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Sports / Recreation

Ex-Ram Laird ready for golf's greatest tournament

April 1, 2011
By Tony Phifer

Former CSU golfer Martin Laird, playing the best golf of his career, tees off Thursday in the first round of The Masters. Laird is the first CSU golfer to qualify for the world's most famous tournament.

Former CSU standout Martin Laird is the first Ram to qualify for The Masters, which begins Thursday in Augusta, Ga.Since graduating from CSU in 2004 with a degree in Business Administration, pro golfer Martin Laird’s life has been an ongoing series of firsts:

  • First CSU player to qualify for the PGA Tour.
  • First CSU player to win a PGA Tour event.
  • First CSU player to qualify for the British Open.
  • First CSU player to qualify for the PGA Championship.

This week, Laird prepares for yet another prestigious first. Thursday, he will become the first Ram to play in The Masters, the most famous and prestigious golf tournament in the world.

CSU golf coach Jamie Bermel, who brought Laird, sight unseen, to Fort Collins from Scotland in 2000, doesn’t even attempt to disguise his pride in Laird.

“It’s been amazing to watch his progress as a player,” said Bermel, who has led the Rams to 10 NCAA appearances in his 12 years as CSU’s coach. “We all knew he was a special player when he was here, but what he has been doing lately has been very fun to watch.”

An international sensation

Laird’s recent success has become the talk of the golf world. Two years ago, he was a virtual unknown professionally, grinding his way through tournaments while trying to make enough money to maintain his playing rights on the PGA Tour.

He finally broke through in the 2009, winning the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals For Children Open in Las Vegas. That win vaulted him into the top 100 in the World Golf Rankings for the first time.

Since then, Laird has continued to improve. He had two runner-up finishes last summer, losing in playoffs at The Barclay’s and Las Vegas but winning $2,137,928.

His steady climb has continued this season. After tying for third at the Phoenix Open in early February, Laird suddenly caught fire in March, posting three-consecutive top-10 finishes, capped by his one-shot victory March 27 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He has surpassed the $6 million mark in career earnings.

One of the world's elite players

Laird, Bermel said, is playing as well as anyone in the world, and has climbed to No. 21 in the world rankings. He skipped last week’s Houston Open to rest and prepare for The Masters.

“His win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational was really special,” Bermel said. “He was on national TV, he was in the lead, and then he was behind, and for all intents and purposes it looked like he had choked it away. For him to fight back and win the way he did made it all the sweeter.”

Proud to be a CSU Ram

Laird’s performance also provided his alma mater with an hours-long infomercial. Laird is always quick to credit his days in Fort Collins as the key to his development, and CSU was mentioned numerous times during the broadcast.

“What Martin has done gives our program instant exposure and instant credibility,” Bermel said. “When they are talking about Colorado State on national TV, it gives us credibility both here and abroad. It’s advertising we couldn’t afford to buy, and not just for the golf program but the entire university. He even talks about Fort Collins being a great place to live.”

First time at The Masters

Starting Thursday, Laird has an opportunity to add to what already has been an incredible year. The 28-year-old, who will marry CSU alum Meagan Franks in July, seems to have the ideal game to succeed at Augusta National, the famed Georgia course where The Masters is played. He has dominated the par-5s at most every tournament he has played this season, and excelling on the par-5s at Augusta is a must.

“Martin got to play a practice round there last month, and he said the course is spectacular,” Bermel said, noting that Laird texted him a photo of the 16th hole during his round. “He said the course really suits his eye. I think he’s very excited about his chances.”