bit of weather.
“I took plenty of positives away from the West I played really good golf all week and I can be really happy with the way I fought up until the end. The main thing is I am playing well so just go up and enjoy my tournament and see where I am on the last day,” he added.
Format changes have been a popular topic of discussion this season. The West of Ireland adopted a new format, stretching to five days including 54-holes of strokeplay qualifying and then the last-16 playing two days of matchplay. The NUIG student has proven to be a dab hand at both strokeplay and matchplay.
“I like the mix. Matchplay is really good, really competitive and I like the stroke as well because over 72 holes the most consistent player over the whole week will win and the best player will win.
“72 holes of strokes is a really good challenge you are playing the course the whole time rather than playing the man in matchplay. You can just never switch off in the 72-hole strokeplay competition because the leaders only going to be one or two ahead at the end of the week so every shot really counts.”
The North of Ireland Championship at Royal Portrush has gone the opposite direction changing to 72-hole strokeplay and the 22-year-old is optimistic for the future of the championship believing it will become a massive showpiece for Irish golf and attract some stellar international fields that perhaps have been lacking on these shores.
“It’s so hard to get time for tournaments in Ireland when there isn’t another coinciding tournament at the same time. The summer is always packed with golf so unfortunately there’s going to be tournaments that clash but I think the North moving to 72 hole strokeplay is a great leap towards attracting a greater international field and putting it on from September next year there won’t be any clashing tournaments so loads of international fields would say ‘wow 72 holes of strokeplay in Royal Portrush with nothing else on.’
“I think Golf Ireland are starting to make really good moves towards attracting those types of fields to Ireland. 72 holes in the North sure that’s like a British Open, who wouldn’t want to play that.”
Nolan gets his championship underway alongside Richard Knightly and Rory Milne at 08.33 am on Thursday morning, beginning from the 10th.