Bellingham junior golfer Nick Nolan is a bit of a perfectionist. Every part of his game he tweaks and works on in a constant effort to make it better.
In golf, perfection is near-impossible. Professional golfers such as Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam have suggested that a birdie on every hole is possible. But nobody has
ever come close.
Nolan knows that fact all too well, which is why golf can be a tough game for the perfectionist.
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“In golf, it’s highly unlikely you can be perfect. I don’t think it’s possible,” Nolan said in a phone interview. “You can hit a perfect shot, you can strive to be perfect,
but the odds of being perfect are very slim.”
That ever-present drive toward perfection is what makes the sport so entertaining, though. It’s also what made Nolan The Bellingham Herald’s 2015 All-Whatcom County Boys’
Golfer of the Year.
“Practicing golf is one of the most fun things I can do,” Nolan said. “I’ve developed a passion for the game and am always going to try to get better. I’m never doing
everything perfect, but I can get as confident as I can in each part of my game.”
All that effort in practice paid off for the junior on the final day of the high school season.
Trailing by 6 strokes going into the second round of the Class 2A State Tournament, Nolan shot a course-record 64, kickstarted by a hole-out from the fairway to eagle No.
The round was as close to perfect as you can get and made all the more impressive by coach David Bobillot’s notion that he still left a stroke or two out on the course.
It was the lowest round Nolan’s ever shot and the best score Bobillot has seen in his coaching career.
“You could see he had the look in his eyes,” Bobillot said in a phone interview. “People were talking like ‘Wow this is some round. He looks like a tour player.’ It was
just amazing. I’ve never been on the golf course when someone hit the course record.”
He still finished in second, 3 strokes shy of a state title, something he’ll chase again in his senior season, but for that round along with his league-best 70.2 scoring
average, Nolan was hard to overlook this spring.
While Nolan has few weak points in his game, a new putting grip paved the way for the junior to have such a successful season.
Nolan switched from a standard grip to a cross-handed grip, which is becoming more popular in golf and something Nolan picked up while watching PGA players like Jordan
“I was interested in how it would roll, so I started practicing and felt like it was something I could put in play,” Nolan said. “It was pretty uncomfortable at first, but
once I got used to the feeling, I was rolling the ball firmer and straighter instead of errant putts.”
It certainly helped Nolan during his record-setting day, when he drilled putts from 15 to 20 feet all day long.
His mental game also was something behind the junior’s improvements.
“Something about Nick is he doesn’t worry about what other people are doing,” Bobillot said. “He plays his game against the golf course and tries to shoot the best possible
score. It’s a great attitude to have.”
So while it seemed like Nolan and Lynden’s Ezra Arneson were in a constant battle for medalist honors in tournaments and the best scoring average in the Northwest
Conference, it was just a friendly competition.
“Ezra is a great friend of mine. We go out there and play together and have a good time. I didn’t think about how he was playing,” Nolan said. “However it ended, we’d still
be happy for each other. It’s great to be able to compete with a best friend. Hopefully next year we’ll get to do the same thing.”
Next season should be another epic battle between the two, as Arneson finished fifth at state this season. Both will see each other plenty over the summer, as they often go
out and play with each other as well as compete in tournaments.
Once fall comes around, though, Nolan will shift his focus to tennis, something he skipped this season to focus on his golf game after having success on the courts his
“I’m thinking about it,” Nolan said. “I think with where I’m at with golf and there’s not very many tourneys in the fall, I’ll go out and play tennis. Not take it as
seriously, but still have fun. It’s good exercise, and it’s my last year of high school. There’s not much time left to enjoy it.”
Coach Bobillot believes it may even lead to better results.
“Tennis will be a good release for him,” Bobillot said. “I like to see athletes do cross country or tennis. It gives them something a little different.”
Either way, Nolan will still be found tweaking his golf game in his spare time.
Perfection may be near impossible, but if it’s within reach, it takes practice.
GOLFER OF THE YEAR NICK NOLAN
What he did: Shot a course-record 64 on the second day of the Class 2A State Championships, to pull within 3strokes of the winner and take second place with a two-day total of 72-64-136. ... Improved on an 11th-place finish in last year’s state tourney. ... Led the Northwest Conference in stroke average with a 70.2, one of only two golfers to average below par. ... Helped Bellingham to a fifth-place team finish at state. ... Named NWC Player of the Year.
Golfers of the Years
For the 10th year, the Bellingham Herald is proud to celebrate Whatcom County high school student athletes with its All-Whatcom County teams. A look back at the athletes selected All-Whatcom County Boys’ Golfer of the Year:
2006: Matt Rawitzer, Squalicum
2007: Matt Rawitzer, Squalicum
2008: Matt Rawitzer, Squalicum
2009: Matt Rawitzer, Squalicum
2010: James Hiester, Bellingham
2011: Ryan Wallen, Blaine
2012: Ryan Wallen, Blaine
2013: Ryan Wallen, Blaine
2014: Cody Roth, Bellingham
2015: Nick Nolan, Bellingham