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Golf News: - Posted 14th December 1997

Tour Blimey
By Geoff Sweet

Richard Coughlan and Keith Nolan Britain's latest golf heroes last night warned American megastarTiger Woods: You don't scare us and we can't wait to tee off with you next year.

Amazingly, it's about to happen.Like a bolt out of the blue, Keith Nolan, 24, and 23-year-old Richard Coughlan have zoomed in from nowhere to win coveted USPGA Tour cards.

They've gobsmacked the world of golf. Everyone knows European No1 Colin Montgomerie and Nick Faldo will be concentrating on top honours on the other side of the pond next season.

But now two unknowns have suddenly joined the race. Their fantastic feat only sank in this weekend when Nolan ordered his mum a satellite television dish for Christmas saying: "This is for watching me next year, not Tiger!"

To add to the list of surprises, globe-trotting Coughlan has also landed a sensational double whammy by qualifying for the European Tour.

It's left pundits at home scratching their heads wondering exactly what's behind this dynamic Irish duo.

The truth is they left their homeland to hit the American college circuit. And it's the States they're sticking to, kicking off with next month's Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Because they've catapaulted themselves into five of the first eight big US tournaments in 1998, Nolan and Coughlan have every chance of ducking under the fairway rope with Masters champion Woods and company.

An ecstatic Nolan promised: "It doesn't matter who we play with. "Tiger? Fair enough - from my point of view I'm just a fellow competitor.

If I was overawed I'd be in the wrong business.

"I used to watch his game when we faced each other in college events but I won't bother if I'm alongside him in the future - it's my game that counts.

"In any case, over the last five months Tiger has shown he is not invincible, that he is only human - and that's a lesson to everybody."

Back in Dublin, Irish Golf Union general secretary Seamus Smith is as stunned as everyone else by the pair's arrival on the world scene.

He said: "What they have done is sensational. They've just turned pro - and achieved so much first time out. It's fantastic."

Coughlan returns home to Birr, Co Offaly, for a hero's welcome on Thursday, while Bray player Nolan remains in the States. Nolan came joint 20th - Coughlan finished ninth - in the American competition which required a top 35 finish to crack the big time.

The enormity of what he was about to achieve obviously took a grip during a dramatic last round on Monday at the Greenleaf Resort in Florida.

Nolan explained: "I was third with five holes to go - can you believe that? "But then I got a serious attack of the jitters and began to sweat a bit before I got the job done. "You see, the night before I had to turn off a television chat show that was pointing out the terrific difference between making the PGA Tour and the lesser Nike Tour.

"They were talking about the size of the purses, the endorsement deals, the projected cut figures and so on. "I just had to switch off. All it was doing was underlining what I might miss out on."

No chance.

Both lads sailed in and last week reality hit them at the USPGA induction course in Jacksonville.

Nolan added: "We've been learning about health cover, insurance, tax matters, retirement plans, travel facilities, how to deal with the media - the works. Yes, we're pros on the US circuit and it's fantastic."

The achievements of these former Walker Cup players ranks alongside the recent World Cup triumph of Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley.

Nolan, who won the Irish Amateur Strokeplay title last June, gambled on throwing everything into the American challenge. He'd been at university in East Tennessee for four years and explained: "People might have thought it a bit cocky but that's
the way I saw it. I feel comfortable here and wanted to direct all my energies towards one objective.
"It's amazing what Richie has done.

I don't think people back home realise just how difficult it is to gain a card on one tour, let alone two."

But Coughlan, who learnt his trade at Clemson College in South Carolina, is staying Stateside. He said: "I'm heading home this week for a three or four-week break before returning to start my new career. My aim is to make $200, 000 - that should secure my card."

Nolan added: "The funny thing about being over here is that we can't realise the reaction back in Ireland.

"Let's hope the achievements of Padraig and Paul, and now us, mean the start of Irish domination.

"As for my mum, I'm making sure she can watch me on television. And remember, she's looking for me now - not Tiger Woods."