It was an improbable victory, as they generally are for Martin Trainer, who has developed a pattern of playing along in virtual obscurity until someone hands him a trophy.
On Sunday in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, he was handed the Puerto Rico Open trophy. A PGA Tour rookie, Martin, 27, won by three strokes in only his ninth start as a tour member.
It came a year after he entered a Monday qualifier for the Web.com Tour’s El Bosque Mexico Championship, made it into the field and won the tournament to earn his Web.com Tour card. He went through a stretch of missing eight cuts in 10 starts, then won again in the Price Cutter Charity Championship.
Seven years before that, only a sophomore at the University of Southern California, he won the Pacific 12 Championship, and in 2008, at 16, he became the youngest winner in the long and storied history of the San Francisco City Amateur.
So maybe his surprise victory was not necessarily a surprise, despite his best finish in eight previous tour starts was a tie for 28th.
“It’s been an incredible journey,” Trainer said in the wake of his victory at Coco Beach Golf & Country Club. “I Monday qualified last year with no status and won. Then made it the [Web.com] tour and won on tour [the Price Cutter Charity Championship]. I could never have imagined that this would happen. But it happened today and it’s incredible.”
Martin began the final round trailing leader Aaron Baddeley by two strokes, then closed with a five-under par 67 that included a birdie on the last hole for emphasis.
“I was not composed,” he said. “Inside it was utter turmoil. But I drew on my experience from winning on the Web.com Tour to sort of try to stay calm, and all the work I’ve done to try to stay calm in those moments. It all came together and I was sort of able to keep it together as I was going down the 18th fairway.
“I was just hoping to keep my card. That was my only goal [this year]. It’s very hard. The competition on the PGA Tour is the best in the world. Sometimes I look at the leader board and I’m like, how in the world can I ever finish in the top 10? These guys are so good. You just keep practicing and after awhile you get the hang of it and a few more events under my belt. I was comfortable enough to do it.”
Baddeley, Johnson Wagner, Daniel Berger and Roger Sloan all tied for second. The first three on that list have all won multiple tournaments on the PGA Tour.
Yet on this day they weren’t the equal of the upstart who once more snuck up on a field and won a tournament.