Friday, May 24, 2024

Sensational finish puts Nolan on the cusp of special Sligo win – Irish Golfer Magazine

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Liam Nolan admits it would mean a lot to win a maiden Irish title at County Sligo Golf Club after he edged the battle of the Walker Cuppers with a sprint finish to roar four shots clear heading into the final round of the Flogas Irish Men’s Amateur Open Championship.

As the wind dropped late in the day, Nolan took full advantage as he closed out his round with three successive birdies to card a 66 and move four clear of his Walker Cup teammate Matthew McClean on thirteen-under-par.

“I just kept my head down out there,” said Nolan who carded a whopping ten birdies. “I wasn’t really thinking about any leads. I didn’t know what Matt was I just tried to hit good golf shots coming in and I ended up holing some nice putts. Delighted with that and need another one tomorrow.”

Ahead of McClean by one standing on the 16th tee, Nolan took dead aim to the par-3 and rolled in a 10-foot putt for birdie, he went close from distance on 17 and converted the birdie before a wedge to seven feet was drained for an outstanding finish.

“The does tend to drop late on, it did that yesterday and it was forecast to do the same today but I personally don’t trust forecasts around links golf courses. We saw the wind dropped and I was able to hit my numbers and take dead aim”

The Galway man has made a mockery of his 25/1 bookies odds thus far as he looks to banish the ghosts of the 2022 West of Ireland final at this very venue by winning his maiden Irish championship.

The 24-year-old didn’t card his first par until the par-4 10th but managed to play the front nine in 34 strokes.

A double bogey six was the worst possible start as he gave McClean the early advantage but he rallied with back-to-back birdies. He showed his powers of recovery once again when he followed up a bogey on the par-3 4th with three birdies in a row as he hit the front and reached double figures under par.

A cheap bogey from the middle of the 8th fairway saw him level with McClean again but he holed a long range birdie putt on the ninth to turn in front again.

“Started off with a double bogey got a flier out of the rough and went over the wall on the first,” Nolan explained. “After that I was determined to start again, hit some good shots and bounced back from that. I wasn’t counting how many birdies or when my first par was I just wanted to get back into it after the first.”

McClean, who carded a steady round of 70 to reach nine-under, kept pace with Nolan for the majority of the day.

He fell two shots off the pace with a bogey on the 10th but remained in touch with birdies on 12 and 13 to get back to -10 while Nolan edged to -11 with a birdie on 12.

The scores were tied again when Nolan dropped a shot on 14 but a par on the next was enough to see him edge ahead by the minimum as McClean bogeyed in the breeze as the temperatures dropped.

McClean put on a fine finish of his own, coming home with three straight pars, including a miraculous approach to 17 from the valley, but he was upstaged by Nolan who is on the cusp of a special home win.

“It would mean a lot, being from Connacht and Ireland you always want an Irish title and there’s a lot of golf still to be played and I’m just going to keep my head down tomorrow and see where I am on the 18th green,” said Nolan who was eager for an early night.

Nolan and McClean look set for a Sunday shootout as they separated themselves from the field.

Perched in third place is County Louth schoolboy Gavin Tiernan on six-under-par after a third round of 70 and at seven shots back will need something special tomorrow.

It’s a new experience for the Ireland Boys international but he is relishing the prospect of chasing down the lead with thoughts of the leaving cert far from his mind.

“I’ve really enjoyed it, trying to embrace the challenge, I feel like I’m good enough to win and to beat these lads. Believing it is one thing, but doing it is another so nice to be able to back that up.”

Welshman Tom Matthews is four-under-par while Joe O’Neill of Berehaven is a shot further back.

West of Ireland winner Keith Egan and Junior Ryder Cup star Sean Keeling are in the group on two-under while Gregor Tait of Scotland rounds off the under par scores in 11th place.

The cut fell at eight-over-par.

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