Bellingham's Nolan gravitates to tennis, golf

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 29, 2014 

Bellingham’s Nick Nolan, left, yells after scoring a point against Lake Washington with teammate Connor Thompson on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, at Bellingham Tennis Club.

ANDY BRONSON — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

Bellingham's Nick Nolan could probably play any sport he wanted.

He has proven he is one of the best in the state at both tennis and golf, qualifying for both state tournaments in only his sophomore season, but Nolan has only played tennis and golf for three years.

He used to play football, basketball and baseball until his eighth grade year, when he threw those out and picked up tennis and golf. His decision to switch stemmed from his enjoyment of the sports.

"Basketball and baseball are very competitive and tense," Nolan said in a phone interview. "Golf is competitive but I can go out and relax. I can play my game and enjoy it. With tennis, too, you just have a good feeling playing the sport."

Nolan's rapid success in new sports, however, makes him a busy man for a few days. Nolan competed in the Class 2A State golf tournament on Wednesday, May 28, and Thursday, May 29, at Chambers Bay Golf Course in Tacoma.

He now travels to Seattle and meets up with Bellingham's tennis team Friday, May 30, at the Nordstrom Tennis Center, where he will compete with Connor Thompson in the Class 2A state doubles bracket.

"It's awesome," Nolan said. "I love both sports about equally so just getting to play them at the same time in a state tournament situation is amazing."

The reason for Nolan's quick rise to the top in tennis and golf is hard to describe, but as Bellingham tennis coach Steve Chronister put it, "He just had a knack for it."

Nolan's dad, Darin, pointed to Nolan's incredible hand-eye coordination as the key to picking up any sport.

"You don't see many kids come along that have that ability," Darin, who is a physical education teacher at Bellingham High School, said in a phone interview.

Nolan is also a great "thinker," Chronister said. He is able to use the tools he gained from golf and transfer them to tennis and vice versa.

On the course, Nolan is able to think through his round and how to go about it. On the court, he is able to stay composed and plan his attack, Chronister said.

"Anytime you're in a competitive situation, you have to handle things mentally," Chronister said. "He is used to being in pressure situations and he's able to break things down."

Nolan's incredible physical and mental gifts didn't mean the success came without effort though. Nolan practiced a lot at each sport, attempting to split time equally between the two.

In golf's offseason, he would play on his own at Sudden Valley Golf Course.

When spring came around, Nolan would squeeze in tennis practice in between golf matches.

"It's been quite tough," Nolan said. "I found that it's a lot more difficult than I thought just because of the time it takes to practice. ... School comes first, but in these situations, I want to put as much time as I can into the sport."

What helps Nolan is his ability to learn things quickly and mirror things showed to him, Chronister said.

Chronister saw the "upside" in Nolan during his freshman year, when Nolan was still on the JV team and as Nolan has grown, he just keeps getting better.

"Some people aren't able to do certain things, but Nick is able to do anything with practice," Chronister said. "He's on the right road in everything."

If that happens to lead to college opportunities for him, Nolan says he would happily jump on the chance to do something he loves at the next level.

For now, Nolan has too much on his mind to worry about the future. He'd rather live in the moment of playing two state tournaments spanning just four days in two sports.

Reach Joshua Hart by email at joshua.hart@bellinghamherald.com or by phone at 360-715-2851.

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