Short game wizardry gives Liam Nolan thrilling Brabazon Trophy win

Ronan MacNamara

Liam Nolan. Photography credit: Leaderboard Photography

Liam Nolan showed all of his short game qualities as he edged Zach Little in a pulsating three-hole playoff to claim the Brabazon Trophy in Sunningdale.

The pair were tied for the lead after 72 holes after Nolan made a crucial up and down to force a playoff and he carried that short game magic into extra holes.

Both players were inches away from birdieing the first hole in the playoff before Nolan almost holed out from the back of the green with a superb pitch on 18 as they headed for the third sudden-death hole and the 1st hole. It was another deadly chip from Nolan which sealed the biggest win of his amateur career as he left a chip from just short of the 75th green stone dead before Little saw his par putt lip out from six-feet.


It was a cruel way for Little to lose out having shot a final round 63 to set the clubhouse target on three-under.

It’s been a quiet spring for Galway’s Nolan having missed the West of Ireland and Lytham Trophy due to NUIG exams but an 18th place finish at the Irish Amateur Open put him in good stead for the Brabazon Trophy and he has strengthened his Walker Cup goal with his second win of 2023.

“It’s still pretty hard to express my emotions because it’s all new but I’m just delighted to have this trophy,” said Nolan who had Joshua Hill caddying. “I’m about to look at some of the names on it now and I know I’m going to be pleased to be putting my name there as well.

“The name and the history of Sunningdale Golf Club makes it one of the coolest places to win a golf tournament. There have been a lot of really good winners here in the past and to put my name on this trophy is amazing.

“To share a moment with people who have been with you through thick and thin, espcially my mum and dad, they’ve seen all the ups and downs so we’ll definitely treasure this moment for a long time.

“The Golf Ireland guys are my best friends so it’s special to have them here this week and to have them following me for most of the round today and cheering me on through good and bad shots was amazing.

“I’m going to Spain next week for a bit of a break before we have a long schedule of tournaments coming up so I’m just going to relax, play a bit of golf and think about what I’ve achieved this week.”

The South American amateur champion was five shots adrift of compatriot Sean Keeling entering the final round but a fine two-under 68 including a birdie at the last grabbed him a spot in the playoff.

For the fourth successive day, the 23-year-old was over par early on but recovered from a bogey on 4 with birdies on 7 and 9 to turn in 34 and into a share of the lead.

A triple bogey 7 on the eleventh from Keeling left the door ajar for Nolan and he stormed through with birdies on 15 and 18 after dropping a shot on 14.

54-hole leader Keeling rallied late on with birdies on 14 and 18 but the 16-year-old closed with a 76 for a level-par total and a share of fourth place as he enhanced his Junior Ryder Cup chances.

Nolan becomes the first Irish winner since Cormac Sharvin in 2015 and just the third Irishman in the championship’s history.

West of Ireland champion James Claridge kept up his Walker Cup bid with a third place finish while Irish Amateur champion John Gough was 6th.

Meanwhile, Matthew McClean did his Walker Cup chances no harm with a final round 66 to snatch 7th on two-over while Alex Maguire was two shots further back in 14th after a final round 69.

Carton House man Marc Boucher shared 34th on plus ten with Hugh Foley alongside Patrick Keeling on fifteen-over with Gweedore’s Padraig O’Dochartaigh on +26.

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