Rónán MacNamara at the Old Course
The sun rises over the Old Course hotel at the Home of Golf as Liam Nolan reaches the top of his long, languishing golf swing.
If ever a golf swing matched a personality it’s the smooth, laid back Galway man who unleashed a low bullet towards the Swilcan Burn.
Other than ten 2-irons being ripped up the first fairway, the Old Course sits in complete silence. On the accompanying courses it is business as usual as members and guests begin another golfing day but on the other side of the fence, St Andrews presents as a unique utopia. The golf course, shut down completely for twenty golfers – who aren’t even playing the full 18 holes on the final day of practice. Soon to be inundated with locals and tourists out for an afternoon stroll along the famous links, for a few hours, however, this is paradise.
“Oh yeah, it’s a dream you are treated like royalty over here and just getting to have the Old Course to yourself for a week and getting to play with the team is really special,” Nolan said after playing the first five and last five holes on the Old Course ahead of Saturday morning’s foursomes matches which will kick off the 49th Walker Cup.
“The pinnacle will be Saturday and Sunday I mean we are ready to go and I can’t wait to get out there tomorrow morning.”
Nolan docked in the famous town on Monday with his Great Britain and Ireland teammates. Having immersed himself in the full Walker Cup experience to date and also taken in a round in Kingsbarns he has no shortage of highlights already, but it was this morning which took the biscuit.
“I really enjoyed this morning, the whole place to ourselves, ten holes, out nice and early had a few relatives over, my coach, friends and family so getting to walk the fairways with them and hitting shots on the Old Course in front of them was really special.
“This only happens at Walker Cup. At the Open the course is shut but it’s shut for 160 guys not ten! It’s really special, you’ll never get it like this again so anytime you are back here it is packed out with golfers so you have to really enjoy this.”
The 23-year-old NUIG student had hoped for some classic West of Ireland weather, but rather than a day spent in Salthill watching Galway, conditions are expected to be glorious with the course getting firmer throughout the week. On paper and on the forecast, the USA are heavy favourites but Nolan had a quiet confidence about him.
“It was quite green when we got over here but throughout the week with the good weather we have been having it’s nice for us it will be really nice links conditions at the weekend. I love this golf course, I love the history behind it, the double fairways and the double greens it’s just really, really good and the bunkers are to be avoided. I think we have a really good chance this week.”
One of four Irish on the team this week, fuelled by memories of the ‘Famous Five’ of eight years ago in Royal Lytham, Nolan had dreamed of an all-Irish four ball. It didn’t quite happen – but that won’t matter if Ireland’s ‘Fab Four’ can help GB&I to a first Walker Cup since 2015.
“We didn’t quite get the Irish four ball because we actually didn’t play a lot of four balls this week it was either threes or fives so you know it’s just so special to play with the guys who were your teammates all year and when you have the whole place to yourself you can just relax into it,” explained Nolan who could line out alongside Kilkenny’s Mark Power on Saturday morning after they were part of Friday morning’s five-ball and were in deep conversation with each other on some of the greens.
“Winning it and following them as the Fab Four would be the goal! Those guys in 2015 set the standard getting the win as well so hopefully we can help replicate that and the four Irish lads can be lifting the trophy on Sunday.”