Gerina Piller has been used to a fast-paced lifestyle on the golf course ever since her days growing up in Roswell, N.M. She’s also used to working her way to the top.
When Piller decided to take up golf she had big shoes to follow in the small Southwest U.S. city. She attended the same high school, Goddard High, where World Golf Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez made her mark a generation before. So it was no surprise that golf became a favorite after Piller played Little League baseball with the boys and volleyball.
After a successful college career at the University of Texas-El Paso, it took some time for Piller to reach the LPGA. She failed twice at the LPGA Qualifying Tournament and played a season on the Symetra Tour. Her rookie LPGA season was 2011 and she has improved ever since. This season has been her best by leaps and bounds – with $368,340 in earnings (more than doubling her career earnings), seven top-10s (out of nine in her career) and a spot on the United States Solheim Cup team (0-2-1 record).
Piller attributes much of that success to relationships developed on and off the golf course.
In her rookie season, Piller’s “big sister” was veteran Angela Stanford, who resides close by in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area. Stanford footed the bill to fly Piller to the 2011 Solheim Cup in Ireland so that she could experience the atmosphere in anticipation of one day playing in the team competition. They were paired in the Four-ball matches at this year’s Solheim Cup. Additionally, Piller this year started working with instructor Mike Wright, Stanford’s coach, at Shady Oaks, Ben Hogan’s home club in Fort Worth.
“She’s been an amazing role model and I just learned so much from her,” Piller said.
“I think any time you bring a team player into this team atmosphere it helps,” Stanford said prior to the Solheim Cup. “She is laid back. People keep talking about her lack of a win and it’s just a matter of time and people don’t really know when it comes to golf.”
Another connection is her husband Martin Piller. Piller, a two-time winner on the Web.com Tour and a former PGA Tour member, met Gerina on the course in Texas and the two were married in January 2011. The next day, they flew to the PGA Tour’s 2011 season-opening event in Hawaii. When the Pillers play golf together, it’s very competitive as they tee it up from the same tees. Piller can keep up from the longer distances as she ranked third in Driving Distance on the LPGA last season (268.9-yard average) and is fourth this season (269.2 average) to go with a ranking of 10th in Greens in Regulation (73 percent).
All of these factors point toward Piller’s search for a first LPGA victory and also contention at the Evian Championship next week in France. Piller has finished ninth and T6 in the last two weeks, including a bogey-free, final-round 66 last week at the Safeway Classic in Portland, Ore. Earlier this season, she fired a career-low 62 in the Manulife Financial Classic in Canada.
So even though Piller missed the cut last year in her French debut, the arc of improvement could bode well entering the final major championship of the season.
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Will Suzann Pettersen defend her title?