NoraNoel Nolan and her dad took on the Connecticut Women’s Open Championship together. All things considered, they did pretty well.
For the 2017 Wilton High graduate and golfing star, who recently transferred from Sacred Heart to Palm Beach Atlantic University, this was a comeback. She did not expect to win at Innis Arden Golf Club last week. She was just happy to be competing again — and to be competing on legs that didn’t hurt or keep her from walking.
“She struck the ball beautifully today,” said her father and swing coach Gerard, after NoraNoel’s opening round of 87. “The chipping and putting was a little rusty, after what she’s been through, but we can work on that.”
For most of the past year NoraNoel, 18, has been sidelined by leg injuries that made walking, much less playing golf, a struggle. What was first diagnosed as inflammation of a tendon in her left foot, and finally discovered to be a kind of spinal arthritis that affected both her feet and knees, has made the sport she loves a painful endeavor. She endured a week in the hospital and for a while had to walk with a boot. Doctors discovered the arthritis when the pain and inflammation that plagued her left foot last year spread to her right knee. For a tall, powerful player like NoraNoel — she didn’t have to hit a driver at all during her first round Tuesday — leg problems were a killer and the diagnosis was a relief.
“They told me to make me feel better, I guess, ‘You have what Phil Mickelson has,’” said NoraNoel, who after a history-making high school career won the prestigious Borck Junior Golf Tournament last year before her problems developed. “But it’s much better now. I’m still not able to put a lot of pressure on [the left foot], but it’s getting there.” “That’s why we took a cart today,” said Gerard. “I just wanted to make sure she was mainly just walking from the cart to her ball.” She shot 86 in round two, one better than the day before. On several occasions NoraNoel hit approach shots too far, a good sign, they said, because it meant she was no longer compensating for her injury and losing distance. “I’ll have to adjust to that,” she said.
NoraNoel learned her golf game from her father, a native of Ireland who didn’t take up the sport himself until he was in his 30s. The family moved to Wilton in 2002.
“He really knows his stuff,” said NoraNoel beaming. “He’s coached me so well.”
Which is not to say that team Nolan hasn’t had to make a few adjustments in their father-daughter partnership. “We’ve kind of come to a meeting of the minds,” Dad said. “At first he talked a little too much,” daughter said. “You know that old thing about caddies: They’re supposed to keep up, stay up, shut up.” They both laughed.
“You’ve learned so much, “ said her dad.
Special to The Bulletin