She is known as the head-turning golfer who went from playing the sport professionally to becoming a worldwide social media celebrity almost overnight. But there is far more to Paige Spiranac than just what meets the eye. Read on to discover the many trials and tribulations the golfer went through in life to get where she is today. As they say, never judge a book by its cover.
Born To Be An Athlete
On March 26, 1993, Paige Spiranac was born into a family of athletes. Her father Dan Spiranac was a college football star who played at the University of Pittsburgh and helped the Panthers take home a national championship in 1976. Her mother Annette Spiranac was a professional ballerina known for her astounding twirls and turns across the dance floor.
It only makes sense that two athletic parents would raise two athletic kids. The Spiranac’s first daughter Lexie was awarded an althetic scholarship to attend Stanford University, where she competed on the track and field team. Then came Paige who, as we know, went on to become a professional golfer. But as time would tell, the road to getting there wouldn’t be an easy one.
A Victim Of Bullying
Growing up, Spiranac was the victim of severe bullying. A bad case of asthma and a rare scalp condition that made her lose the majority of her hair meant she bore the brunt of nasty jabs from peers. On multiple occasions, her asthma left her unable to breathe, and she was rushed to the hospital from school.
Moreover, Spiranac’s scalp condition meant she had to wear her hair in a short bowl cut and was often mistaken for a boy. Her classmates showed zero compassion for her struggles. Instead, their favorite game was to throw rocks at her during recess and jump up from the table whenever she tried to sit with them. Luckily, Spiranac found a way out.
Finding Salvation Through Sport
Paige Spiranac didn’t always have her eyes set on golf. Growing up in Monument, Colorado, she dreamed of becoming a gymnast and was determined to compete in the Olympics. Because dedication to a sport was practically in her blood, it was second nature for the young athlete to train seven hours a day, six days a week.
Spiranac dominated the floor and vault routines, and it didn’t take long for those around her to realize she had a special gift. After excelling from level six straight to Elites, she was invited to the training center for the USA gymnastics team at Karolyi Ranch. It seemed like things were looking up for the young Spiranac. Then, around this same time, her parents were left with a difficult decision to make.
Switching To Homeschool
Around the same time Spiranac was excelling in gymnastics, her parents decided to take her out of the conventional school system and homeschool her instead. Their decision was made in part because the added flexibility in Spiranac’s schedule would allow her to focus on the sport, and in part because they feared their daughter wouldn’t survive the cruelty of middle school.
Getting homeschooled from sixth grade until the end of high school would create challenges for Spiranac later down the line. It became harder to form friendships with people her own age, and she didn’t have the opportunity to go to parties and such. Still, it certainly helped her improve in gymnastics. Her chances of becoming an Olympic athlete looked promising. That all came crashing to a halt one fateful day.
From ages 6 to 12, Spiranac focused all of her attention on becoming an Olympic gymnast — so much so that she moved to Colorado Springs with her mother for the chance to train alongside some of the biggest names in the sport, like Kerri Strug.
The Olympic hopeful was on track to carry out her dreams — but all that changed sharply when two successive knee fractures forced her to give up gymnastics entirely. Without a sport or classmates to distract her from her shattered dreams, Spiranac’s parents feared the worst. They didn’t know what type of hit this would take on Spiranac’s mental health. But they were in for a pleasant surprise.
Help From An Unlikely Source
With gymnastics now off the table as a result of her injuries, 12-year-old Spiranac was determined to find another sport to throw herself into — and fast. After all, she told GOLF: “Being an athlete was so important to my self-identity that even at that age I knew I needed to find another sport quickly.”
Two weeks later, she went to a tennis boot camp at the recommendation of her aunt, but she was less than thrilled about the sport. Then along came a life-changing intervention: her father, a mediocre but passionate golfer, stepped in and summoned her to the driving range. According to her mother Annette, “It was love at first swing.” From that day on, Spiranac was committed to playing golf year-round. Now, she focused on a different dream.
