Few players are better equipped than Liam Nolan to meet the mental and physical challenges that come with trying to become one of Great Britain and Ireland’s leading amateurs after putting in trojan work on those elements.
It’s been quite the journey for Nolan who added 14kg of muscle to his already towering frame over the winter, from being omitted from underage panels to playing his way onto the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team to face USA at St Andrews next weekend – the pinnacle of amateur golf.
“It’s something I never really thought I could make until the provisional panel was announced in December then getting the early win in January made me think about it a bit more,” beamed Nolan. “If you told me a few years ago I would be called up to the team it wouldn’t seem real but I’ve played well all year and buzzing to get over now and get cracking.
“This year has been crazy for me, it feels like a breakthrough year. To get two wins and play and represent Ireland well in European Teams and Home Internationals, they have been the highlights for me and to get Walker Cup is a great reward for working really hard and playing well throughout the year.
“I never wanted to think about it in case I got wrapped up in it and put so much pressure on but when it gets to August time it’s hard to ignore it but thank God it happened because having put in so much work and sacrificed so much it’s great to get this at the end of it all.”
Known as somewhat of a nearly man in Irish amateur golf, the Galway man was in tears last year after losing out to Alan Fahy in the final of the West of Ireland Championship in Rosses Point. Fast forward twelve months and he has a South American Amateur Championship and Brabazon Trophy on the mantelpiece.
Nolan is one of four Irishmen to be named on Stuart Wilson’s ten-man team alongside Alex Maguire, Mark Power and Matthew McClean – Ireland’s largest contingent since the ‘Famous Five’ of 2015.
While it will be game faces all round once play begins next Saturday morning, there will be space to make memories that last a lifetime and for Nolan it would be playing in an all-Irish four ball during practice at the Old Course.
“It’s class to get the four lads on the team it’s great to see and it’s great for Irish golf. We’ve been doing well internationally the last few years especially in European Championships so it’s deserving to get the four lads. It would be nice to have an Irish four ball going around St Andrews for the Walker Cup. I only thought about it there today it would be pretty cool to get a practice round with the four lads.”
Great Britain and Ireland are huge outsiders to arrest a run of three successive defeats to a star-studded Stars and Stripes outfit but the 23-year-old boasts a formidable matchplay record including picking up two and a half points for Ireland as they earned bronze at the European Team Championships before earning 4.5 points from a possible six for Ireland in the Home Internationals.
He had a sensational year two years ago particularly in team events as he played a pivotal role in Ireland’s first Home Internationals win since 2017 and Connacht’s first Interpros win since 2011.
“My matchplay record has always been good I love matchplay, I love going out and playing with one person opposite me I am a good fighter and don’t like throwing the towel in. I’m buzzing to get going and win as many points as I can for Great Britain and Ireland.
“I know the USA world rankings are good but I don’t think they are massively more impressive golfers than any of us. Anyone on the team is an incredible player and especially on links courses we play links all year and we are so used to it. I would love to see the wind get up and make us feel more at home so I am really looking forward to getting over to St Andrews,” explained Nolan who hopes course knowledge from the St Andrews Links Trophy can help GB&I overcome their visitors.
“It will be very special, St Andrews is such a class place to go and play. For it to be the Walker Cup is incredible and the fact we get to play a tournament on it every year and we have all played it loads we do know the course very well so it’s quite a tricky course with mad greens in places so it helps the more you play it and we’ve all played it together so many times and we are all very familiar with it and very excited to get going.”
After the Walker Cup, Nolan will return to NUIG to complete his final year of biomedical engineering before turning his eye towards a leap into the professional ranks.
“I have one more year of college left and I will do that. Afterwards I will look at turning pro but I won’t think about it too much until I have my degree! I am looking forward to it though. Looking forward to the summer as an amateur and then giving Q-School a go.”