Liam Nolan proudly holds the Brabazon Trophy after his play-off victory at Sunningdale Golf Club.
Liam Nolan was rendered speechless after he defeated Zach Little in a thrilling three-hole play-off to win the 2023 Brabazon Trophy
The 23-year old Irishman, playing out of Galway Golf Club, had nerves of steel and his calm and composed nature helped him to a stunning up and down shot on the final play-off to clinch the victory.
The end result was a harsh one on 18-year-old Little whose phenomenal final round of 63 had forced the play-off but the talents he displayed at Sunningdale Golf Club leave it in no doubt that he has a bright future in the game.
When all is said and done though, the famous Brabazon Trophy is heading back to the Emerald Isle as Nolan becomes the first Irishman to win the competition since Cormac Sharvin at Notts (Hollinwell) back in 2015.
Speaking straight after the presentation, Nolan was struggling to comprehend the magnitude of his achievement but was quick to thank everyone who has helped get his amateur career to this point.
Nolan said: "It's still pretty hard to express my emotions because it's all new but I'm just delighted to have this trophy. I'm about to look at some of the names on it now and I know I'm going to be pleased to be putting my name there as well.
"The name and the history of Sunningdale Golf Club makes it one of the coolest places to win a golf tournament. There have been a lot of really good winners here in the past and to put my name on this trophy is amazing.
"To share a moment with people who have been with you through thick and thin, espcially my mum and dad, they've seen all the ups and downs so we'll definitely treasure this moment for a long time.
"The Golf Ireland guys are my best friends so it's special to have them here this week and to have them following me for most of the round today and cheering me on through good and bad shots was amazing.
"I'm going to Spain next week for a bit of a break before we have a long schedule of tournaments coming up so I'm just going to relax, play a bit of golf and think about what I've achieved this week."
As had been the case all week, the day's play took place in beautiful sunshine and it soon became apparent that lower scores were being put in throughout the field as Loic Naas (65), Matthew McClean (66), James Claridge (67) and Jake Plumb (67) all recorded impressive rounds.
None of those compared to Little's incredible bogey-less round of 63 which included birdies on 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 13 as he made a charge to the top of the leaderboard and installed himself as the clubhouse leader midway through the afternoon.
Both Claridge and Plumb made valiant attempts to match Little's target but fell short, meaning it was left to Nolan, playing as part of the final group to try and become the only man who could stop the youngster's tilt for the title.
The Irishman made his way up the 18th fairway knowing that only a birdie was good enough to force a play-off and his second shot on the par 5 left him at the back of the green on a slight slope.
Nolan judged his pitch to perfection though and left himself a comfortable putt for birdie, much to the delight of an expectant crowd who knew they were about to see a terrific play-off between two in-form players.
Little and Nolan didn't disappoint and having both found the back of the green on the first play-off hole, they agonisingly missed birdie putts by a matter of inches to ensure a second hole was needed.
Nolan repeated his trick from his regulation round as he chipped beautifully from the back of the green to within inches of the hole, forcing Little to sink a pressure putt from eight feet to extend the contest.
Nerves was palpable amongst the crowd and in both players but their play continued to make a mockery of the pressurised situation they were in as the crowd continued to swell.
Nolan put yet another outstanding pitch to within touching distance of the hole and unfortunately for Little, his six-foot putt caught the lip of the hole and drifted on to give the Irishman an opportunity for victory.
The Galway man tapped in his putt to huge cheers from the gathered crowd to ensure he would be the newest name on the famous old Brabazon Trophy and a thoroughly deserving 2023 champion.
There was a consolation prize for West Herts golfer Little as he took home the George Henriques Salver – awarded to the leading GB&I player aged under 20 – for his outstanding 72-hole score of -3.
The 2024 Brabazon Trophy will be staged at Notts (Hollinwell) Golf Club from 23-26 May.
Photography credit: Leaderboard Photography