Dreams do come true on the Symetra Tour, the former Futures Tour that is billed as the official “Road to the LPGA.” But sometimes it takes a lot longer than one would think.
A case in point is the unbelievable story of Mo Martin, a former Symetra Tour regular who won last week’s Ricoh British Women’s Open at the age of 31.
Martin was one of the most popular players on the 34-year-old Symetra Tour, which returns to the area this week with the SEFCU Championship from Friday through next Sunday at Capital Hills at Albany. Her bubbly personality was infectious, and her story became even more interesting once we met her grandfather, her biggest fan who attended as many tournaments as he possibly could. He passed away last March at the ripe old age of 100, but he became a fixture at the Capital Hills at Albany event, riding along and smiling in a golf cart.
Martin certainly paid her dues on the Symetra Tour, playing there for six seasons. She won three times and had 23 top-10 finishes, including two thirds at the Albany stop. Her victory last week was the 44th LPGA Tour major title won by a Symetra Tour graduate.
“It [the Symetra Tour] 100 percent made me the person and player I am today,” she said in a conference call this week. “That was my journey. Everybody has a different journey.”
Martin said she never thought about giving up, even after some struggles on the Symetra Tour.
“I created three criteria for myself, and that was my benchmark as to how long I was going to play,” she said. “The first one is if I wake up happy in the morning. The second was if I am still contributing to the game as a whole. The third is if I’m still paying my own bills. I thought if I check all of those off, that’s what’s important to me, and I’m going to keep going. So every year, I was able to do that.”
So, when the 5-foot-2 shortest hitter on the LPGA Tour registered an eagle on the final hole — her first of the year — to win not only her first LPGA title but her first major — it seemed like destiny. She quickly moved from 99th in the world to No. 26.
Including Martin, there are now more than 500 Symetra Tour alumni who have played on the LPGA Tour, and they have won a total of 382 LPGA titles.
This week, the top 19 players on the Volvik Race for the Card money list are all playing, including defending champion Wei-Ling Hsu, who is fourth on the money list and has one victory this year, and Jackie (Barenborg) Stoelting, the daughter of Niskayuna native Ed Barenborg who won the Big Break Florida competition on the GolfChannel. Stoelting, who has four top-10 finishes this season, has earned more than $33,000 on the Symetra Tour this season but pocketed more than $100,000 in money, equipment and trips from the Big Break Florida competition.
The top 10 money winners earn their LPGA card.
u Schenectady’s Seth Adams, a Christian Brothers Academy graduate, College of Saint Rose product and former Gazette Newspaper In Education Capital Region Junior champion, won the annual J. Peter Martin Whiteface Open golf tournament in a sudden-death playoff with Nick Politi of Lake Placid and Ethan Sawyer of Rainbow Lake after all three posted a 153 two-day total on the par-71 layout. Adams won with a par. Meanwhile, other local players did extremely well. Mohawk Golf Club’s Hank Haase won the men’s super senior division with a 156, former Gazette Women’s Amateur champion Sue Kahler won the senior women’s division with a 156, followed by Amsterdam’s Kathy Harkins (167) and Kate Oppedisano of Saratoga Springs took the women’s senior division with a 170.
u Speaking of the Gazette N.I.E., entry deadline is Thursday for the 17th annual event, which will be held Aug. 1 at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course. Entry fee is $35 and includes lunch and prizes. There will be an 8 a.m. shotgun start. Competition will be divided into three divisions: boys’ 12-14, boys’ 15-18 and girls’ 12-18. Gross and handicap awards will be awarded in each division. Proceeds benefit the Gazette’s Newspapers in Education program. Make checks payable to The Gazette, and do not send cash. Send entries to N.I.E. Junior Golf Tournament, The Gazette, 2345 Maxon Road, Ext. P.O. Box 1090, Schenectady, NY 12301-1090. The first 120 entries will be accepted in order or postmark.
u It’s a big week for local pros and amateurs who will be competing on the state level. The New York State Men’s Amateur will be held at Bellevue Country Club, while the New York State Open is set for Bethpage Black State Park on Long Island.
u Meanwhile, the Capital District Women’s Open, one of the premier best-ball events on the women’s amateur schedule, will be played Monday and Tuesday at Hiland Golf Club.
u Rolling Hills at Antlers Country Club hosts the next Eastern New York Golf Association stop Wednesday.
u McGregor Links Country Club head pro Tom Oppedisano earned a spot on the American Oakley Skull Cup team, to be played in Phoenix in conjunction with the Waste Management Phoenix Open next January. The spot was available as part of a series of Oakley pro-ams that were played at Metedeconk National GC in Jackson, N.J. Oppedisano was one-over-par through nine holes in the rain-shortened event and won a spot.
u Van Patten Golf Course will host the 16th annual Rotary Golf Classic Aug. 7. Entry fee for the four-person scrmable will be $100 and includes cart, snack at the turn, lunch, awards and raffles. There will be an 8:30 a.m. shotgun start. To register, go to www.glenvillerotary.org or call John Weldon at 399-0048.
u Former New York Yankees star third baseman Graig Nettles will be the featured guest at Monday’s 30th annual Center for Disability Services Golf Classic at Albany Country Club. Local pros from the Northeastern New York PGA will anchor the pro-am event, which begins at 12:30 p.m.
u The Executive Women’s Golf Association donated a check for $1,335 to help support the NENYPGA’s junior golf program Saturday at the Drive Chip and Putt qualifier at Van Patten Golf Club.
u Dick Peters Sr. shot his age (85) at Amsterdam Municipal.
Dr. Shashi Patl recorded a hole-in-one on the sixth hole at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course with a 5-hybrid.
Ken Rogers aced the 200-yard sixth hole at Van Schaick Island Country Club with a 3-hybrid.
Lee Gladd eagled the 245-yard par-4 fourth hole with a sand wedge during the second day of the Airway Meadows club championship, and Justin Jourdanais also eagled the same hole, played at 292 yards, with a pitching wedge.
Also at Airway Meadows, Laura Powers holed out with a sand wedge on the 237-yard 13th hole.
During the Misfits league outing at Lake Placid Club, Rob Bannon eagled the 290-yard par-4 16th hole, and Shawn O’Brien eagled the 473-yard par-5 15th hole with a chip-in.
Michael Lawson eagled the ninth hole at Stadium Golf Club.