Liam Nolan talks The Open opportunity

Irish Golfer

Liam Nolan pictured after his win in the Brabazon Trophy in Sunningdale. Photo: David Lloyd / Golffile.

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Paul Dunne held the 54-hole lead at The Open, it was the first time an amateur was out in front at that stage of this historic Major since Bobby Jones in 1927, and Tom Nolan was watching on along with his son, Cathal.

Next week Tom will make the journey back, this time to Royal Troon with his other son Liam, who is competing in the 2024 renewal of The Open. It will be a moment in time for the Galway family.

“I don’t know what my brother’s situation is yet because he is in Australia but Dad and Mom are going to be over. It’s a special week for them as well,” said Liam Nolan.

“I grew up watching it. I loved links golf from watching The Open. It’s mad I am going to be teeing it up with the best players in the sport I play.

“I qualified in Dundonald, which is 15 minutes away from Troon, and on the way back to the airport I had a quick drive around the facility down there.

“The thing that stood out for me was the really big yellow leaderboard that they have. That thing is huge. It is insane, that definitely was the thing that caught my eye for sure. Just seeing that and hopefully all going to plan, being able to see my name on it up and around the higher end of the field for the week would be awesome.”

The 24-year-old grew up in coastal village of Bearna, he went to school at St Joseph’s ‘The Bish’ in the city and then studied at University of Galway before he graduated earlier this year.

His progress has been steady in recent years with 2023 illuminated by some huge wins in the South American Amateur Open and Brabazon Trophy before a Walker Cup appearance at St Andrews.

Liam Nolan pictured with his family; Tom, Edel and brother Cathal, before the Walker Cup at St Andrews last year.

He took some time to focus on his studies but also the core mechanics of his swing over the turn of the year and made his much anticipated return when the Flogas Irish Men’s Amateur Open went to Rosses’ Point in Sligo earlier this summer.

That culminated in a thrilling final day battle with good friend, and former US Mid-Amateur champion, Matt McClean. And while Nolan failed to make his chance pay on this occasion he learned plenty on a difficult links course.

“I took a lot of positives from Rosses’ Point,” said Nolan.

“I didn’t win, which was tough at the time, but the best thing you can do is just look at the positives. I played some really really good golf for the four days up there.

“Matt just beat me. My coach was like, at the end of the day it’s a 72-hole tournament and Matt bet you by two shots. That’s just the reality but I can be very happy with how I played and how I performed.

“I took a lot of confidence from it to go on and push on through the season.”

Nolan’s game is tailor-made for links golf, as emphasised by the stunning 66 in the penultimate round that week, a round which included ten birdies.

He has played some of his best golf recently too, along with his performance that led to qualification for The Open at Dundonald and his course record 65 in the European Amateur Championship in Denmark.

This week he is focusing on representing Ireland again at the European Amateur Team Championship in Italy before his return to Scotland.

Logistics will play a big part over these two weeks and while most golfers will be able to focus on their games there are more factors at play for Nolan.

Liam Nolan made ten birdies on the penultimate day of action in County Sligo this year. Photo: David Lloyd / Golffile.

He was diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic in September 2014, this means his pancreas doesn’t produce insulin.

“I am very used to the long weeks of golf. The only thing that I am conscious about going to The Open with the diabetes would be the heightened adrenaline,” said Nolan.

“That can send your blood sugar levels high. It is just about being very conscious in those high pressure situations, making sure your blood sugar levels are in check so you can perform your best.”

In a round of golf Nolan will typically check his blood sugar levels on every hole.

“I just check the monitor, it’s so easy, you open up an app on your phone and it’s just consistently reading your blood sugar levels,” said Nolan.

“It gives you an indication of what direction your blood sugar is going as well. If it is on the way down you have a banana or Lucozade to flatten it off. You catch it before it becomes detrimental to the round.”

Having diabetes meant that Nolan had to give up some team sports when he was younger but he kept playing basketball until he was 20.

He was a shooting guard or small forward and he won school’s All-Ireland titles with The Bish where he played alongside Ireland international James Connaire.

Nolan has plenty of links with the current Galway football setup too, he played with Paul Kelly and against Matthew Tierney, while Tomo Culhane is a regular at Galway Golf Club.

Liam Nolan (third from right) pictured with the rest of the Irish team at the European Amateur Team Championship this week.

And although Nolan may be travelling this weekend when Galway face Donegal in Croke Park, he knows it would be massive for the county to return to another All-Ireland final.

“I didn’t get a chance to watch the Dublin match but I saw the result and I was in the airport with Hugh Foley, there was a nice friendly amount of slagging there,” said Nolan.

“I will be flying from Europeans back to Dublin and then straight to Glasgow but I hope I can catch a bit of the match for sure, a proud Galway man would always want to especially after beating Dublin. You have such a good chance when Dublin are gone.”

The Nolan family are huge Galway supporters but they love their golf too, and along with Tom, Edel Nolan will also regularly frequent the fairways when Liam is playing in his tournaments all around Ireland and abroad.

Liam’s father, Tom, is an accomplished golfer and previously teamed up with the likes of Eddie McCormack and Joe Lyons to help Galway secure an AIG Senior Cup title. And he inspired Liam to join the game.

“He would have started me off in golf but he was never persistent that golf would be the sport that I play,” said Nolan.

“I played all sports as a young fella and I don’t think he really minded which one I wanted to play the most. I was bouncing between basketball and golf when I was 17 and 18. As long as I worked hard at whatever I did, whether it be studying or golf or any other sport, dad was happy.

“He never pushed me down the golf road by any means. He would have supported me in whatever route I took in sport. He was definitely a great influence on me.

“He is still playing off scratch. He is pretty good, he is tough enough to beat around Galway all the time.”

And it was around that same track that Liam Nolan sharpened his tools over the years, not allowing three breaks of his left ankle to stop his swing.

“The ligaments are non-existent really and then my golf game really developed,” said Nolan.

“I thought it would be better to just stop playing the basketball in case something like that happened again and resulted in surgery.

“When I swing I tend to spin on my left foot a bit because the stability and flexibility isn’t really there to be staying in the same position all the time.

“There is probably a bit more left foot movement than you’d see typically in a golf swing. I just don’t really know any difference at this stage.”

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