ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND | With his infectious enthusiasm and striking smile, Irishman Liam Nolan was on cloud nine before a ball even had been struck at the start of Walker Cup week in St Andrews.
For two years, since the previous meeting between the American and the Great Britain and Ireland sides at Seminole Golf Club in Florida, Nolan had bookmarked 2-3 September 2023 in his diary as a cherished target. When the call came, simply making the GB&I side delivered huge satisfaction.
“It’s incredible to be here,” said Nolan, who won the Brabazon Trophy (English Men’s Open Amateur Stroke Play) in May and sustained his form thereafter. “The last two years of golf has really just been trying to get here. There has been that pressure. Getting the call three weeks ago was amazing and also a lot of relief as well.”
“Every time you come here you feel like you learn something new about the course,” he said. “There are such a variety of ways you can play it. ..."
St Andrews has become a home from home for the 23-year-old from Galway. He was part of GB&I training sessions twice this year at the home of golf under the captaincy of Stuart Wilson, preparing for the countdown to the 49th staging of the match. His love for the Old Course, a venue which he also has played in the annual St Andrews Links Trophy on the amateur circuit, has only increased.
“Every time you come here you feel like you learn something new about the course,” he said. “There are such a variety of ways you can play it, especially around the greens. I’ve played it so many times now. I love the tee shots, especially; they really suit my eye. I’m getting used to the greens more and more every time I play it.”
Nolan, who was supported by members travelling over from Galway Golf Club, added, “Playing in front of the crowds at the home of golf, there’s no better place for it. All of us in the team play so much links golf. We either grew up on links golf or play it all year long, really.”
For Nolan, the week was also about going back to the future, playing the alternate-format style of golf that was part of his upbringing in Ireland’s west coast.
“I started playing foursomes around 14, playing smaller tournaments in Ireland,” he said. “If you get on well with your partner – and there are a lot of guys in this team I get on really well with – that’s the main challenge, really.”
Nolan, who also won the South American Amateur Championship in Ecuador in January, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 14 and manages his body well to continue to perform at the highest levels of the amateur game.
“It was tough initially but no more than any illness you might get, and you just learn to live with it,” he said. “Playing golf really helps it. Being active constantly really helps your blood-sugar levels to be consistent. I live with it, get on with it and enjoying my golf is the main thing.
“You need to know how many carbohydrates you are eating, exactly how many grams, and how much insulin you have to take. You’ve just got to know your own body, be careful in what you are eating and how you monitor it.
“There were quite a few limitations at the start, initially, after getting the diagnosis. But once you get to know your own body, you get more comfortable.”
For Nolan, being comfortable in St Andrews last week was an easy task. It’s a week he will never forget.
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