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Liam Nolan talks about The Open opportunity

Paul Dunne held the 54-hole lead at The Open, the first time an amateur had led at that stage of the historic Major since Bobby Jones’ tournament in 1927, and Tom Nolan was watching with his son Cathal.

Next week Tom will return to Royal Troon, this time with his other son Liam, competing in the 2024 renewal of The Open. It will be a momentous occasion for the Galway family.

“I don’t know what my brother’s situation is yet because he’s in Australia but my dad and mum will be here. It’s a special week for them too,” Liam Nolan said.

“I grew up watching this. I fell in love with links golf from watching The Open. It drives me crazy that I get to play with the best players in my sport.

“I qualified at Dundonald, 15 minutes from Troon, and had a quick tour around the facilities there on the way back to the airport.

“The thing that really stood out to me was the big yellow leaderboard. That thing is huge. It’s crazy, that’s definitely what caught my eye. It would be great to see that and hopefully all goes according to plan, to be able to see my name up and around the top end of the field throughout the week.”

The 24-year-old, who grew up in the seaside town of Bearna, attended St Joseph’s ‘The Bish’ school in the city and later studied at Galway University before graduating earlier this year.

The athlete has been showing steady development in recent years and his success in 2023 is highlighted by big wins at the South American Amateur Open and the Brabazon Cup, followed by his performance at the Walker Cup in St Andrews.

Liam Nolan was pictured with his parents Tom, Edel and brother Cathal ahead of last year’s Walker Cup in St Andrews.

Having taken some time off at the start of the year to focus on his lessons and the fundamental mechanics of his swing, he made his eagerly awaited return at the Flogas Irish Men’s Amateur Open at Rosses’ Point in Sligo earlier this summer.

This led to an exciting final day battle with good friend and former US Mid-Amateur champion Matt McClean, and although Nolan didn’t make the most of his chances this time around, he did learn a lot on a tough links course.

“I learned a lot of positive things from Rosses’ Point,” Nolan said.

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

“Matt beat me. My coach, at the end of the day it’s a 72-hole tournament and Matt bet you two strokes. That’s just the truth but I couldn’t be happier with how I played and how I performed.

“I got a lot of confidence from that to continue throughout the season.”

Nolan’s game is perfect for links golf, highlighted by a 66 in the penultimate round of that week, which also included eleven birdies.

The player has recently had one of the best performances of his golf career, qualifying for The Open in Dundonald and setting a course record with a 65 at the European Amateur Championship in Denmark.

He is now focusing on representing Ireland again at the European Amateur Team Championships in Italy before returning to Scotland this week.

Logistics will play a major role during these two weeks, and while most golfers will be able to focus on their games, there are other factors at play for Nolan.

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

He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in September 2014, which means his pancreas does not produce insulin.

“I’m so used to the long weeks of golf. The only thing I would be conscious of going into The Open with my diabetes would be the adrenaline rush,” Nolan said.

“This can raise your blood sugar levels. It’s about being very conscious in high-pressure situations, making sure your blood sugar levels are under control so you can perform at your best.”

Nolan checks his blood sugar levels every hole while playing golf.

“I just check the monitor, it’s very easy. You open an app on your phone and it constantly reads your blood sugar levels,” Nolan said.

“It also gives an indication of which way your blood sugar is going. If it’s on its way down, you grab a banana or a Lucozade to level it out. You catch it before it becomes detrimental to the tour.”

Nolan had to quit some team sports as a teenager due to diabetes, but he continued to play basketball until he was 20.

He played as a shooting guard or small forward and won his school’s All-Ireland title with The Bish, playing alongside Irish international player James Connaire.

Nolan also has many connections with modern-day Galway football; he played alongside Paul Kelly and against Matthew Tierney, while Tomo Culhane is a regular player at Galway Golf Club.

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

Although Galway will travel this weekend to face Donegal in Croke Park, Nolan knows it would be a huge deal for the county to return to another All-Ireland final.

“I didn’t get a chance to watch the Dublin game but I saw the result and I was with Hugh Foley at the airport and there was a nice, friendly exchange of insults,” Nolan said.

“I’ll be flying from the Europeans to Dublin and then straight to Glasgow but I’m hoping I can catch some of the game, which is what a proud Galway player always wants, especially after beating Dublin. When Dublin go you’ve got a very good chance.”

The Nolan family are big supporters of Galway and also love golf, with Tom and Edel Nolan regularly hitting the fairways when Liam is playing in tournaments around Ireland and abroad.

Liam’s father, Tom, is a talented golfer and has previously worked with the likes of Eddie McCormack and Joe Lyons to help Galway win the AIG Senior Cup title, and encouraged Liam to take up the game.

“He could have started me on golf, but he never insisted that golf was the sport I was going to play,” Nolan said.

“I played all the sports when I was younger, and I don’t think he really cared which one I wanted to play the most. When I was 17 and 18, I was going back and forth between basketball and golf. No matter what I did, whether it was studying, golf or any other sport, as long as I worked hard, my dad was happy.

“He never steered me away from the path of golf. He would support me no matter what path I took in the sport. He definitely had a big impact on me.

“He’s still playing from scratch. He’s pretty good, tough enough to beat Galway any time.”

And it was on the same track where Liam Nolan honed his tools over the years, never hindering his shot despite breaking his left ankle three times.

“The ties were really there, and my golf game really improved after that,” Nolan said.

“I thought it would be better to stop playing basketball in case something like this happens again and I have to have surgery.

“When I swing I tend to pivot a little bit on my left foot because the balance and flexibility to stay in the same position the whole time is not really there.

“There’s probably a little bit more left-foot movement than you would typically see in the golf swing. I don’t really know any difference at this stage.”