DSGA 2010 Player of the Year Justin Martinson prepares for life as a pro. Plus, Who's tops in the GAP and DSGA, keeping the clubs swinging, tips to sharpen your game, and more.
(page 1 of 6)
DSGA 2010 Player of the Year Justin Martinson prepares for life as a pro.
If memory begins at the age of three for most of us, then Justin Martinson’s entire store of recollections revolve around golf.
“My dad gave me my first set of clubs when I was 3 years old,” says Martinson, the Delaware State Golf Association’s Player of the Year for 2010 and a 2010 University of Delaware graduate.
“He really loved those clubs,” says
Martinson’s dad, Jack, of that first set, made by renowned clubmaker Fisher-Price.
Later graduating to that great father-son tradition of a cut-down driver, Justin accompanied Dad—a single-digit handicapper—to the driving range. “He was always accurate and on target,” says the proud father.
By age 8, Justin began playing tournament golf and, by 10, “knew that golf was going to be my future,” he says.
Justin recalls breaking 70 for the first time at the age of 12. “I shot a 69 playing with my dad on a course in northern
California, and followed it up with a 67.”
That was when Jack knew he had gone as far as he could as a teacher and it was time to let the professionals nurture and shape his son’s skills. By that time, though, Jack had already instilled in his son some of those intangibles that all eventual pros will recall in their own development.
“I taught him to have fun practicing,” Jack says. “I’d invent little games for him to play while chipping and putting on the practice greens.”
In what might turn out to be the best lesson of all for his son, Jack also imparted the wisdom of “focusing on one shot at a time, make the best of a bad situation and never let temper take over.”
Justin didn’t win a tournament until he was 16, after his family had moved to Kennett Square, Pa., from South Korea. “He had a lot of second-place finishes,” says Jack, “but it took playing in the International Junior Golf Tournament circuit in Hilton Head, S.C., where he won six of those tournaments in one year.”
There, Justin competed against some of the best high school prospects from around the world.
“He matured during that time,” Jack says. “He learned how to win and developed that level of confidence needed to win.”
Justin was also under the expert guidance of golf instructor John Dunigan, who was teaching at Hartefeld National in Avondale, Pa., at the time.
“Dad was supposed to be looking for housing,” jokes Justin, “but he went looking for a golf instructor for me instead.”
“I pulled into Hartefeld looking for both,” corrects Jack. “I talked to John about Justin and he said, ‘Bring him over for a lesson.’”
With his trademark effusiveness, Dunigan reported back to Jack after that lesson, “This kid is first class. Of course I’ll teach him.”
Dunigan says Justin’s mechanics were “fantastic,” adding “he hit the ball harder than his size would indicate he should. His short compact swing allows him to generate a lot of power.
There’s not a lot of moving parts, which just goes to show that weight shift is not as important in a golf swing as efficiency.”
But it may be his dad’s lesson of developing a short memory that, with Dunigan’s tutelage, has propelled Justin to the threshold of amateur achievement and perhaps even a breakthrough as a professional.
Building on those early international junior tournaments, Justin has produced an impressive resume of wins, including the Philadelphia Amateur and the 2009 Delaware Open, where he set the course record at Fieldstone with a 63. (PGA Tour player Sean O’Hair reclaimed that course record Justin had wrested from him by carding a 61 at Fieldstone last summer.)
Among the reasons the DSGA cited for naming Justin its Player of the Year for 2010 (and for the second consecutive year) was his play in the DSGA’s Amateur Championship (which he won) as well as the 2010 Delaware Open (in which he
Justin’s plans to turn pro this year, and then begin competing in mini-tours, while participating in Monday qualifying for the Nationwide Tour, as well as qualifiers for the U.S. Open. He will compete in the annual Tour’s Q School tournament, with the hope of earning his PGA playing card by 2012.
Jack, a marketing professional, knows what it takes to bankroll a budding star on the big circuit. “It’s about fundraising and sponsorships, and finding an agent who understands that to develop a professional golfer is no different than developing a business product.”
Justin’s job will be to find a good caddie, for which dear old dad does not seem to be on the candidate list. “He fired me once during a tournament I was caddying for him,” Jack says, laughing.
Another time Justin apparently fell back on the caddie adage of “show up, stay up and shut up.”
“Justin approached me during a round at the Delaware Open and informed me I should ‘be quiet until I ask you for something.’ Thing is, he was right, and he went on to win the tournament,” Jack says.
Nevertheless, Justin cites his dad as one of his earliest, most profound influences. He adds Dunigan to the list as well, for the five years they’ve been together, during which Dunigan taught him to play “three-hole tournaments within tournaments” as an aide to develop short memory of forgetting the bad stuff immediately.
Justin puts Tiger Woods in his category of influences, but with a serious caveat based on recent events. “What’s happened to Tiger as a result of his off-course activities shows the importance of keeping golf and your private life completely separate,” he says.
So far, that doesn’t seem to pose that much of a problem, since Justin has trouble even identifying a private life so far. “I don’t have off-time from golf,” Justin says. “Even during the winter, I’ll practice in the basement when the snow is flying outside.”
He says his teammates, the routine of preparing for tournaments (beginning two weeks before the tournament starts) and the post-tournament afterglow (or aftershock) help keep him grounded.
Apparently, it’s all working. Of the young Martinson, Dunigan says simply, “he’s one of the most likeable young men I’ve ever met.”
And one who, once you meet him, you’re not likely to forget—no matter how short your memory.
Page 2: Blaise of Glory | Blaise Giroso is featured in GAP’s “Legends” video series.