By Brian Keogh

Keith Nolan kept the bank manager at bay with his best season as a professional.

Now his goal is to make it back to the PGA Tour, where he played in 1998 and 2000.

This week, the Bray man is bidding to make it to the second stage of the Q-School after a marathon season on the second tier Nationwide Tour.

Tied for 11th at Treyburn Country Club in North Carolina entering last night's third round, he's bang on course to grab one of 26 places on offer.

But even if he fails to get to the Q-School finals for the second year ont he trot, this will be Nolan's most lucrative season as a pro.

He earned $70,060 after playing every single one of the 31 events on the Nationwide circuit.

But he also played in another 40 pro-ams to help pay the bills that keep popping through his front door in Knoxville, Tennessee

Forced to work nights in his local Starbucks coffee shop last year to make ends meet, Nolan is feeling good about life again.

He said: "I will finish about 86th on the money list next year which means I will have status on the Nationwide next season, though I won't be fully exempt.

"I made $70,000 from tournament play and about another $30,000 from pro-ams so you have no idea how much pressure than takes off.

"It makes such a massive difference when you are not worrying about paying bills.

"It is tough without somebody backing you, like a sponsor. I played in probably 40 pro ams this year to help pay bills and I also played in every event."

Nolan is under more pressure than most players on the Nationwide Tour with three young children and a wife to support.

Kids Jennaly (7), Ceagan (5) and Lochlan (19 months) are still to young to remember how their dad came through to grab his PGA Tour card in 1998.

But the old man is confident that they will get to see him do it again soon.

He said: "I made some improvements this year and it's exciting. I have just become more consistent and I am making some more putts.

"I really feel like I am close to making a breakthrough. And it is good to make some money too.

"I have to go all the way to the Q-School finals again this year to improve my status on the Nationwide Tour.

"But I have a chance of getting on the tour as well, and that's the main goal.

"I get support with equipment at least and I have deals with TaylorMade woods and Adams hybrids.

"Hopefully a few more come along and that will make life even easier."

If they handed out tour victories for persistence, Nolan would be vying with Tiger Woods for world No 1.

His reward is surely just around the corner.


(Higgins blow)

David Higgins's golfing future will be debated in the boardroom at Wentworth after he was struck down by a mystery form of hepatitis.

The Kerryman, 34, hasn't been able to play since he missed the cut at Gleneagles in August.

And things are so bad that he has pulled out of next week's European Tour Qualifying School in Spain.

To make matters worse, he will need a special medical exemption even to play on the Challenge Tour next year.

Manager Conor Ridge explained: "He finished outside the top 150 on the main tour, which means he doesn't have category 9A and may not have played enough events to be entitled to that category anyway.

"Within the Challenge Tour he is in the top 80, which should have given him a full card for next year.

"But he has only played six events and he needs to play seven to avail of that option.

"All we can do now is hope that the players committee will get behind him and back him for a medical exemption.

"He has racked up €150,000 on the main tour and enough to have a Challenge Tour card despite playing just six tournaments.

"He is clearly a guy who can play but has had a bad break. He has missed all of September and October and hopefully they will take that on board."

(Clarke makes another cut)

Things are looking up for Darren Clarke at the end of a horror season.

The Ulsterman got a confidence boost when he finished second to Padraig Harrington in last week's Hassan Trophy in Morocco.

And he continued where he left off in the Barclays Singapore Open, making the cut with four shots to spare.

Two level par 71s left Clarke tied for 19th, eight shots adrift of US Open champion Angel Cabrera.

The Argentine hit a second round 63 to lead by two shots frm Jin Park with Phil Mickelson six adrift.

European Order of Merit leader Ernie Els fired a 76 to miss the cut by two shots at six over.

The South African has been lashed by Colin Montgomerie for not playing this week's Volvo Masters at Valderrama.

Now he can be passed by Justin Rose, Padraig Harrington or Niclas Fasth.