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Liam Nolan looks to his mental game as Open dream becomes a reality – News – Irish Golf Desk

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Galway’s Liam Nolan still can’t believe he’s qualified for The Open, but he insists that the mental game will be the secret to getting the most out of his dream week at Royal Troon.

The Connacht man (24) finished a brilliant tied second in Final Qualifying at Dundonald Links on Tuesday to earn his spot in the game’s oldest major and he’s glad he’ll have his coach and mentor Kenny Fahey on his bag.

“I have to thank my coach Kenny Fahey for the work he has done on my head for sure,” said Nolan, who has been working with the GUI National Academy head professional and fellow Galway man since he was a teenager.

“He is my swing coach, and while I might be very picky on my technical game, by the time I get to Kenny, it’s more about what’s going on between the years.

“Kenny is actually going to caddie, which is pretty awesome because he’s done it a couple of times already, and he’s amazing at it, so it will be nice to have him on the bag again.”

Nolan enjoyed a stellar 2023, winning the South American Amateur Championship and the Brabazon Trophy before earning a Walker Cup call-up at St Andrews and attributes his recent success to his strong mental game.

“I’ve focussed on small gains, especially in my technique,” he said. But the big thing for me is my mental game has improved dramatically over the last three or four years.

“It’s been better every year, and it’s at its best this year when it comes to managing expectations, staying patient, and not letting the bad shots affect you, just moving on to the next one.

“Short-term memory. That’s what I’ve been working on the most, along with technical improvements.”

Having finished his Biomedical Engineering degree at the University of Galway and put away the books, he’s looking forward to following in the footsteps of Christy O’Connor and his nephew Christy O’Connor Jnr in The Open and seeing how his game compares to the world’s best before he turns professional at the end of August.

“I’ve just been thinking about how cool it is to be playing with the best players in the world,” said Nolan, who only got home from Scotland at 3 am today and spent his morning replying to messages and looking into accommodation options for Troon.

“It’s crazy because it’s literally the pinnacle of golf. It’s mad to think about it.”

While Paul Dunne held a share of the lead in The Open as an amateur at St Andrews in 2015, Nolan has set himself the goal of enjoying the experience as much as possible and giving it 100 pc.

“I am just going to finish off the year playing the amateur circuit and then turn pro at the end of August,” added the Galway native, who is no stranger to sporting success at home as his father Tom was an All-Ireland winning hurler with Galway in 1988.

“Honestly,  going to the Open will be the best test in terms of where my game is compared to the best players in the world. I am really looking forward to moving on with my golf career and taking it to the next level.

“We play a lot of links every year, and I’m getting better and better at it with each tournament I play, so I’m really looking forward to Troon.

“I will just try to hit as many fairways as possible because the less time you are looking for your golf ball, the better. I am looking forward to getting over there now and just giving it a go.”

Nolan has a bucket list of big names he’d love to play a practice round with and while Tiger Woods might be a difficult get, he’d give anything for some time with Tom McKibbin or Open champions Rory McIlroy, Pádraig Harrington, Shane Lowry, or Darren Clarke.

“To be able to play with the Irish greats of the game would be a dream come true before the tournament starts,” said Nolan, who heads to Italy this weekend to play for Ireland in next week’s European Amateur Team Championships.

“Irish players and amateurs have a great history playing big, tough golf courses, so hopefully, I can go over there with my game in a good place.”

Winning gold in Turin next week is one of his big goals, but after The Open, he’s keen to add an Irish amateur “major” to his CV.

“I am going to play the Irish Close in Dun Laoghaire in August, and I’d love to win an Irish championship before I turn pro,” he said.

“I played Cups and Shields there last year, and Dun Laoghaire was awesome. I was blown away by it.”

McKibbin never won an Irish men’s championship during his amateur career, but like the Newtownabbey talent at last month’s US Open, Nolan hopes The Open will show him where he needs to improve.

“I’m similar to Tom in that I just really want to compare and contrast my game with the best in the world and enjoy the week and embrace the competition and just go for it,” he said.  

“You’re given this amazing opportunity to play one of the biggest tournaments in our sport, so I just want to enjoy the week.”

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