Keith Nolan reflected on his Q-School success and confessed: I did it all for love.
Nolan wasn’t just talking about his love for his wife Yolanda and this three young children back home in Tennessee but also of how much he misses his late father, Peter.
Trained from an early age by his dad, the former Walker Cup ace was nearly 4,000 miles away when Peter Nolan passed away more than a year ago.
But he admitted that the man who taught him the game and watched his career with such pride would have been smiling down on him as he battled through the toughest year of his life to grab his Nationwide Tour card.
Just 48 hours after jetting back from southern California, where he missed out on a dream return to the PGA Tour by just three shots but earned his place on the second tier tour, Nolan’s thoughts strayed to home.
He was talking of Bray in Co Wicklow, from where his mother, brothers and sisters followed his week long battle in California.
After proving to all his loved ones that their faith in him was justified, Nolan said: I was very fortunate. My Dad got me started playing golf. He’s always been influential in what I have done on the golf course.
It was tough when he was sick, with me being over here. I got to seem him a couple of months before he passed away. But still, not to be there..... I think that definitely affected me. I wouldn’t say it affected my golf, but it definitely affected me as a person. A mother or a fathers’ love for their children - there is no bigger love than that.
I think it brought me closer to what I needed to do as well. Part of what I’ve been through and what you do on the golf course, you do for yourself. But you are still trying to prove that the faith that people show in you over the years has been justified. And you try to honour the faith that they had in you."
Nolan can relate to what his old Leinster and Ireland team mate Padraig Harrington went through when his father Paddy passed away in July 2005.
Harrington has only recently started to recover from the loss of a man who traipsed every fairway in Ireland and gave encouragement not just to the future European No 1 but also to a young kid from Bray.
Nolan recalled: Padraig and I went to Leinster Junior coaching together and we played on teams together and stuff. Paddy was great. I can relate to what happened to Padraig.
I sent him an email. And when you go through something like that yourself it’s tough. You kind of reach out.
It’s like what happened at the Ryder Cup this year, having Darren on the team. He had all those team mates around him - his other family - to help him get through the whole grieving process. It is going to help him get through some of it. It is not going to ease all the pain but it helps.
Being on the golf course and knowing the joy that it used to give my Dad - getting results. There is that sense of urgency to try and prove to him and prove to myself that I am doing the right thing."
Only a parent would understand why a man with three children under six would put himself through years of pain and disappointment.
Nolan scaled the heights as an amateur, winning the North of Ireland championship in 1995 followed by back to back wins in the Irish Amateur Open in 1996 and 1997.
He earned Walker Cup honours alongside Richie Coughlan in 97 and after a university career at East Tennessee State, he stayed on in the US to grab his PGA Tour card for 1998 at the Qualifying School and raise a family.
Since then there have been more highs that lows for a man who will turn 34 in January and head for the opening Nationwide Tour event in Panama with hope in his heart.
Just 12 months ago he couldn’t justify spending thousands of dollars he didn’t have on trying to win back his PGA Tour card.
As a result he had to pre-qualify for Nationwide Tour events this season but from 20 attempts he got into the tournament just four times and of those, missed three cuts.
He said: I am just excited and looking forward to a break now. I am going to take a couple of weeks off and then I have my first event down in Panama.
I played pretty solid this year. Those Monday qualifiers were a grind and I kept on missing by a shot and I’d just go on to the next week.
Instead of getting negative on myself I was drawing positives from getting so close. Then, ass of a sudden, I started putting well - really well. I didn’t play at that great at the first stage of the Q School and just got in by a shot. Then I nearly won the second stage."
The rest his history, as they say, and while Nolan did not quite get the job done, finishing three shots outside the 40 players who eventually won their full PGA Tour cards, he feels that he is a far tougher player now than the raw 25 year old who made it to the biggest tour in the world eight years ago.
He added: No doubt it was a tough year but obviously I learned something through it all. I guess I am just too stubborn to believe that I can’t do it.
I’ve got a lot of belief in myself and the people around me have a lot of belief in me too. You just keep plugging away and believe that something good is going to happen and thankfully it did this past week.
When I got my card for the first time in 1998, and again in 2000, I just wasn’t ready to be honest with you. I was so young and the time and I was a wide-eyed rookie I guess.
That’s why it was disappointing not to get my PGA Tour card back the other day. I have learnt so much between now and six years ago, when I was last out there.
A full year on the Nationwide Tour is going to harden me even more and I am going to come out swinging early, get some results on the board and go from there. I think I am a better player now because of what I have been through.
Technically my putting stroke is better now than it ever has been. So I think that’s part of it. But the confidence just goes through from there. I’ve always believe my game flows through my putting. If I am putting well, it takes pressure over the rest of the game.
Last year I couldn’t go to the school because I couldn’t financially justify doing it. So that put me in a situation where I had to try and Monday qualify this year, which was hard. Harder than it has been in the past.
But you just keep plugging away and fortunately things have worked out. Things happen for a reason. I am a firm believer in that. I’ve just got to keep plugging away and continue the momentum that I got from Q School."
Nolan met a kindred spirit on his Q-School journey in the shape of Lee Janzen, the man who won the US Open in 1993 and 1998.
At 42, Janzen found himself back at the Q-School after a season to forget and drawn with the Bray battler in the third round on the Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course at La Quinta.
Nolan outscored him by ten shots - 67 to 77 - but paid tribute to the generosity of the two-time major champion.
Nolan grinned: Yeah. I took him down. He’s only one a couple of majors. He was great to play with and very encouraging.
He is such a good guy and I can’t see why a sponsor wouldn’t give him some spots next year."
Nolan won’t have to worry about getting starts next season as he plies his trade on the Nationwide Tour.
But he plans to come out swinging from the opening bell and even try his hand at Monday qualifying for PGA Tour events.
Who knows, he may even find himself in the same position as Brett Wetterich, one of the rookies at this year’s Ryder Cup
He said: Look at Brett Wetterich over here. He plays the PGA Tour, loses his card. Goes to the tour school, gets his card back and next thing you know, he’s on the Ryder Cup team.
"For every Brett Wetterich there is a hundred guys out there who think they can get to where he is. That’s why tour school is the ultimate test. It is the longest week, golf-wise that you can probably ever imagine. So it is stories like that that keep you going.
I am just looking forward to having the opportunity to prove myself week in, week out, without having to go through the rigors of Monday qualifying. I’ll show up on Mondays and do my work."
And with that he headed back to bed to his wife Yolanda and listened to his sleeping children with hope in his heart.