A Natural On The Driving Range
Continuing to be home-schooled from fourth grade up until the end of high school, Spiranac’s flexible study schedule allowed her to focus most of her attention on excelling in golf — and excel, she did. According to her former coach Watkins, Spiranac’s athleticism, hand-eye coordination, and ball-striking technique made her a force to be reckoned with out on the range.
The young golf prodigy began competing in Colorado’s junior golf circuit, where she won five out of seven tournaments and was crowned one of the world’s top 20 junior golf players. Spiranac’s success also made her a top-five college recruit. After years of homeschooling, it came time for her to decide where to spend her next four years. Would she make the right choice?
Following A Scholarship
After attracting interest from a number of top colleges, Spiranac decided to attend the University of Arizona on a scholarship. Having been raised in a small Colorado town and homeschooled for the majority of her life, going to such a large university was a complete culture shock for the golfer.
Speaking to GOLF, Spiranac said she had trouble fitting in at U of A, citing her social ineptitude and never having friends her own age. She added that she had never been in an environment with alcohol and was suddenly surrounded by “professional partiers”. Not only that, but Spiranac became the victim of “mean girl stuff,” saying players from other sports teams were spreading “nasty rumors” about her. With so much going on, it was clear something had to change.
Chasing New Beginnings
By the time her sophomore year had come around, Spiranac decided enough was enough. She transferred to San Diego State University. At long last, for the first time in a very long time, she felt as though she fit in with her peers.
It was at SDSU that Spiranac met her coach Leslie Spalding, who helped her immensely in going pro. Though Spalding said Spiranac “worked the ball” better than any player she had ever been around, the golfer’s scores weren’t reflective of her skills. Spiranac put in just as many hours as she did in gymnastics. But in golf, she continually broke under pressure and missed easy putts. Would Spalding manage to help her?
In an effort to distract Spiranac’s mind from all the pressure she was under at tournaments, Spalding would take the aspiring golfer on a walk while she told her jokes and recounted stories of ex-boyfriends. She would also pick a random number for Spiranac to count down from before hitting the ball.
Spalding’s patience and dedication helped Spiranac excel in the sport until she was crowned captain of the golf team during her senior year. As captain, Spiranac helped the Aztecs win their first-ever conference at the Mountain West tournament. Their victory sent waves across SDSU’s campus. However, little did the team know that they’d also catch the attention of millions of others…and in a way they least expected.
When Spiranac and her team posted a trick-shot video of them on the Internet, they got a glimpse of what social media fame looked like. Their video went viral, and it went viral fast. But that still wasn’t enough to prepare Spiranac for what was yet to come.
Shortly after the trick-shot video went viral, one of Spiranac’s friends secretly sent her photo to the content manager of TFM Girls, an Instagram account related to the website Total Frat Move. They featured Spiranac on their page, and within two days she earned more than 100,000 new followers. From that moment on, it was clear Spiranac’s life would never be the same.
A Future Unknown
In the weeks leading up to Spiranac’s Internet fame, the golfer wasn’t sure what her future would look like. She had two more classes to take before completing her degree and still dreamed of playing professionally, but didn’t have the funds to travel for mini-tours.
Money was tight for her father, who owned a barbershop, and her mother who worked in retail. So, Spiranac started looking into becoming a golf instructor or caddie. But then, as her social media popularity grew from posting on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, so did her opportunities. Apparel and equipment companies started reaching out to her, and in the summer of 2015, she received a life-changing message on Twitter.
An Unexpected Invitation
The Twitter message Spiranac received came from Dubai golf executive, David Spencer. Gearing up for the 2015 Dubai Ladies Masters tournament, Spencer was desperate to raise awareness for the event and also to attract new eyes to the sport. He saw the “social media” explosion around Spiranac as a perfect opportunity.
