By Sean Rooney on October 12, 2018.
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 unusually 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 mid-teens 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.”
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