Nolan’s fighting spirit earns him consolation tour

BRAY’S Keith Nolan has revived his professional golfing career on the back of a fighting performance in the US Tour School that ended yesterday with the sixth and final round over the PGA West and Jack Nicklaus Tour courses in Florida.

The 33-year-old, former Irish amateur champion effectively spoiled his chance of reclaiming his card on the regular PGA Tour by running up a four over par 76 in the fifth and penultimate round on Sunday. Only the top 30 and ties qualified but the next 50 clinched their places on the secondary Nationwide Tour for 2007. With this aim in mind, Nolan stuck gamely to his task and a closing 71 for a five under par total put him into a tie for 46th and well within the cut-off mark.

“It could have been a whole lot better for I missed the main tour by a mere two shots but at least I now have something to look forward to in the near year,” said the former East Tennessee State student who turned professional in 1997 and has concentrated almost exclusively on the US ever since. In spite of a number of highly promising performances — including three top 10 finishes — life on tour has been something of a struggle for the Wicklowman whose official earnings amount to as little as $121, 736. Still, he has good reason to be satisfied with developments at the tour school given that he got into only four Nationwide events in 2006 and made the paltry sum of $1, 875.

Nolan’s closing 71 contained a potentially disastrous double bogey seven at the 16th but he hit back with an admirable two (his fifth birdie of the day) at the short 17th and then parred the 18th. His fifth round 76 included five bogeys and just one birdie but Keith also showed what he was capable of with a flawless 68 in the fourth and a 67 in the third when he carded six birdies and two bogeys.

Fascinatingly, George McNeill, who led the tour school by five shots with a total of 23 under par, finished no better than 273rd on this year’s Nationwide Tour, three spots behind Nolan! Furthermore, Brett Wetterich came 10th at the school 12 months ago and went on to enjoy a great campaign on the regular circuit in ‘06 culminating with his place on the US Ryder Cup team Top European at the school was Sweden’s Anders Hansen who tied for 4th on 15 under.

The German Alex Cejka also came through in a share of 22nd but for a number of other high profile golfers it will be the Nationwide Tour. Holland’s Maarten Lafeber will almost certainly concentrate on his domestic circuit having finished on four under, four behind McNeill, and on the same mark as US Tour winners Duffy Waldorf, Bob Burns and Skip Kendall.

Worse again, among those to finish outside the top 70 were two times US Open champion Lee Janzen and former US Amateur champion Ricky Barnes who only two years ago was being heralded as the next Tiger Woods! Chris Riley, who will forever be remembered as the man who claimed he was “too tired” to play in the afternoon of the second day of the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills, again demonstrated an apparent lack of fighting spirit by calling it a day after 54 holes and Bubba Dickerson, a long hitter, and another tournament winner, Jose Coceres, quit after five and four round respectively.

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