One tear, and one tweet, at a time, Paige Spiranac is determined to change the world. Golf plays an important role in that process, but it’s not the be all and end all.
A year after making her professional debut in the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters last year, the 23-year-old American is back at the tournament. There is no denying the ambitions of Spiranac, and the passion with which she pursues golf, but her invitation last year was more because of her social media skills.
There was criticism of her getting a spot that could have gone to a more ‘deserving’ professional. And as soon as she missed the cut, her social media timelines were filled with several hurtful messages, which unfortunately stood out amongst the many supporting ones.
The messages ranged from telling her she sucked at the game, to accusing her of being promiscuous.
It was a lot more than what the emotional Spiranac could take, who went into depression, gave up on her Twitter and Instagram accounts for some time and even entertained thoughts of giving up the sport she loved.
After wallowing for a few days, Spiranac decided to fight back. She took up the battle on two fronts – one, getting better at golf itself, and two, getting stronger mentally.
She hooked up with swing coach Tyler Hall, and the improvement is discernible. She made the cut at the Scottish Ladies Open on LET, and won a professional feeder tour event in the US. She also started counseling with Dr Nick Molinaro, and it has changed the way she looks at the world now.
The happenings of last year left a deep impression on Spiranac though. Golf is no longer the most important thing in her life – growing the game is, and so is raising awareness about cyber-bullying.
She started an emotional press conference yesterday saying her No1 objective for the week was not to cry. Less than five minutes into the interview, she could not stop the flow of tears.
“I actually don’t remember much of last year. I was so emotional, so stressed out. It was great but it was also, my first pro event, I was so nervous and I was getting a fair amount of negative media attention, too. It was something I wasn’t used to. It has really helped me out a year from now,” said Spiranac.
“I said it was the hardest experience of my life but it made me so much stronger as a person, also as a golfer.
“Right after that, I switched coaches, got a mental coach, and really took my game seriously and want to take it so the next level, and also as a person. I grew up and matured. It also made me realise that golf isn’t the most important thing in my life.
“So this year, I’m really going to work with anti-bullying organisations and focus on cyber-bullying. Everything I endured last year really took a toll on me mentally and I suffered from some depression and anxiety because of all the cruel things people were saying about me.
“Cyberbullying is a huge problem and no one ever discusses it. They never talk about it. It needs to be talked about and needs to be brought to the subject. It’s no longer funny. It’s not the cool thing to do to make fun of other people.
“I want to grow the game and I think that’s the most important thing. So I embrace the media now. I embrace my platform now and use it for good. I do everything I can to bring attention to this tournament for the best players of the world. This tournament deserves that and with Suzann Pettersen and Shanshan Feng and Charley Hull playing; to give them that recognition they deserve is great.
“I think it’s really important. I think people need to see how much it actually does affect me. So it doesn’t matter how I play this week, it really doesn’t. But the fact that I’m here and I’m sharing my story, hopefully can save someone’s life, I think that’s so much more important than if I make the cut or miss the cut.”
This first National EGF event of 2016 – 2017 season saw Mahmood Skaik claim the event with a Stableford score of 38 points.
Humaid Al Mazroua finished runner-up with 36 points, while third-place went to Rashid Al Jarwan with a total of 34 Stableford points.
The Best Gross Award went to Mohammed Al Hajeri who shot a four-over-par, 76 after shooting a 39 front nine and 37 back nine.
Awards were also given based on handicap with an A-Division [0-14 handicap] and B-Division [14-24 handicap] winners. Winning the A-Division Prize was Sultan Al Ali and in the B-Division equivalent it was Shawqi Sajwani who came out on top.
The event also hosted a Junior Division with six competitors that saw Alia Al Emadi win her first competition with 39 Stableford points. Her brother, Rashid, came in second ahead of Reema Al Heloo in third.
The first UAE National Monthly Medal of the 2016 – 2017 golf season will take place on December 31st at Al Zorah Golf Club.
Fiercely-competitive Suzann Pettersen has signed up for the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, raising the prospects of an intriguing showdown with defending champion Shanshan Feng at Emirates Golf Club from December 7-10.
The Norwegian veteran golfer will have an extra spring in her step as she will be seeking to set the record straight against Feng after finishing runner-up to the Chinese ace at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia in October this year.
Pettersen, a two-time major winner, will be making her maiden appearance in the season-ending Ladies European Tour event, and the 15-time champion on the LPGA Tour (seven wins on Ladies European Tour) was looking forward to the occasion.
“It will be fun playing Dubai, a city I have heard many good things from fellow players and know the tournament attracts a very strong field each year,” said the 35-year-old Norwegian.
“It will feel nice to have my name written on a famous trophy, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself and will take things as they come. It would take something special to beat the challenge, but I will try my best and see what happens.”
Popularly known by her nickname Tutta, Pettersen reached a career-high No. 2 in the world rankings after her victory in the Evian Championship in 2013 and held that position several times, most recently from August 2011 until February 2012.
With eight top-10 finishes in 20 starts, Pettersen enjoyed a solid 2016 season on the LPGA, but insisted her game turned around during the Olympics where she finished solo 10th on seven-under.
“It’s taken a while for me to wake up. But I feel like I’m swinging the best I’ve done all year. My putting is getting better. I switched to oldstyle putter. So I feel like I’m back to some good grooves on the putting,” she told the LPGA website recently.
“The Olympics is kind of where my body showed up and was excited to play. So it’s always nice when you have the desire of wanting to play well and feeling good and feeling good about your game as well.”
Mohamed Juma Buamaim, vice chairman and CEO of golf in DUBAi, the promoters and organizers of the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, commented: “We are delighted to welcome Suzann, an exceptionally talented golfer who is a true a global ambassador for women’s golf and a tireless worker for charity.
“She remains a popular figure with fans all over the world and deservedly receives a huge reception when her name is announced on the first tee. We really look forward to seeing her play in Dubai.”