The spells keep getting more enchanting in the women’s game this year.
By winning the Ricoh Women’s British Open on Sunday, Mo Martin might have added the most magical win yet in a year loaded with hocus pocus.
Lexi Thompson beat Michelle Wie in a dream pairing in a final-round duel at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in the season-opening major in April, and then Wie won the U.S. Women’s Open in a massively meaningful breakthrough for the women’s game last month, and now Martin delivers what ranks as the year’s best feel-good story, winning in dramatic fashion at Royal Birkdale.
On a tour that rarely produces Cinderella stories, with so many of the LPGA’s stars at their best this year, Martin delivered a fairy-tale ending.
At 31, a third-year LPGA member who spent six years toiling on the Symetra Tour, Martin made her first LPGA title a major championship after hitting what will be remembered as one of the greatest shots in major championship history. She hit a 3-wood off the flagstick at the 72nd hole, nearly making double eagle, and closed with an eagle to post the round of the day. Remarkably, it was her first eagle this season, just the third of her LPGA career.
Signing for an even-par 72 an hour before the leaders finished, Martin sweated out her fate, finally rejoicing when Inbee Park, Shanshan Feng and Suzann Pettersen all failed to beat her score in a brutal finish in wicked conditions at Royal Birkdale.
How improbable was this victory? Martin came to Royal Birkdale ranked No. 99 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings. She had never led after any round of an LPGA event in her 63 previous starts on tour.
At 5 feet 2, Martin is one of the LPGA’s shortest hitters, but she is the straightest. She ranks No. 1 in driving accuracy, and that proved a vital stat navigating Royal Birkdale’s punishing routes through thick heather and gorse. She said she immediately loved the layout when she arrived earlier this week, and it showed.
Martin may not rank among the LPGA’s stars, but she delivered one of the best scripts this year. She did so knowing her grandfather would have loved it. He was her biggest fan and a remarkable character known to many LPGA pros until his death back in March. Lincoln Martin, Mo’s grandfather, died battling prostate and skin cancer. He was 100 years old when he followed her around in events her rookie year and 102 when he died. He was there for all three of her Symetra Tour victories.
“I think about him all the time,” Martin said after her victory Sunday. “He was there for all of my wins, and I know he’s here now.”
Martin wears a necklace with her grandfather’s initials on it. She wore it Sunday.
With her father estranged from her grandfather as she grew up, Mo didn’t really become close to Lincoln until she was playing golf at UCLA, where she helped the Bruins win a national title. After her father’s death, Mo decided to go visit her grandfather’s California ranch. When she walked into his office, she was overwhelmed. He had an entire wall devoted to her, clippings, photos and maps marking her golf journeys.
“I cried when I saw it,” Martin said in March after her grandfather’s death.
They quickly grew close, and he began traveling to watch her play. Even after turning 100, he would fly to tournaments.
Mo marveled at her grandfather’s many talents. He was a professional musician once. While working for Douglas Aircraft as an engineer, he invented the vortex generator, which is still used in modern airplanes. After finishing the final round of the JTBC Founders Cup in Phoenix four months ago, Mo got a call telling her that her grandfather’s health had taken a bad turn. She hopped in a car and drove nine hours to her grandfather’s ranch. When Mo arrived at 3 a.m., Lincoln asked to be shaved, so he would look good for her.
“It’s changed my life significantly, just being around him and knowing him,” Martin said in March. “He was the most peaceful person I've ever met. In talking to his children, none of us have ever heard him say a bad word about anybody. So, to be that grateful, and that simple, and that smart, and that kind, I mean, I can't think of a better influence in my life.”