It was not love at first sight for the professional golf husband-and-wife duo of Gerina and Martin Piller.
The couple first met at a NASCAR event at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth in 2009.
“When I first met her, I didn’t know a whole lot about her other than she was pretty good at golf and extremely good looking,” he said. “I didn’t think a whole lot about her.”
Gerina’s recollection of their first encounter trended more toward the thumbs-down side of the spectrum.
“When I first met him I definitely was not impressed,” she said with a laugh. “At that point in my life I was not looking to date anybody. I figured I’d hang out with him. He is a good golfer, and I figured probably could learn something from him.”
Those blasé feelings quickly moved in the other direction. The couple was married in 2011, and today both are making their way in the professional golf realm.
Gerina Piller, a 2016 U.S. Olympian who has earned more than $3 million over her career on the LPGA Tour, is in France for this week’s Evian Championship at the Evian Resort Golf Club in Evian-les-Bains. It’s the last of the five women’s golf majors this season.
The 32-year-old Gerina had three top-10 finishes in last year’s majors, but she hasn’t finished better than 14th this season, and she missed the cut at the Women’s British Open last month.
However, she’s gained some momentum back in recent weeks, including a win over Team Europe last month in the biennial Solheim Cup, contested under Ryder Cup rules. The 16.5-11.5 victory marked Team USA’s second Solheim Cup win in a row.
“It’s the greatest honor you can have representing your country,” Gerina said, a native of New Mexico. “I love my country and I love where I come from. Anytime you can put on the stars and stripes it’s very special, and then to play and achieve success in those settings is awesome.”
Martin Piller believed so much in his wife’s red-white-and-blue commitment that he skipped an event on the Web.com Tour — which is one step from the main PGA Tour — that impacted his forward momentum on the tour’s money list, where the top 25 money leaders each year are promoted to the PGA Tour.
“It was a pretty easy decision,” said Martin, who ranks 30th on the Web.com Tour money list. “She got to represent her country. It’s an event that only happens every two years. You never know how many chances you will get to play in something like that. She was one of 12 Americans. It’s a privilege to play in it. It was a no-brainer for me.”
Martin Piller, 31, is playing in the Albertsons Boise (Idaho) Open this week.
“I still have an opportunity to finish in the top-25 money,” said Martin, who has played 48 tournaments on the PGA Tour. “There are three more events. I’m in good shape if I keep playing solid.”
Martin Piller also has watched his wife’s game flourish in recent times. Gerina Piller has four top-five finishes to her credit this season, including a pair within the last two months. In July, she won the Marathon Classic in Ohio.
“It’s her consistency,” he said. “That’s the mark of a great pro. She’s steady and reliable. If she was on a sports team, she would be that kind of teammate. The consistency is what I’ve always admired about her.”
While both have the vocation of professional golfers, away from the links the couple tries to keep the mechanical part of the sport out of the equation.
“We keep our games separate, but I can identify with her in terms of the emotions if you’re either playing well or struggling. I know what it feels like,” Martin said. “I can empathize with her and I think that’s the best benefit.”
Gerina added: “We know what we both do all day. I’m more concerned with how we are as people and about being his wife way more so than why one of us doubled a particular hole. We’ve always had that mentality and it’s always worked out very well.”
Gerina Piller, who played collegiately at Texas-El Paso, is ready to tackle France this week and knows in order to continue to climb the LPGA ladder she must tackle a tour that is becoming increasingly harder to navigate because of the talent on it.
“The competition on the tour is extremely good,” she said. “What separates the No. 1 player in the world from the No. 10 player and the No. 10 player from the No. 25 player is so minute. That makes it hard to win on the tour. It’s not a top-heavy tour. You go back 30 or 40 years, there may have been a handful of women who could win. Now, there are so many.”
Nonetheless, Gerina Piller is more than up for the challenge.
“I like where my game is headed,” she said.
And what Gerina Piller does for a living and the opportunity to represent her country have not been lost on her.
“It’s a dream come true,” she said.
Mike Miazga has written about Olympic sports for nearly 25 years and is the former editor in chief of Volleyball Magazine. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.