Spencer not only invited Spiranac to compete in the tournament, but he also offered to pay for her airfare. This was an absolute dream come true for the aspiring pro who also happened to be strapped for cash. It seemed like a win-win situation for both parties. Or rather, it was a win-win — until word of the arrangement got out the flack started pouring in.
Facing Harsh Backlash
Soon after Spiranac agreed to make her professional golfing debut in Dubai, her name was all over global headlines. The backlash both she and Spencer received was intense. Seasoned professionals in the golfing community doubted her ability, saying she was only invited to the tournament after being noticed for her looks, not her talent.
Laura Davies, who is considered England’s “most accomplished female golfer,” responded to the news of Spiranac’s invitation saying she didn’t know the recent college-grad “from a bar of soap.” One headline even read: “With more selfies than birdies, golf shouldn’t need Paige Spiranac.” While the hate was hurtful, Spiranac said it motivated her even more. But the question was: would she be able to deliver at the tournament — or would she break under pressure?
A Not-So-Picturesque Ending
Upon arriving to the Dubai Ladies Masters tournament, Spiranac was determined to prove she had been invited for more than just her looks. She was filled with excitement to be outside of the United States for the first time. But unfortunately, the pressure from the competition got the best of her.
Spiranac didn’t get the picturesque ending she had hoped for, finishing 101st in a field of 107. She tearfully expressed her disappointment at not getting to prove her cynics wrong, telling the Daily Mail, “A bar of soap could have probably played better.” As if the loss wasn’t painful enough, Spiranac was publicly shamed — and it brought her to the brink.
A Victim Of Cyberbullying
When Spiranac returned from Dubai, she felt absolutely crushed. To make matters even worse, her Instagram inbox started flooding with insulting and hurtful messages from people. Being told she was “ugly” and “a horrible golfer” just barely scraped the surface of the vitriol her detractors subjected her to.
In an interview with the Guardian, Spiranac opened up about the harassment she and her family faced in the aftermath of the tournament. She said they even received death threats, calling it “the hardest experience of [her] life.” As a result of the cyberbullying, Spiranac developed crippling anxiety and depression. She even considered quitting the sport altogether. While her future in the sport was unclear, one thing was known for certain.
The More Exposure, The Better
Spiranac’s participation in the tournament brought a ton of exposure to the event. According to David Spencer, the golf pro who invited her to compete in Dubai, Spiranac created a “media frenzy” like never before. For the first time ever, there were TV crews at the pro-am and the press conferences.
Not only that, but the tournament got over 500 million impressions on social media. The Daily Mail article that covered Spiranac’s participation in the event became the most-read sports story all over the globe that day. It was the first time golf had ever beat football in anything. More impressive still, TV viewership for an event of that sort was the highest it had ever been — by four times. Other pros on the tour recognized the impact of Spiranac’s presence. But one question remained: would she retire for good? Or would she get back out there and try again?
Reigniting The Fighter Within
Despite the good that Spiranac’s participation in the Dubai Ladies Masters tournament brought to the sport, there was no denying the defeat she felt from her loss and the hurt she felt from all the cyberbullying. Luckily, an old friend of hers was able to talk her out of quitting and the fighter in her was reignited.
Spiranac was determined to get back on the range and win. She completely amped up her game and rebuilt her swing, turning down all tournament offers until she felt ready. After a few mediocre goes, she finally won her first pro tournament at Scottsdale’s Orange Tree Country Club in 2016, and became one of the top-25 amateur golfers in the world. Things were looking up for Spiranac — which is why fans were shocked when she posted this not long after.
Hinting At Retirement
In July 2017, Spiranac posted a video on Instagram of her at the range accompanied by a lengthy caption that hinted at her retirement from golf. She hadn’t played since 2016, and fans were beginning to question whether she’d be back at all.
Spiranac wrote that while her swing in the last year was the best it had ever been, she “hated every second” of playing and was “having breakdowns because of all the harassment [and] death threats” she was receiving. She concluded her post by saying she was taking some time off from competing to focus on herself and her other passions. But her fans would soon find another avenue.
