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A Beautiful Bond

July 17 2012, Katie Ann Robinson

Mo Martin shares the ups and downs of professional golf with her grandfather

Mo Martin claims she has never taken the traditional route at any point in her life. So it makes sense to her that she’s a 29-year-old rookie on the LPGA Tour.

The Altadena, Calif. native didn’t grow up taking lessons from a top professional at an upscale country club or public golf course. Nor did she have a proper set of golf clubs, shoes or bag.

“My dad actually sawed down some old clubs and made my golf shoes,” Martin said. “We went to Payless. My first pair of golf shoes had pink stars on them with Velcro straps. My dad drilled holes in the soles and glued spikes in them. He made my golf bag out of one of those tubes that you would mail a poster in. That was my first golf bag. So it started out that way.”

At the age of 4, Martin picked up her homemade golf clubs and started taking lessons from her dad in their driveway, chipping into a net he built for her and her brother. But his innovative instruction seemed to have triggered a drive in Martin. She started competing in local junior tournaments which eventually paved the way to competing in the Junior World Championships and then off to the Japan Cup where she notched her first career victory at the age of 8.

With early success in her golf career, a college golf scholarship was definitely an aspiration for Martin but she had to work hard for it. As a walk-on to the UCLA women’s golf team, Martin had to earn her coach’s attention and with several impressive finishes she was able to secure a scholarship for the following three years.

Upon graduation in 2005, Martin’s desire to turn professional grew even deeper. But it was not an easy road. She competed with unwavering confidence in herself for six years on the Symetra Tour. Many may have contemplated giving up, but those thoughts never crossed her mind.  

“I had some victories early that propelled me forward,” Martin said of her time on the developmental tour. “It was never a hard decision to continue because I’ve enjoyed it and enjoyed my journey. Fortunately, I had sponsors that believed in me and family that supported me. As long as I continue to wake up in the morning and enjoy my life, I’m going to keep playing. Some say that ‘the third time is the charm,’ but it was six for me and the timing was perfect. Those six years allowed me to learn how to play my best, how to manage myself as a professional, and how to construct a really great support system.”

Martin’s golf career was heavily supported by loved ones in her community. While working in the pro shop at the Annadale Golf Club in Pasadena during her Symetra Tour campaign, Martin gained support from many of its members. Her friends and family were also cheering her on the sidelines.

But of all her supporters, Martin’s grandpa, Lincoln, is her favorite.

Halfway through her college career, Martin was faced with the news that her dad had passed away. While grieving his death, she journeyed to Porterville, Calif., to pay a visit to a grandpa she barely knew.

“I didn’t have a relationship with him before my dad passed away,” Martin said. “When he died I was up here visiting my grandpa at the ranch and I walked in his office and there were all these pictures of me through UCLA that he had gotten on the internet. He was following my career and I had no idea. That brought me to tears.”

And so began an inseparable bond. This year, Lincoln celebrated his 100th birthday and he has been able to see and support Martin through the toughest fragments of her golf career. She says her grandpa has seen his fair share of troubles in his life and because of that she values his opinion and guidance more than anyone else.

“His perspective is pretty phenomenal,” says Martin. “He’s gone through a depression and two World Wars and two of his wives have died, his son has died. He says things like ‘I never thought that I wouldn’t make it to 100 because things have gone so smoothly.’ And you kind of go ‘what? Excuse me?’ I’ve never met anyone who has been so content, somebody who goes with life like he does. To bring that to the game of golf, I mean, talk about a big lesson. Just to go with the bounces and make the most of it.”

Martin notched her first victory on the Symetra Tour at the 2007 El Paso Golf Classic, and as she hoisted the trophy in the air, Lincoln was on the green with a smile on his face and a sparkle in his eye.

“It was the first time he had seen me compete,” Martin recalls. “I remember that being just such a special thing and I remember thinking I don’t know how much he’s going to be able to see me play. So it’s really fun in retrospect to think that over the years he’s seen me play more than anybody has. And it’s really been an opportunity to spend time together and share what I do.”

 The years that followed on the developmental tour saw several high points and let downs as she jumped from 19th on the money list in 2007, to 41st in 2009, to 11 top-10s and first place in scoring average in 2011. Regardless of her outcome year in and year out, she had a cheerleader on the sidelines putting things in perspective when times were tough and celebrating in her success.

“What’s meant the most to me is that fact that no matter how I play he doesn’t treat me different,” Martin says. “Absolutely nothing will change. To me, that is the best gift he could ever give me, in terms of being out there and supporting me. If I go out there and win the next tournament or if I were to finish dead last, nothing would change. To have that support has been incredible.”

Two more victories at the 2008 USI Championship and 2011 Eagle Classic led her to finishing third on the Symetra Tour’s J Golf Race for the Card money list and finally earning status on the LPGA Tour for the 2012 season. Now, half way through her rookie season Martin has made seven cuts in eleven events with a recent tie for 14th at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G. She sits in the top-five in the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Race behind So Yeon Ryu, Lexi Thompson and Lizette Salas. Though the road to the LPGA has been extensive and tiresome, Martin wouldn’t change a thing. 

“Just being exposed to and having the opportunities I’ve had, I just feel like I’m incredibly blessed to be where I am,” Martin says. “I understand how fortunate I am to have this opportunity. A lot of people dream about it and a lot of people pursue it but really only very few of us actually get here. I don’t take that for granted in the least. I know that along with that comes a responsibility and I take that very seriously.”

Regardless of what the future brings, Martin will carry her grandpa’s optimistic attitude and joyful spirit through every aspect of her golf career.

Topics: Player Feature, This week it is all about Me, Martin, Mo

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