Zach Johnson Foundation Classic invite 'pretty cool' for rising LPGA star Gerina Piller

31-year-old making noise after late start

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Having a good start on the tour is one thing. What Gerina Piller is doing in her first few years on the tour is another.

Piller is the No. 16-ranked women’s golfer in the world, third among U.S. players. She is 12th on the LPGA Tour money list.

Her career arc not only is one of improvement, but one of sustained improvement that has carried her to the top tier of the LPGA.

She broke onto the tour in 2010 and has known almost nothing but good results so far. In 2012, she finished 49th on the tour money list. In 2013, she jumped to 26th. She dropped to 39th in 2014 before rebounding to finish 18th in 2015.

She also went 3-0-1 as part of the U.S. Solheim Cup team.

“Being comfortable with my game and just really figuring out what works best for me ... just owning my golf game,” Piller said of her sustained success. “I started a lot later than a lot of girls on tour. I feel like it’s still kind of a learning process for me.”

Piller didn’t start golfing until the age of 15. She attended the University of Texas-El Paso and won the Conference USA tournament as a senior.

While she doesn’t have a career victory on the LPGA Tour, she has 29 top 10s, including seven this season.

“I just feel like it’s a great place to be, because obviously I’m playing at the top level, but I’m still improving and at a good pace,” Piller said. “Over the years I really have found what works for me, and that’s just really been owning my golf game and not trying to be someone else.”

If past results are any indication, her strategy has worked so far and likely will into the future.

Now, she’s caught the attention of Zach Johnson and is part of one of the best fields Johnson has put together for the Zach Johnson Foundation Classic.

However, Johnson took a roundabout way in getting one of the top women’s players in the world into his tournament.

“He actually asked my husband (PGA Tour golfer Martin Piller) if he could invite me to the pro-am, so that was actually pretty cool,” Piller said. “Actually he asked my husband if he could have my number so he could invite me.”

Piller said the invite to the pro-am is an honor. She will be joined by Azahara Munoz, Carlota Ciganda, Sarah Jane Smith, Mallory Blackwelder and Sara Brown from the LPGA Tour.

The tournament continues to draw bigger names in and out of the golf world, with Iowa celebrities making appearances as well.

“I know from experience when people have those things and have those functions they hand pick people they know who can represent them well,” Piller said. “For him to ask me to be a part of that, it’s pretty cool.”

l Comments: ian,murphy@thegazettecompany.com

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