Martin takes in­jury woes in stride

Medicine Hat News - - SPORTS - SEAN ROONEY srooney@medicine­hat­news.com Twit­ter: MHNRooney

There are times Becky Martin is ar­guably the best col­lege golfer Al­berta’s ever seen.

And there are other times she can’t even hold a pen­cil.

The Medicine Hat Col­lege Rat­tler will tee off at na­tion­als on home soil Tues­day morn­ing as a two-time con­fer­ence cham­pion, but isn’t feel­ing much pres­sure. She knows how quickly her long-stand­ing health prob­lems can flare up and ruin a round, but in­stead of frus­tra­tion, she’s sim­ply grate­ful for the op­por­tu­nity to com­pete.

“What else am I sup­posed to do?” said the 25-year-old on the prac­tice green at Desert Blume Golf Club ear­lier this week. “I’m very proud of my­self, I’ve had a bunch of doc­tors say I turned out way bet­ter than they ever ex­pected.

“The fact that I’m out here in the cold or play­ing at any ca­pac­ity, I’ve over-achieved.”

Martin’s had a cou­ple di­ag­noses since her wrist be­gan wreak­ing havoc on her game. It sim­ply went numb at times, end­ing her ca­reer at the Univer­sity of Toledo in 2014. She tried to play in the NCAA again in Alabama a year later but it wasn’t meant to be.

At one point it was thought to be cu­bital tun­nel syn­drome, af­fect­ing the ul­nar nerve which runs all the way from the wrist to the neck. Her best guess now is tho­racic out­let syn­drome, deal­ing with both nerves and blood ves­sels in the neck and chest. She’s had seven surg­eries but points out the prob­lems haven’t gone away.

At its worst, the numb­ness hap­pens mid-swing.

“Some­times I even let go and I have to re-grab it, and hope I have a chance of find­ing the ball,” she said. “The more rounds I play, the more over­lap­ping days, I get more and more paral­y­sis in my hands. When­ever I grip the club, it’s go­ing to be dif­fer­ent than the day be­fore.”

Which is to say na­tion­als presents an un­usally tough chal­lenge, as it’s four rounds. Martin hasn’t played a 72-hole tour­na­ment in two years — when she fin­ished third at Cana­dian Col­le­giate Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion cham­pi­onships in Prince Ed­ward Is­land. She didn’t play with the col­lege last year at all.

Even now, Martin re­fuses to use her med­i­cal sit­u­a­tion as an ex­cuse for not do­ing bet­ter.

“It made me a bet­ter ath­lete,” said Martin, who’s dom­i­nated the lo­cal tour­na­ment scene the last five years, rarely win­ning by less than 10 shots. “That’s what golf is re­ally about, as much as peo­ple think it’s hit­ting the ball, this is about be­ing an ath­lete, know­ing how to self-talk, de­tach your­self from bad shots, bad out­comes. It’s all about you. You have to play smart, stay level.

“I could feel I’m go­ing to hit the soft­est shot of the day and pound it. And I have to stand there and not be mad at my­self. I have to ac­cept it and be like ‘I couldn’t have done any bet­ter.’”

With a men­tal­ity like that, it’s no won­der Rat­tlers coach Trevor Moore sees Martin’s team­mates — male and fe­male — buoyed by her pres­ence.

“You can’t help but be in­spired by her story, and her per­spec­tive, and her skill set,” said Moore, whose women’s team is ranked sec­ond en­ter­ing the tour­na­ment. “The men’s team typ­i­cally had the over­all lead­er­ship of the golf teams, they had the ex­pe­ri­ence. This is the first year since I’ve coached that the women’s team has taken those reins. It’s neat to see that hap­pen.”

It’s rare enough for an Al­ber­tan to do well at the CCAA level in the first place. Be­fore Martin’s bronze in 2016, Red Deer’s Katie Grif­fiths was sec­ond in 2015 in Ab­bots­ford. To find an in­di­vid­ual fe­male medal­ist from the ACAC be­fore that, you’ve got to go back to 2001.

One joke at Rat­tlers prac­tice this week was they hoped it’d be cold so the At­lantic and B.C. play­ers would be out of their com­fort zones. But the cold also ad­versely af­fects Martin. So the fore­cast of mid­teens could be right up her al­ley, as is the links-style course it­self with her dis­tance off the tee.

No mat­ter what hap­pens, she’s smil­ing a lot more than she used to.

“It didn’t go as planned to get here,” said Martin. “Ob­vi­ously I’d like to be able to work as hard as I can and be bet­ter, but I have my lim­its. It’s more about how can I be the best I can with­out peak­ing too early, peak­ing too late and work­ing too hard, but not work­ing hard enough.”

NEWS PHOTO SEAN ROONEY

Becky Martin putts on the prac­tice green at Desert Blume Golf Club Wed­nes­day ahead of Cana­dian Col­le­giate Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion cham­pi­onships, which take place next week.

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