Spain’s Pablo Martin is proof
golfers can rediscover their
games and careers.
Golf, like rock & roll, has long had
healing power. It offers, to those who
truly seek it, redemption. Sometimes this
redemption is found on the next shot, the
next hole or the next round. Sometimes it
takes even longer.
Just ask Pablo Martin.
Shortly before Christmas, Martin —
No. 488 in the world — won the inaugural event of the 2010 European Tour
season, the Alfred Dunhill Championship
in South Africa. To say this came out of
nowhere is to understate what happened
Described by veteran European Tour
writer Lewine Mair as “dripping with talent,” the 23-year-old Spaniard burst upon
the scene in 2001 when, at age 15 years and
120 days, he became the youngest winner
of the British Boys Championship. Martin would go on to enroll at college golf
powerhouse Oklahoma State University and
promptly win his first college tournament.
Martin was twice college golf’s player
of the year, recording five victories in his
three-year career. But he also made noise
back home on the pro circuit, becom-
ing the first amateur to win a European
Tour event, at the 2007 Estoril Open de
Portugal in the spring of his third year at
Oklahoma State. An exemption through
2009 on the European Tour was part of
Pablo Martin had IMG, Nike and
a top-30 finish at the U.S. Open.
And then he fell into the abyss.
maybe it was a trying family illness, one
left unspoken but real nonetheless.
Seeking escape, he headed in December to South Africa for the Alfred Dunhill
Championship with his sister, who wanted
to “see some animals.” What she saw instead
was nothing less than golf redemption.
Leading by two strokes after 54 holes,
Martin teed off in the final round alongside past champion and local favorite
Charl Schwartzel. A tense duel unfolded.
When Schwartzel birdied the 16th, Martin’s margin was cut to one stroke. Both
parred the 17th, and both laid up on No.
18 — Schwartzel out of necessity; Martin
out of safety concerns. Schwartzel hit his
third shot tight, forcing Martin to grind
over a treacherous 80-yard shot over
water to a tough pin. His shot flirted with
danger but checked up just in time to
avoid rolling into the hazard.
Two putts later, victory — and redemption — was his.
At a time when golf has become
sport’s whipping boy, at a moment when
many forecast some sort of injury to the
game as a result of the misadventures of
the world’s No. 1 player, we were reminded by this gritty youngster of the redemptive possibilities of this amazing game.
Persistence and inner fortitude matter.
Golf works in mysterious ways. It challenges, frustrates, thrills and disappoints
all who play it. But it also has the power
to heal. Martin sought absolution from
consistently bad golf; Tiger Woods’ issues
are far more profound. Here’s hoping
Woods finds that healing and returns
soon to the game. l