After busy summer, Nolan ready for move to D1 golf
In the few months that divided a history-making career at Wilton High School and a move up to Division 1 golf at Sacred Heart University, NoraNoël Nolan made this summer one to remember.
The recent WHS grad kept a busy schedule on the links, taking home several prestigious tournament titles and sending herself off to college with a good deal of confidence.
“It was a really great experience this summer. I played some really good golf and I really learned so much,” said Nolan. “I have been playing pretty solid.”
She was coming off another milestone-setting season for the Wilton High girls golf team, where she had been a four-year starter.
This past spring she became the first Warrior to make the all-state and all-New England girls golf teams. She had been the program's first all-FCIAC pick in 2016 — an honor she repeated in 2017.
Nolan was third at the FCIAC championships and sixth at both the state and New England championships.
At the end of the school year, she was a recipient of the 19th Arthur J. Wall Jr. Scholarship, which recognizes a male and female WHS student who exhibits an active and consistent role in community service as well as having strong athletic participation, dedication to academics and exemplary character.
Shortly after the end of school, in late June, Nolan was one of 22 junior golfers from 15 communities in the state who were awarded scholarships at The Kennedy Center 26th Annual Charity Golf Classic at Shorehaven Golf Club in Norwalk. Selection was based upon academic achievement, school and community leadership, and golf proficiency.
The tournament raised more than $40,000 for underfunded programs provided by The Kennedy Center for people with disabilities.
July brought even bigger events.
Nolan played in the 52nd Connecticut Women’s Amateur, her first time playing the event, which was held at Manchester Country Club on July 17-19. She finished with a 54-hole score of 165 to wind up 14th out of a field of 31, and second among junior golfers.
In the second round, she carded a 77 — which was the third-lowest score of the day — on the 5,826-yard, par-72 course. Going into the final round she was only four strokes behind the leader in the junior standings, high school state champ Sarah Houle of Newtown.
“That gave me some motivation for next season,” said Nolan.
Another highlight came two weeks later, when Nolan captured the CWGA Juniors Championship, held at Shuttle Meadow Country Club in Berlin on July 31-Aug. 1.
Nolan won the 36-hole event with a score of 165. She had trailed the leader by a stroke after one round but scored an 80 on day two to win the title by six strokes.
“It was an honor to win that because there are some pretty special names on that trophy,” she said.
The most memorable win of the summer came on Aug. 7-9 when Nolan captured the championship of the 48th Annual Borck Tournament at Shorehaven Golf Club.
It was special since this was the third and final time Nolan would play in the prestigious junior tourney, and because it was played on her home course of Shorehaven.
The tourney is held every summer in memory of Jay Borck, a young golfer who died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1968 at the age of 16. It consists of 18 holes of stroke play, followed by three rounds of match play.
In her first appearance at the event, Nolan had been eliminated in the first round of match play. Last year, she didn’t even qualify for match play.
This year was the first time Shorehaven has hosted the Borck tournament.
“I really was determined to win it this year,” she said. “I’m the fifth-generation of my family at the club. It’s like my home.”
This year’s girls tournament drew a field of 21 golfers. Conditions weren’t the best for the 18 holes of stroke play, held on Monday, Aug. 7, in a pouring rain.
That didn’t seem to bother Nolan, however.
“I was playing lights-out. I love playing in the rain,” she said.
The end result was the lowest round of her life, as she carded a 73 to best her closest competitor by nine strokes. After nine holes she was two-under-par and on course to break the course record, she said.
The first two rounds of match play were held on Tuesday, Aug. 8. Nolan beat New Canaan sisters Molly Mitchell, 8 & 6, and Meghan Mitchell, 7 & 6, who both play out of Oronoque Country Club.
In the finals on Wednesday, Aug. 9, Nolan went up against Elizabeth Garfield of Greenwich (Tashua Knolls), who had reached the finals before but never won the event. So Nolan knew her opponent would be very motivated.
“I knew she really wanted to win but I had a lot of confidence and felt really good,” she said.
Nolan came out strong, winning the first three holes to take a quick lead. She never looked back, winning the match, 5 & 3.
She is the first Shorehaven golfer to win the Borck tournament.
“It was so great to win the tourney because I have such a passion and love for for golf, like Jay (Borck) did,” she said.
In addition to the annual golf tournament, the Borck Family Foundation funds the Borck Memorial scholarship, which is awarded to deserving students who have shown good citizenship and an affiliation with the game of golf.
At a luncheon before the finals on Aug. 9, Nolan and Garfield, and the two boys finalists, were taken into a nearby room to receive a call of support from PGA Tour pro J.J. Henry, a former Fairfield resident who won the Borck tournament twice back in the 90s.
Before she heads off to college at the end of August, Nolan had several more tournaments to close out the summer. She successfully defended her Junior championship at Shorehaven Golf Club and also recently captured the ladies club championship at Ocean Edge Resort and Golf Club on Cape Cod.
Her final tourney was to be last week — the Shorehaven ladies championship — but Nolan was doubtful due to a foot injury. Last year, she was second at the club championship as a 16-year-old.
After that Nolan is off to Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, where she will play on the women’s golf team.
The Pioneers are an up-and-coming D1 program that last spring competed in the NCAA Division I Women's Golf Regionals for the first time.
Sacred Heart finished the 2016-17 season with five first-place finishes, including the program's first-ever Northeast Conference title.
Nolan said she could have picked a school where she could have been one of the team’s better golfers, but chose Sacred Heart because it gave her the most opportunity to improve as a golfer.
“I decided I probably wanted to be somewhere in the middle of the pack. It gives me motivation to be a better golfer. It will help me elevate my game,” she said.
Up until her sophomore year of high school, Nolan never thought of playing in college, as she was still splitting her focus between golf and swimming. So it’s amazing to her to see how far she’s come — and how far her golf journey still has to go.
“I’m really excited. I’ve had some great mentors. Stuart Waack, my high school coach, if it wasn’t for him I don’t think I’d be turning the page for the next chapter. He saw my potential when no one else saw potential, except my dad,” she said. “I’m excited that I’ll get to be part of a team of really great girl golfers from all around the world. I’m really pumped up.”