2005: Can polished European players Martin . . .
When Pablo Martin arrived in Stillwater, Okla., for the first time six months ago, he immediately knew life was going to be different. The 18-year-old Spaniard verbally committed to Oklahoma State without a campus visit but knew of the Cowboys’ reputation in men’s golf.
Still, the freshman had no idea what awaited.
Growing up in Malaga, Spain, Martin (pronounced Mar-TEEN) often slept until 9 a.m. before heading to the practice range.
Suddenly he found himself waking at 6 a.m. to join hundreds of Oklahoma State athletes intensely exercising at the school’s training facilities.
“A guy who came from Spain, we work out in the afternoon, it’s lazy – we do everything later,” Martin says in broken English that is getting better by the day. “It was a really big difference. But that’s what you have to do to win. It makes you see that people care about what they’re doing. They have a goal and work for it everyday.”
Martin has proved to be a quick study, so much so that Oklahoma State coach Mike Holder – a man who has coached numerous future PGA Tour players such as Charles Howell III, Bob Tway and Scott Verplank – says this: “I’ve never
had a player like him. Pablo does everything from exceptional to extraordinary. He doesn’t do anything poorly.”
Martin sits atop the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings heading into the spring, ahead of decorated upperclassmen Spencer Levin (New Mexico), Matthew Rosenfeld (Texas) and Ryan Moore (UNLV).
Martin won two of three stroke-play tournaments in the fall he tied with Georgia’s Chris Kirk at the Isleworth Collegiate), went 4-0 for the Cowboys in the Hooters Match Play Championship and recorded a 69.67 scoring average. The highest score he shot all semester was 72.
What culture shock?
No one should be surprised by Martin’s college success.
He did his share of winning as a junior golfer in Europe, capturing the British Boys Amateur as a 15-year-old, the 2003 Junior Orange Bowl in Miami and the 2004 English Under-18 Championship.
Perhaps his most impressive showing, however, came in a professional event.
Martin, 16 at the time, held the lead going into the final round of the PGA European Tour’s Spanish Open in 2003, but shot a final-round 74 to tie for 22nd and finish a stroke behind Sergio Garcia.
“I immediately got a sense that he was very well liked by all his friends from Spain and thought he’d be a good team player,” said Holder, who took several overseas visits before landing his latest sensation. “He has a nice smile on his face all the time and is just a happy person.”
The smile. It’s the one thing Martin’s teammates always mention when asked to describe him, saying it’s infectious and he’s fun to be around. Because of that, there is no jealously among the Cowboys, and they realize Martin’s success is a big reason why OSU played well in the fall, winning the Golfweek/Ping
Preview before climbing to a No. 3 ranking behind Georgia and Georgia Tech.
With all of Martin’s early success come the inevitable questions of a professional future, a la Howell, Hunter Mahan and Casey Wittenberg, who in the past five years left Oklahoma State early to turn pro.
The young Spaniard isn’t quite sure which way to turn, saying that he closely monitors what his compatriots are doing. Garcia, whom Martin doesn’t know well, skipped college and quickly found success on the PGA Tour. Alejandro Canizares, an Arizona State junior ranked No. 54, won the NCAA individual championship as a freshman and plans to stick it out in Tempe one more year.
“If he’s ready to play golf for a living – that’s his destiny – I’ll be 100 percent behind him,” Holder said of Martin. “When he came here, he made the commitment that school is No. 1.
“It’s still important but I think he made the shift in his mind where he’s now committed to being the best player he can be.”
Martin insists he hasn’t made any decisions on his professional future, saying that he’s thinking only about this semester and trying to land the Cowboys another NCAA title. If Martin doesn’t turn pro after this year, he’s certain to after his sophomore campaign.
For now, however, Martin is content waking at 6 a.m. and take advantage of the amenities Oklahoma State has to offer.
“I have no kind of pressure here,” Martin said. “I came here for one thing and I’m trying to do it the best I can. That’s all.”