July 28, 2015
By: Steve DiMeglio
Oh, the irony.
Last year, diminutive Melissa “Mo” Martin — she might crack 5-2 on the tape measure — hit a shot for the ages when she unleashed a 3-wood from 237 yards on the final hole at windswept Royal Birkdale in the final round of the 2014 Ricoh Women’s British Open and saw her ball bang off the flagstick to set up a winning eagle putt from 6 feet.
Martin, whose previous best finish in a major was a tie for 29th, did a mini-jig in the fairway of the par-5 18th after the ball came to rest.
The eagle, which gave her a one-shot win over Shanshan Feng and Suzann Pettersen, was the first of the year for Martin, 32, who toiled for six years on the Futures Tour before earning her way to the LPGA Tour in 2012. The major win for underdogs the world over also was her first victory on the LPGA tour.
A week later in the Marathon Classic, where she tied for seventh using the same 3-wood, and again playing the final hole of a tournament, she struck a shot that wrecked her left thumb.
“Isn’t that crazy?” Martin told USA TODAY Sports. “Same club on the final hole again — what are the chances?”
The injury challenged her spirit and resolve. For four months, she couldn’t unscrew the cap on a bottle of water. For two months she couldn’t play. Once she did start playing again, there was pain with every shot except when using a putter.
Through missed cuts, withdrawals, a new grip anchored by a splint and a misdiagnosis from two doctors, Martin at times feared her career was over.
But Mighty Mo, who was given the nickname by her father after the World War II battleship U.S.S. Missouri because she was stubborn and never quit, was just that through months of doubt and pain. Day by day she remained hopeful. Finally, after a third diagnosis, the pain withered and she returned to the LPGA.
While her thumb may never be 100%, Martin is in Scotland to defend her title. The 2015 Ricoh Women’s British Open begins Thursday at Turnberry on the coast of the outer Firth of Clyde in southwestern Scotland.
“I’ve used the word before, and I am a very optimistic person, but I was devastated,” Martin said of the injury. “I couldn’t keep the momentum going. I was playing great; it was so enjoyable. I was doing press conferences, which was all new. Then to step away and take two months off was very, very difficult. And to not know if I was going to hit another ball without being pain free, that was very difficult.
“But I’m basically pain free and I’m prepared. I’ll just focus on enjoying it. It’s my first time defending on the LPGA tour.”
Nothing had prepared her for the thumb injury. Since she began playing golf at 4, she had never suffered any serious injury until the thumb broke down. The pain shot through her hands and up her arm, shot after shot. She adjusted her 10-finger grip – “At times it felt like I was holding a hockey stick,” she said – and added a splint to stabilize the thumb.
“I might be playing with a splint the rest of my career,” Martin said. “I haven’t hit one shot this year without the splint.”
After being misdiagnosed twice, Martin saw Dr. Steven Shin of Los Angeles, who diagnosed a dorsal impingement of the lower joint of her thumb that pinched the nerves with each shot. The thumb got better.
Through it all, hand therapist Mo Herman – yes, another Mo – was instrumental in Martin’s recovery. Herman, a former Olympic swimmer for Canada, was well versed in athletic injuries and the mentality of athletes.
“She poured a lot of time and energy into my thumb,” Martin said. “I’m pretty sure my thumb would have broken down again without her. I’m pretty much over the injury right now.”
The past year hasn’t been a total loss. She threw the first pitch at a Dodgers game. And in tournaments she played, the pain was eased when she was reminded of what happened at Royal Birkdale:
“Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of the 2014 Ricoh Women’s British Open, Mo Martin.”
“To be introduced that way was a major perk, shall we say.” she said.
Yes, she’s back to being Mo Martin — energetic, playful, optimistic about her future and still the straightest driver of the ball in women’s golf. She’s on her way to leading the tour in driving accuracy for the third consecutive season and is hitting 90% of her fairways in regulation.
“I never felt pressure to win. I never pressed because I hadn’t won on the LPGA tour. I dreamed about winning. But I took it one day at time and took in whatever happened,” she said. “My goals have always been to improve every year and I have done that. My goals are about being healthy, being happy, and to keep improving.”
She’s back to being 3-for-3.
Full story at: http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/golf/lpga/2015/07/28/mo-melissa-martin-back-defend-title-ricoh-womens-british-open/30808293/