Sure, Mo Martin got lucky at the Women’s British Open. That surreal 3-wood rolled 60 yards before hit- ting the stick. The remaining eagle putt didn’t feel ike it would actually be the winner, not with several
contenders on the course and two reachable par 5s at the finish. When unflappable Inbee Park crumbled under the weight
of a career Grand Slam, the 31-year-old Californian who had
one top- 10 in her previous 63 LPGA starts was the champion.
But in the end, it’s golf that got lucky. Mo Martin is one of
those special people who will make the game better.
Martin may become the latest one-and-done women’s
major winner, who—like Hilary Lunke or Birdie Kim—simply
had a magical week in classic fast-and-narrow championship
conditions in which short hitting was only minimally punished while straight hitting was greatly rewarded. But even
if she falls back into obscurity, the sheer style of her accomplishment will always make her the real deal.
Martin is that rare person among those who play golf for
a living who can’t help connecting with others and inviting
them into her world. In both interviews and her own writing,
she has shared her journey—from learning the game from her
father at age 4 to playing serious money
games as a teenager against grown men
at a raggedy Pasadena pitch-and-putt
to her revelatory relationship with her
grandfather—with an amiable candor.
Her body language at Royal Birkdale
was even more eloquent, including an
open-faced serenity and her memorably
spontaneous celebratory wiggle from the
18th fairway. Throughout, her message
was gratitude for all of it.
It’s not an easy state of mind for a touring pro to attain in
the heart of his or her competitive career. The battles are
all-consuming, so that perspective usually comes, if it comes,
in later years. Those who can carry a balanced and generous
spirit during tournament play become important representatives of the sport at its best, all the more remarkable when
they are champions. JoAnne Carner and Meg Mallon had the
knack, as did Fuzzy Zoeller, as do Adam Scott and Martin
Kaymer. The model for well-roundedness while a world beater
was Bobby Jones, whose example determined that golfers
more than other athletes would be judged for their character
as much as their competence.
Though I have never met Martin or seen her play in per-
son, what she projected through the television screen from
Birkdale was definitely Jonesian, with an extra dollop of exu-
berance. A graduate in psychology from UCLA, her eclectic
interests include martial arts, playing drums, rescuing and
adopting animals, yoga, dancing, cooking and reading. Her
wish list includes performing for Cirque du Soleil, visiting
the International Space Station and eliminating procrastina-
tion from her daily schedule, “just to know what it feels like
not to procrastinate.”
“Mo is very smart and intuitive, always fun, a little mysti-
cal and very self-sufficient,” says UCLA women’s golf coach
Carrie Forsyth, who brought Martin in as a walk-on freshman
in 2002. “We would call her The Gypsy. When she was on the
mini-tours for six years, it didn’t faze her to live out of her car.
She was so clear in what she wanted and why she wanted it, it
was simple for her.”
Her agent, Don Yee, mostly represents NFL athletes (in-
cluding Tom Brady), but he took on Martin “because she’s
such a refreshingly real person.”
“Mo has not only paid her dues, but embraced them,” says
Yee. “It helps her see things in a way that others don’t and
gives her a certain calmness.”
That trait held Martin together after a seemingly disas-
trous run of bogeys on the back nine Saturday at Birkdale.
“Mo has a lovely nature, but she’s the captain of her ship,”
says swing coach Ian Triggs, who began working with Martin
last year in an effort to raise her ball flight and create more
distance. Only 5-foot- 2, Martin has a swing gorgeous in its
simplicity that’s evocative of another Triggs student, Karrie Webb, and she possesses a demon short game that was
shaped early in lessons with Paul Runyan. She began using a
long putter at age 5 because her late father, Allen, a criminal
defense attorney, thought the movement to ban the club’s use
suggested it held an advantage. But last year when Triggs
saw Martin fooling around with a conventional putter, he
convinced her it made her stroke better and got her to switch.
Adam Scott, take note.
Actually, all golfers should take note of the many exemplary
things about Martin, who is just a little more success from
becoming universally known as simply “Mo.” And if character
is indeed destiny, bet on that to happen. N
Mo Martin’s amazing grace
Gratitude is not an easy state of mind for a touring
pro to attain in the heart of his or her competitive
career. The battles are all-consuming. Perspective
usually comes, if it comes, in later years.
B Y JAIME DIAZ