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.”
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