Piller emotional after missing out on medal
August 20, 2016
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
- Gerina Piller carded a 3-over 74 in the final round of the Olympics on Saturday. She placed T11. (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
RIO DE JANEIRO – Gerina Piller was emotional Saturday after her final-round struggles kept her off the medal podium. Approximately 4,700 miles away, her husband Martin had no doubt his wife would bounce back from the Olympic-sized disappointment.
“She’ll shake it off. She’ll be fine,” Martin said. “She ain’t going to let it bother her.”
It may take awhile.
Piller entered Saturday’s final round tied with Lydia Ko in the silver medal position, two strokes behind leader Inbee Park. But while Ko went out and won the silver with a birdie on the final hole, Piller went backwards, shooting a 3-over 74 to finish in a tie for 11th.
That 74 was the worst final round of any of the top 30 on the final leaderboard.
Afterward, she was in tears as she discussed her round with the Golf Channel, having let a piece of history – the first golf tournament for women in the Olympics in 116 years – slip through her fingers.
Eventually, though, Piller began to look at the broader picture and appreciate the journey that nearly paid off in a medal. She only qualified for a spot on the U.S. team in mid-July when she moved to 15th in the Rolex Rankings after a top-10 finish in the U.S. Open. After 54 holes, she was low American.
“I didn’t even think I had a chance to be here,” Piller said, “so to come and to be in contention is all I can really ask for. Just going to learn from it and move on.”
Gerina began Saturday’s round by hitting her first two tee shots into bunkers, both times settling for bogeys. But she quickly bounced back, with birdies in two of the next three holes. At that point, it appeared she had stemmed the tide.
But a bogey at the ninth seemed to derail any momentum she might have enjoyed after the turn, and she failed to record a birdie while shooting 2 over on the back.
“I kind of got off to a rough start but brought it back,” Gerina said. “That was huge for me. You know, just putts didn’t fall like they did yesterday. There’s nothing you can do about that.”
Back in Greensboro, North Carolina, Martin had decided to stay after missing the cut at the Wyndham Championship. Golf Channel originally wanted to be with him at the family home in Texas as he watched Gerina play, but he thought it was easier just to stay and watch from the tournament site.
From his perspective, watching Gerina in the Olympics was no different than watching her in any event.
“I’m not downplaying the Olympics, but … we’ve been married 5-1/2 years and playing tournaments,” Martin said. “There’s so many weeks when we’re both at a tournament. Whenever she’s playing, you just ingrain it in your head that it’s just another round and you try to think that way as a golfer. You don’t want to get too high or too low.”
Then he added: “I don’t offer any help with her game. I’m the one who needs help with the game right now.”
As for Gerina, her performance Sunday wasn’t what she hoped for, but she’ll take positives out from the week as she continues her quest to win her first LPGA tournament. Playing with the eventual gold and silver medalists in the final group at the Olympics can only help.
“Obviously it wasn’t the greatest of finishes,” said Ko, who could sympathize with Piller. “I feel like I’ve been in that position, too, this year. I was leading going down into the last day of the U.S. Open and shot over par on the last day.
“But either way, I think Gerina still had a fantastic week and I think she made the whole of the U.S. proud.
“Sometimes I think we can get carried away by just the results, but I said the Olympics is about celebrating each and every player, celebrating obviously the medalists at the end of the tournament.
“But I think Gerina, when she looks back, she’ll say, ‘Wow, that was a great week.’”
Perhaps on Sunday in Rio, Gerina will remember that as she walks alongside her fellow Olympians in the Closing Ceremony.
-- PGATOUR.COM’s Sean Martin in Greensboro, North Carolina contributed to this report.