Martin completes 'rags-to-riches' journey with win

Mo Martin is all smiles after draining an eagle putt on the par-5 18th, helping her finish at 1 under for the tournament.

SOUTHPORT, England – You have to go back a long way to find a more surprising winner of the Women’s British Open than Mo Martin.

The 31-year-old from Pasadena, Calif. won the biggest title of her life when she was the only woman to break par for 72 holes at Royal Birkdale. Martin’s closing 72 gave her a 1-under total and a one-shot victory over Norway’s Suzann Pettersen and Shanshan Feng of China. It also earned Martin a check for $456,818.

Martin saved her best for last. She eagled the par-5, 18th hole after her 3-wood second shot hit the flagstick and finished 7 feet from the hole. She calmly rolled in the putt, and then had to wait for nearly an hour to see if anyone could match her under-par effort.

They couldn’t, and the diminutive Martin was crowned the queen of Great British golf – as well as becoming the third American major winner in 2014 (Lexi Thompson at Kraft Nabisco; Michelle Wie at U.S. Women's Open).

“Unbelievable sums it up,” Martin said after fellow professionals showered her in champagne.

“This is absolutely amazing. I was fully prepared to go into a playoff. I think I still need to be pinched. It’s absolutely a dream come true for me. It’s been the best week of my life.”

Martin isn’t one of the longest hitters in the women’s game, so the eagle she made on the 472-yard, par-5 18th wasn’t expected.

“On tour there’s not a lot of par-5s I can go for because I’m not the longest hitter, but it set up perfectly for me.”

The golf course helped the former UCLA player. Martin was able to drive the ball further on Royal Birkdale’s hard-baked links fairways. Indeed, her tee shots were running so far that she was able to hit 3-woods off some tees.

Nevertheless, the Symetra Tour graduate wasn’t expected to contend at Royal Birkdale. After all, she was playing in only her third Women’s British Open. She missed the cut last year and finished tied for 57th in 2012.

Her previous best major finish came in this year’s Kraft Nabisco when she placed joint 29th. She only gained full status on the LPGA for the 2012 season after turning pro in 2006.

Until now, the 31-year-old’s biggest career highlight was winning three times on the Symetra Tour. Her first victory on that tour played a part in helping her tame Royal Birkdale, coming at the 2007 El Paso Golf Classic. It wasn’t exactly links golf, but she notched her first pro victory in the strong winds that can blow through El Paso.

Nevertheless, no one expected her to rise to the top of such a sterling field. Maybe even Martin herself.

“From my dad teaching me hitting balls in the driveway to here is literally a rags-to-riches story.”

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