Mo Knows Golf

Naples LPGA star Melissa “Mo” Martin shares how she stayed busy and fit during quarantine and how as a native Californian she fell in love with the Paradise Coast

Mo Martin plays a shot during the CME Group charity event to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

What inspired you to start golfing?

We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but my dad realized what a wonderful sport golf is. He ended up teaching himself how to golf, and took my brother out. As soon as my brother came home with a trophy, I was super determined to get one myself. I begged my parents to play. At first, my dad was reluctant, but my mom convinced him to take me out. The rest is history. I really just fell in love with the game, the golf community, and being outdoors. I feel super fortunate that I’ve been able to make a meaningful career out of it.

How has COVID-19 affected your career?

Though I live I Naples, I was in Los Angeles and courses were closed for a long time, so I was playing on my carpet and mowing the grass with my 9-iron just swinging in the front yard. I had to get creative with practice. Courses are open now and it’s wonderful because you can actually distance yourself and be responsible about getting back into golf.

You missed most of the 2019 LPGA Tour season due to injury. How are you doing now and how did you spend your time recovering?

I saw a handful of doctors in California who found what is exactly causing the pain. I have a handle on it now. I’ve started a gentle daily ab-focused and stretching routine. I also started gardening, which is quite therapeutic. I made a tall garden box and put a bunch of flowers in there and planted some tomatoes, Japanese eggplants, and citrus. I learned immediately how much better I feel being outside again and how lucky the golf community is to be able to play outside among the trees, the grass, and to listen to the birds.

When will you return to Naples?

I’m hoping to play in the Florida events later this year. I can’t wait to get back. I have some good friends in Florida. It’s a very peaceful place to be and the practice facilities are second-to-none. Naples has really embraced me. It’s so nice to have the local support and have friends that I’ve made there come out to tournaments. Having grown up in California, it definitely feels like I’ve made a home in Naples, too.

LPGA’s Mo Martin with actor Mark Wahlberg and others celebrate fundraising success for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in conjunction with this tournament.
Getty Images

What brought you to Naples in 2013? 

After I joined the LPGA, I was looking for a base back east because we have a lot of tournaments there. My aunt had a home in Grey Oaks and so I made the decision to see if that was going to work out. I met Gene Fieger from Hideout Golf Club and I practiced there for a while. I also met Terrence Duffy from CME Group, which sponsors me and the LPGA tour. When Gene moved to Pelican Bay, I moved with him. Even going back to 2014, I was in Naples with my family and had a great week there practicing right before the British Open (Editor’s note: which Mo went on to win).

What do you enjoy doing in your free time in Naples?

I really try to eat at home on my off weeks. Honestly, my favorite thing to do is go to Publix and stock up for the week and stay at home. But I really like True Food Kitchen and Kunjani, a coffee shop across the street from Waterside Shops. I’ve also enjoyed kayaking and going to the Naples Zoo—they have a beautiful view there.

What are your favorite golf courses in Naples?

My favorite course is Pelican Bay—that’s where I practice the most. Dave Mangan is general manager and Gene Fieger is the director of golf. They’re wonderful people and run a top-notch golf course. I also enjoy playing at Tiburón, which is where our LPGA tournament has been hosted since 2013. I’ve also been to Royal Poinciana—they’ve been great and they have really nice chipping green.

David Foster, Martin’s partner, Jennifer, Mo Martin, and Lionel Richie

Are you involved with any non-profits in Naples?

The charity that I am most active with is based in Africa. It’s a Zambian water campaign founded by Betsy King, a former LPGA player. We’ve funded four wells in Zambian villages that now have access to clean water. In these villages, women and girls have to walk for hours several times a day to get water. The cause is near and dear to my heart because it gives the girls the opportunity to go to school and focus on something other than getting water to survive.

What do you think about the disparity in overall support for LPGA events?

Our commissioner really knows our value and our worth. He’s been our biggest advocate. We have so much to offer as athletes, entertainers, and representatives from all different backgrounds. People say that they learn more from the women because our technique is more sound. We play a lot of these courses from the back tees (men’s tees), which people don’t realize. We have to be that much better to be under par in order to be shooting 20 under. The people who take time to investigate that are huge fans. They realize the art, perseverance, and the diligence it takes to perfect our craft and to be able to score on longer courses.

Other than you, who are some LPGA players to watch?

Ariya Jutanugarn and Lexi Thompson, can overpower a course and it’s super impressive to watch them hit a golf ball. I’m smaller, but it’s just about staying accurate and having a wicked short game and wedge game and being able to score. And then there are athletes that are mothers who come back, compete, and win championships after the emotional and physical changes. Some have C-sections and their entire abdomen is cut, their core. Talk about strength as an athlete.

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