By SCOTT COTTOS
FOR THE COURIER
SYLVANIA — After Mo Martin nailed the flagstick with her approach shot to the 18th hole in this past Sunday’s final round of the Women’s British Open, she broke into a short dance in the fairway.
“I thought at that point that the (TV) cameras weren’t on me anymore,” Martin said Tuesday at Highland Meadows Golf Club, where the LPGA’s Marathon Classic is slated for Thursday through Sunday. “I looked at (caddy) Kyle (Morrison) and I said, ‘OK, this is my moment to celebrate.’ … I’ve got to admit I love to dance. It just came out. Perfect timing.”
Martin can count on the cameras being focused on her a little more often, at least for this week, because her subsequent putt for eagle gave her a lead that held up for a one-shot victory at Royal Birkdale.
It not only was her first major championship, but her first victory in an LPGA career that began in 2012.
“I haven’t really had time to process it all,” the 31-year-old Californian said. “It’s really just kind of been this morning. Yesterday was a travel day and I was exhausted and my phone was off. I was just trying to get through the travel day.”
After a few travel hitches, she finally arrived in the Toledo area at about midnight Tuesday.
“I turned my phone on and it kind of exploded, everybody just congratulating me,” she said. “That was really, really nice to hear. I’ve been touched by so many people. It’s been really nice.”
One of the contacts she’s received since her win particularly opened her eyes.
“I got a signed letter by Arnold Palmer. That was super. And I actually went back and I found a photo of him and I — I think I must have been 10 years old, in Pasadena, at Brookside (Country Club),” she said, adding that she planned to send Palmer the photo today.
While no player reaches the LPGA without plenty of hard work, some have to persevere more than others.
Some, such as Michelle Wie, Paula Creamer and, most recently, 17-year-old Lydia Ko, have been prodigies, while others have had to grind.
In Martin’s case, after playing at UCLA, she didn’t reach the LPGA Tour until she’d spent six years on the developmental Symetra Tour.
Actually named Melissa, Martin picked up the nickname “Mighty Mo” as a youngster for her determination.
The moniker has continued to be appropriate.
“When it comes down to it, I’m incredibly stubborn,” she said.
The easy answer to a seemingly stalled career would’ve been to find another line of work before the conclusion of six summers on a development tour. But she was determined to only leave on her own terms.
“I created three criteria for myself,” she said. “That was my benchmark as to how long I was going to play. The first one is if I wake up happy in the morning. The second one is if I’m still contributing to the game as a whole. And the third is if I’m still paying my own bills. I thought if I check all of those off, that’s what was important to me and I’m going to keep going.
“So, every year I was able to do that. And as I mentioned last week in a couple of interviews, people definitely came forward at important times, financially and emotionally. It was kind of like when I needed it most and my bank account was getting real close to red, somebody would come around and even if it was just the offer of support it was fine for me to keep on going.”
Now Martin is certain to hear even louder cheers on a tour stop that is well known for its supportive fans.
“I think it’s a perfect community to host an event,” she said. “It’s small enough where it becomes a bigger deal than in some of the bigger cities, and I think that’s big recipe. And financially, the city has put a lot of its resources into the event and we definitely appreciate that.”
SHE’S BACK: Among the perks of being the Marathon Classic’s defending champion is being able to travel along a Sylvania street that bears your name. Last year’s winner traveled along “Beatriz Recari Drive” on her way to her first post-Women’s British Open practice session Tuesday.
“It’s good to be back again,” the Spaniard said after putting in her work on the driving range. “I landed last night and even though I’m a little tired with a little bit of a change of time zones, it’s good to be back and drive on my street here and see everybody again. They’re so nice and welcoming and wishing me good luck. So there’s just a lot of positive feelings.”
PART OF THE JOB: Toledo native Stacy Lewis, the world’s top-ranked women’s player and the LPGA’s leading money winner with $1,932,464 through 16 events, said her case of jet lag’s “not too bad” since arriving from Great Britain late Monday afternoon.
“It’s a quick turnaround coming from the British, but we do it all the time, so it’s not too bad,” she said. “You just learn how to adjust quicker. You just have to turn things around faster and realize you have to get off a plane and play golf the next day. It’s just what we do.”