Becoming A Full-Time Social Media Influencer
Though Spiranac never gave an official retirement announcement, she put a halt to her professional golfing career in 2016 and made the switch to working full-time as a social media influencer. Not only does she make more money through sponsored posts than tournament wins, but she’s able to show another side of herself that fans haven’t seen.
Cuddling with her dog, setting up a bounce house in her apartment, laughing at her failed trick-shots, and showing off her comic book collection prove that Spiranac is more than just your average professional golfer to follow on social media. She makes an effort to respond to hundreds of messages a day. She especially seeks to respond to the hurtful messages, in order to turn haters into fans. Above all, Spiranac uses her platform to raise awareness about something dear to her.
Fighting For A Cause
Given Spiranac’s tough past, something near and dear to her heart is campaigning against bullying on her social media pages. Each year on Stop Cyberbullying Day, she posts about her experiences being bullied as a kid, and being shamed in the public throughout her golf career.
Her intention is to stop bullying altogether and to give hope to those who are going through similar hardships. In 2017, Spiranac announced her partnership with Cybersmile Foundation, an organization dedicated to combating cyberbullying and offering support for its victims. Being their ambassador is only one venture of the many others that Spiranac has been able to devote herself to since retiring from golf.
Playing-A-Round With Paige Renee
In February of 2020, Spiranac started her own podcast called Playing-A-Round with Paige Renee. Her first episodes centered around golf, her experiences going pro, and a number of her best tips and tricks to excel out on the range. But it didn’t take long for her to shift focus and give listeners a more personal peek into her private life and mind.
Spiranac discusses everything, from her experience getting blackmailed to her worst past dates. She even dishes on her most inappropriate thoughts about golf legends Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, and Tiger Woods. Listeners praise her weekly episodes for being “super funny” and “very relatable”. One male reviewer said her podcast shows “golf through a women’s eyes” and “makes you understand what us gentlemen in the sport are doing incorrectly.” Perhaps he’s referring to that March 2nd episode — where she made headlines for a shocking revelation.
The Hypocrisy Of Golf
On March 2, 2020, Spiranac released an unexpected podcast episode where she discussed the hypocrisy of golf. She admitted to never feeling like she fit into the sport, saying, “It’s this big boys club where if someone does something they’ll cover that up…but I wear a tank top…and I’m the one that’s ruining the game.”
Spiranac also recalled how she was denied the chance to help a charity because of her image. When she offered to donate free golf clubs, they rejected her, saying their board members don’t agree with her public appearance and the way she projects herself. Spiranac has also taken aim at a particular type of guy — the ones who invited her on dates with another purpose in mind.
Dates Used Her For Golf Lessons
With 2.5 million followers on Instagram, Spiranac is no stranger to people sliding into her DMs and asking her out on dates. Some have even asked for her hand in marriage! But according to the former pro golfer, a number of her dates ended up costing her more than just time.
Spiranac revealed that tons of guys have taken her on dates to driving ranges, only to use her for golf lessons and equipment. One suitor, she said, texted her 24/7, “was really cute and flirty,” and took her to the range for six months before revealing he had a girlfriend. Ouch! Luckily in 2016, Spiranac received a direct message unlike any of the rest.
Solace At Last
In 2016, Spiranac received a direct message on Instagram from Steven Tinoco, a minor-league baseball player and fitness instructor. He had run into her in the Top Golf lobby and asked to snap a photo with her. The following day, he sent her the picture and asked her on a date.
Spiranac was blown away by his manners. It wasn’t long before the two started dating, and fell in love. In December of the same year, Tinoco proposed to her in the first place she’d traveled outside her home country, and where she’d played her first professional tournament: Dubai. While they have yet to marry, Spiranac tells her fans to expect wedding bells in the near future.
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