Mo Martin holds the RICOH Women's British Open trophy. Photo: Getty
Mo Martin had yet to record an eagle on the LPGA Tour this season. The diminutive 5-foot-2 golfer isn’t known for her length but instead for her accuracy.
Yet on the 72nd hole of one of golf’s biggest stages, the girl known as “Mighty Mo” delivered a shot for the ages that resulted in an eagle and made her a major champion. On the par-5 18th at Royal Birkdale, Martin hit a three-wood that struck the pin. It left her with a six-foot putt for eagle
and put Martin in the clubhouse at 1-under-par. With three of the best players in the game still on the course with a few holes remaining, Martin had to sit and wait for an hour before learning that she was the 2014 RICOH Women’s British Open champion.
“It’s still soaking in, along with the champagne on my jacket,” said Martin, who was doused by many of her fellow LPGA players after her win. “This is just unbelievable. It’s literally a dream come true.”
The 31-year-old American was the only player to finish under par at Royal Birkdale this week, shooting an even-par 72 in the final round on a day when the conditions proved the toughest of the week. Martin’s round of 72 tied for the lowest round of the day and gave her the LPGA victory that she had so long been seeking.
Martin spent six years working her way to the LPGA Tour. After winning three times on the Symetra Tour over that span, Martin finally made her LPGA dream come true as a 29-year-old rookie in 2012. And the man who was there cheering her the entire way was her grandfather, Lincoln, who passed away this past March at the age of 102. The two had become the best of friends and in memory of her grandfather, Martin wears an “L” necklace around her neck.
“Is this real life?” Martin said when she first learned that she had won.
The California native fell in love with Royal Birkdale almost immediately when she arrived here this week. After shooting 69 in the first round on Thursday, Martin declared that this venue ranked in the top 5 courses she had played.
It certainly lived up to the billing and Martin’s strength of accuracy seemed to be an asset for her.
“Mo is a steady player on the LPGA,” Suzann Pettersen said. “Maybe not the longest, but on a course like this, you don’t have to be. It’s more about being precise and getting the short game sharp. So she must have played her game out, because we all tried to chase her down. We saw she was 1-under in the clubhouse with three to go, and you know you’ve got to nail those three holes. It’s never a bad thing to post a good number in the clubhouse. We tried our hardest but fell short.”
The fact that Martin got to this point in her career is a testament to her determination. She was taught the game of golf by her father using “Hogan’s Five Lessons” since her family couldn’t afford lessons from a pro. She was a walk-on at UCLA thanks in large part of her grandmother helping her financially afford college. And Martin acknowledged there were times during her six years playing on the Symetra Tour that she had doubts about continuing on.
“Three things were my criteria to keep playing: I thought if I still woke up and I was happy in the morning; if I was still contributing to the women’s game and growing it; and three, if I was paying my own bills,” Martin said. “So as long as I was accomplishing those, then I was going to keep playing.”