Since the beginning of time, love stories have been told and retold. Typically, they go something like this: Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy and girl get married. Boy and girl live happily ever after.
While the basic outline may stay the same, it’s in the details where each story truly comes to life. And that’s exactly the case for professional golf’s Martin and Gerina Piller—a pair whose fairy tale intricacies set their story apart. From amateurs to professionals to newlywed rookies on golf’s biggest stage, theirs is one story that has never been told before.
According to both Martin and Gerina, it’s not the sport that keeps their marriage wound as tight as a player’s backswing—although they did, in fact, meet at a golf course—but rather their individual, and now combined, relationships with God.
Even though golf is one of the most individualistic sports, these two pros are no longer focused solely on crafting their trade but how they can support each other both inside and outside the ropes. They’re a team now—teammates who will always be the most important person in each other’s gallery. Whether their shots are on the green or in the rough, they will be there for one another to provide the unconditional love that can only be manifested by Jesus Christ—the One who wrote their story and who continues to author it with each new swing of the club.
College Station, Texas, was the setting for Martin Piller’s far-fromidyllic collegiate golf career.
“…I felt that the Lord was telling me Martin was the man I was going to marry. That was a point in my life where golf kind of stepped down on my priority list.” – Gerina Piller
From 2004-08, his time as a Texas A&M Aggie was riddled with inconsistency and capped by a senior season in which he qualified to compete in only five of the team’s 13 tournaments.
Following graduation, professional golf was all but out of the question for Martin. So, like typical college grads, he began hunting for jobs, refining his search to the Dallas area. He passed the time waiting for call-backs by hitting the links, even taking part as a professional in the 2008 Texas State Open in which he’d earned a spot by finishing as the tournament’s top amateur the previous year.
What had appeared to Martin to be just a way to kill time turned into a life-changing weekend. He won the tournament and watched as his life took an immediate turn in an unexpected direction.
“That was the best golf I ever played in my life,” Martin said. “I went into that week not setting any goals on the golf course. I only had eternal goals to glorify God in whatever way I could. With that mindset, I had a peace I hadn’t had in a long time.”
Glorifying God on the course hadn’t been a priority to Martin before he arrived at Texas A&M. But, through the influence of the FCA Huddle and other Christian mentors such as FCA Area Director Bill Johnston, Martin gave his life to the Lord as a sophomore in 2006.
“I started going to FCA at the invitation of some football players,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about God, but that spring I went to our College Extreme retreat, and it just clicked. I realized that what I was hearing was truth. It was life-giving, and it was what I wanted and needed in my life.”
God’s plan for Martin further materialized following the Texas State Open win, which provided the financial resources he needed to pursue a professional career. Shortly after, he entered the PGA Tour’s qualifying school and worked his way through each of the grueling stages. In 2009, he fell just short of the PGA Tour but instead earned a Nationwide Tour card. During his second year on the Nationwide Tour, he won two tournaments and finished eighth on the money list, finally giving him the coveted PGA Tour card for 2011.
In stark contrast to that of her husband, Gerina Piller’s amateur golf career was one of honor and distinction. The Roswell, N.M., native played in every tournament from her freshman to senior seasons at the University of Texas-El Paso, earning both a Conference USA Tournament individual championship and Player of the Year award.
Following graduation, Gerina took the natural next step of an accomplished amateur and entered the LPGA Tour’s qualifying school, earning her Duramed LPGA Futures Tour card in 2008. She played the Futures Tour through the 2010 season, in which she recorded seven top-10 finishes and finished fifth on the Tour money list, and earned an LPGA Tour card for 2011.
Just as her golf career path had taken a markedly different route than Martin’s, so did her spiritual journey. Raised in a Christian home, Gerina’s parents stressed the importance of knowing and loving the Lord. The future golf pro was baptized when she was in eighth grade and established a personal relationship with Jesus Christ at the same time.
As she matured as an athlete, however, her relationship with the Lord took a backseat to golf. This pattern continued into Gerina’s professional career until she began spending time with fellow Christian women on the Futures Tour and attending the Tour’s Bible study.
“It was great to be in a Bible study with girls I was competing with,” Gerina said, who credits her friend and fellow competitor Janell Howland with helping foster her spiritual growth. “You share something besides just golf; you share the most important thing, which is Christ. I re-evaluated where my heart needed to be, and I got involved and learned so much. That really got me back on track with the Lord.”
It was an autumn day in 2009 when Martin and Gerina’s individual stories came together, thanks to their sport of choice and some mutual friends who claimed to have had no ulterior motives when scheduling a casual round of golf.
