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Pillers shoot an ace on links and love

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Martin and Gerina Piller. (J.T. Keith Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

As a golfer, it’s all about how the hands fit in the glove, and the grip around the club. Grip the club too tight and a golfer’s swing may be off; grip it too loose and the ball might tail on the golfer swinging the club. Same as in love.

Professional golfer Martin Piller was thinking nothing about love when he was hanging out in Dallas working on his golf game. Gerina Mendoza had moved to Dallas after graduating from the University of El Paso. Both were introduced in November 2009, through a mutual friend.

At the time, Piller and Mendoza were hanging out at a golf course with the pit crew of NASCAR’s Ryan Newman. Piller asked for Mendoza’s number and after a month they started dating. The couple were married on Jan. 8, 2011; it will be seven years this January.

Somehow Martin and Gerina Piller have managed the delicate dance between gripping their golf careers with the right balance and keeping love on par.

To outsiders, some may think with Martin Piller’s struggles on the tour, that would affect his marriage. Gerina Piller is ranked No. 19 among golf players in the world. Martin Piller’s not only not jealous, but cheers his wife’s career and success.

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“It’s really cool about Gerina’s success,” Martin Piller said. “It inspires me to work harder and do everything I can to be the best I can be. I see her playing at such a high level, all it does is spur me on to play better. It’s not like she is playing against me.”

When asked who can beat who on the course, Martin Piller acknowledges that some days his wife can beat him and some days he beats her.

Most people who love golf can identify with the pail-and-bucket type of athlete that Martin Piller is. Nothing has come easy to him, and he has had to encourage himself just to keep his golf career going.

Piller has had to hit his career out of the bunkers, and at times, out of water to stay on the tour. He has earned everything he has gotten on the tour. He knows the ups and downs of golf, losing his PGA tour card three times and fighting back to regain it to get back on the tour. The last time he lost his tour card was when he missed the cut at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 2016.

“My career has been good, low, good,” Martin Piller said. “Since I’ve met Gerina, her career has gone up. She got her card and we got married, and the next year she started on the Ladies Professional Golfers Association. I’m married to a top 50 player in the world.”

Golf fans used to love the way Tiger Woods attacked the ball and hits shots that hadn’t been made before. But not many golfers or fans can play like Woods. Many can love the way Piller has to focus on every shot, and put everything he has into a round of golf to stay competitive. Because to the wannabe golfer, we can identify with focusing on golf with everything we have just to stay average — competitive. Much like the person who has to go to work and doesn’t want to go, people can relate to that guy.

Martin Piller went to Texas A&M University where he graduated with a degree in Agriculture Development. After graduating, he didn’t know if he was good enough to play professional golf, nevertheless, he entered his first professional tournament, the Texas State Open, and won in 2008.

“That win gave me confidence to let him know I can play on the PGA tour. After that, he qualified for the Nike Tour, now known as Web.com Tour. “If you’re on the Nike or PGA tour, you have a place to play and you’re fine. I was able to get onto that PGA Tour right out of college.”

Martin Piller feels like the way they keep their marriage fresh is he is not Gerina Piller’s swing coach, caddie or agent. He’s content to be her husband. Both control their own golf games and business.

“Her golf is her golf,” Martin Piller said. “My golf is my golf. I don’t have to worry about her golf game because that’s hers. When we’re at a tournament, if she needs help with her swing, she has a swing coach. I’m just chilling. I’m at the tournament as a fan and her husband. I’m off to the side. That makes it easy for us, when she is done with a round, or I’m done with a round, we’re done.”

The reason Martin Piller has been able to keep his hunger for golf is he likens it to having the mentality of a defensive back in the NFL.

“Gotta have a short memory,” Martin Piller said. “You may get burned on one play, but you have to get right back in there and you have to cover that receiver the next play. The same thing with golf, you may make a bogey or two, but you’ve got another hole and you have to keep going forward. I may have just gotten burned, but I still have 17 holes to play, or a tournament next week.”

If nothing else, Martin Piller has unshakable confidence in his abilities as a person and golfer. His attitude is to focus forward and don’t worry about the past, but just concern himself with the next shot. If it’s done, it’s done. That is how he looks at golf.

Both would like to notch their first wins on their respective tours this season. Martin Piller is ranked No. 348 player in the world on the Men’s Professional Tour. He is a two-time winner on the Web.com Tour.

Gerina Piller was ranked No. 19 on the Woman’s Professional Tour in 2016, and has played in the 2017 Solheim Cup, and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

As both continue to interlock their grips on their careers and love, it is their faith in God, which enables them to deal with the ups and downs of life.

Gerina Piller will be playing in the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Golf Tournament at 6:50 p.m. on Thursday-Sunday.

Martin Piller will play in the Sanderson Farms Championship at 12:29 p.m. on Thursday-Sunday.

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