T.J. and Ryan Nolan came up with big shots in big moments late in Sunday’s final round of the South Dakota Golf Association’s Two-Man Championship golf tournament played at the Golf Club at Red Rock.
The Rapid City twosome made back-to-back birdies on the 16th and 17th holes, and then made a par save on No. 18 after both drove deep into the right rough. They made a tough up-and-down and saved par to claim the first SDGA state title of the summer.
The Nolan brothers claimed the state crown with a two-day total of 132 and 12 under par.
“We had a game plan all day on every shot, every hole and where you're helping each other on with reading putts,” T.J. Nolan said. “Ryan did a great job. He really played an amazing both days.
“We just stuck with the game plan,” Ryan Nolan said. “We weren't stressed out and just kept hitting good shots and giving ourselves the looks on the greens.”
Brandon Sigmund and Jeff Meyerink from Mitchell finished a stroke back at 11-under-par 133 to claim second place.
First-day leaders Tyler Barrett and Brandon Kandolin shot a second-day 73 and finished in a tie for third place with Bryce Hammer and Will Grevlos of Sioux Falls. Both teams finished at 8-under 136.
Teams opened the tournament Saturday playing best ball. The format shifted Sunday to Chapman, a format that requires players to hit their partner’s ball after both have teed off. If both players reach the green in regulation, the team must pick a ball to putt. Teams in a good rhythm can go low. Others struggle to get on track.
“It’s a hard format. You rely on your partner half the time to pull you through,” Barrett said. “It’s hard to shoot a really good score in this format. We had some chances at the beginning, but we just couldn't finish them.”
The Nolan brothers started slow and were even par through six holes. Their game heated up with three birdies in three holes late in the opening nine holes to draw even with Barrett and Kandolin.
Meyerink and Sigmund, who were three shots off the lead after opening with a 6-under 66 on Saturday, shot a 3-under 33 on the opening nine holes to get within a shot of the leaders.
Playing in the group in front of the Nolans, Kandolin and Barrett, Meyerink and Sigmund cooled off some the second nine. Their lone birdie of the back nine came at the par-5 16th holes and put them up a stroke late in the final round.
The Nolan brothers came up big over the final three holes with the pressure on them.
First, they made a fairly routine birdie at No. 16 to draw into a tie with Meyerink and Sigmund, who had birdied from short range on the 16th hole minutes earlier.
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Down a shot and running out of holes, Barrett and Kandolin had to press at No. 16, needing an eagle to get back into a tie for the lead or a birdie to keep pace with the leaders. Both faced trying second shots and, instead of birdie or eagle, they finished with a bogey.
“We didn't feel the pressure to really pull off a shot until we were both in tough spots on 16,” Barrett said. “His drive was left, but it was in play. I still had a big club coming in. I hit a pretty good drive, but it stayed in the face of the bunker. And so he had to hit a shot that was going to be twice as high as any club that he would hit.”
The Nolan brothers both hit their tee shots to the middle of the fairway on No. 17. Then Ryan Nolan hit his second shot into a small landing area on the lower tier of the 17th green. T.J. Nolan rolled in a breaking, downhill putt from about 25 out to stake them to a one-shot lead over Meyerink and Sigmund.
Up on No. 18, Sigmund knocked his second shot to about 12 feet, leaving Meyerink with a putt that would break twice as it traveled over a knoll in the green on its way to the cup. The Mitchell duo needed the putt to draw even with the Nolans, who were readying to putt at No. 17.
Meyerink’s putt broke to the cup a little later than expected, leaving the two with a par and a shot back.
“Jeff's one of the best putters in the state, but he had that double-breaker,” Sigmund said. “It had to be perfect. The first part broke left and then we were trying to decide whether it was straight or going back right. It stayed straight and, once it got past the hole, it moved back.”
The Nolans knew they had a one-shot lead when they stepped up to the 18th tee box. However, both hit their tee shots down into a drainage to the right of the 18th green.
Ryan, hitting first with the ball sitting on a rock, knocked T.J.’s ball out onto the fairway in front of the 18th green.
“On my backswing, I had a little gap that I could go back and through,” Ryan said. “The rock was soft, actually. I just went right through it and punched it up there.”
With a ball safely in play, T.J. could shoot for the green. The ball jumped a little more than he expected, but it hit near the pin and settled onto the back of the 18th green and left Ryan with a 25-foot birdie putt.
“I got pretty lucky. The ball was below my feet a little bit, but it was sitting up,” T.J. Nolan said. “I had a swing at it, so I just took a nice easy swing and got it out. Luckily, I put it on the back of the green.”
Ryan rolled the birdie putt to about a foot and T.J. tapped it in for par on No. 18 and, with it, the state title.
“It’s absolutely fun to watch guys play like that,” Kandolin said of the Nolan brothers. “They hit the ball so consistently. They were hardly ever in trouble. When somebody needed a big shot, one of them hit it.”