FCA Golf’s Ben Bost invited several friends to play a couple of rounds at a course in Dallas, and, through a few connections, both Martin and Gerina were invited. Considering that they both lived in Dallas, practiced at the same course and actually attended the same church, it was remarkable that this recreational meeting was their first.
“I realized what I was hearing was truth. It was life-giving, and it was what I wanted and needed in my life.”
– Martin Piller
Despite the obvious potential for a pair-up, however, Martin and Gerina experienced slightly different feelings that first day.
“I walked into the grill area—a little late as usual—and Ben was sitting there with some friends and Gerina,” Martin said. “I thought to myself, ‘She is gorgeous.’ That was the first memory I have of her. All I knew about her was that she played golf and she was gorgeous.”
To his dismay, Martin’s positive sentiment was not initially reciprocated.
“I thought he was annoying and obnoxious,” Gerina said of her first impression. “He was good at golf, and I wanted to be his friend because I thought I could learn from him, but, other than that, I saw him as any other guy. But, the more I got to know him, that changed.”
When the two shared a cart for a round, Martin capitalized on his small shred of hope regarding the “gorgeous” woman. He asked for Gerina’s number so that the two could play more golf together at a later date. She obliged.
Much to Gerina’s surprise, Martin actually did call. They set up several more rounds of golf and were able to spend time together over the weeks that followed and allow their relationship to develop naturally.
Prior to departing for their respective tours, Martin took one more leap of faith by asking Gerina to join him in listening to and discussing Pastor Tommy Nelson’s Song of Solomon sermon series while they were apart in order to continue cultivating their relationship.
“I knew the study would reveal to me what her heart was like because of the topics being discussed: dating, intimacy, sex and conflict,” Martin said. “We were extremely blessed by it. We would just talk and listen to one another for hours, and it really opened up the dialogue. We got to know each other on a deeper level than just golf.”
Gerina agreed that the study was beneficial and that it helped them reach the next level. In fact, it went one step further by helping her discover how much she cared for Martin.
“It reached deep into my soul,” she said. “The topics in Song of Solomon aren’t easy to talk about when you are first learning about someone. But, through the study, I felt like the Lord was telling me that Martin was the man I was going to marry. That was a point in my life where golf kind of stepped down on my priority list.”
In the ensuing months, Martin and Gerina spent time with each other whenever they could while still competing on their separate tours. Though they were often apart for weeks at a time, they stayed connected through their phones, book studies, podcasts and prayers and were able to maintain a healthy environment for their relationship.
Finally, while the couple was visiting Gerina’s parents in Roswell in August 2010, Martin popped the question.
Immediately they launched into wedding-planning mode, completing most of the details between tournaments on the road. On Jan. 8, 2011, after five short months of planning, they were married.
Due to the PGA Tour schedule, the newlyweds didn’t spend much time celebrating. Instead, they both traveled to Martin’s first career Tour start, which was at the Sony Open the following weekend in Hawaii. While there, he also took part in the FCA Golf Ministry’s Game Day event alongside fellow players D.J. Brigman, David Mathis and Josh Teater.
It was the third major event for Martin in a very short amount of time: marriage, the PGA Tour and now FCA—a ministry for which he still has a deep love and appreciation.
Martin Piller with fellow Tour pros and attendees of the 2011 FCA Golf Game Day at the Sony Open in Hawaii. For more on FCA’s Golf Ministry, including information on upcoming camps and Game Day events, visit fcagolf.org. And for details on FCA’s upcoming National Golf Scramble taking place this November at TPC Sawgrass Valley Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., go to fcagolfscramble.com.
“FCA gave me a very clear picture of the gospel, which wasn’t something I’d seen at the time,” he said. “It had a huge impact on my life. The men I met in FCA really spent time with me and injected truth into my life. They gave me the wisdom and love of God, which is something every young man wants and needs in his life.”
They’re now several months into their marriage and, really, what has become the biggest year of both their personal and professional lives. With this change has come the added blessing of being able to cheer each other on from outside the ropes, which is something they both enjoy.
Beyond the links, the Pillers are still looking out for each other’s hearts on a daily basis, doing more than just breaking down swing mechanics.
“My main concern is that she is enjoying herself on the golf course,” Martin said. “She’ll have times when she plays well and times when she won’t, but my main concern is her heart. I don’t get too wrapped up in her golf game. If she wants help on it, I can help. I’m there to support her, and I know that if her heart is in a good spot the rest will take care of itself.”
Gerina echoed Martin’s sentiment, adding that the past years of being apart have truly helped them understand what time spent together and growing closer to God and each other really means.
“Our time together is crucial, and keeping each other accountable to our relationship with the Lord is what we have to do,” she said. “We have to help each other keep digging deeper into God. I know that I’m blessed to have a partner in life who happens to have both the same faith and the same job.”