Paige Spiranac walked into her first professional press conference last month at Dubai Ladies Masters. No other player had more than 10 reporters show up. For Paige’s press conference, a hundred reporters crammed in tiny room to get a glimpse at the social media phenom.
The day Paige tee’d off in Dubai she was the most googled athlete in the world that day. Paige was granted a sponsor exemption for the event. At SDSD, the 22 year-old had led her team to the Mountain West Championship less than a year before. But surrounded by seasoned pros competing in her first pro tournament was a whole other level. Paige had never even been out of the country. The Dubai Ladies Masters had even made Paige the poster girl for the event (pictured above), the pressure was… overwhelming
Three months before Dubai…
The day Paige Spiranac met us could not have been an easy day for the aspiring LPGA Pro. We had arranged to do theCHIVE podcast with Paige and tour pro Pat Perez at the Sanctuary Resort in Camelback mountain in Phoenix. Paige had flown in from San Diego for the interview on her own dime.
Tour Pro Pat Perez had met us for lunch a couple hours before the podcasts were to get underway. It was a rare day off for Pat. He doesn’t get too many days off and we decided to drink our lunch instead. It was noon on a Tuesday after all. We asked the bartender if he minded hooking my iPhone up so we could play Alice Cooper. The lunch crowd at the hotel bar was surprisingly receptive.
Pat and his manager Chris Bello are some of my best friends, there’s really no excuse for us when we get together. I think the bartender was playing ‘Dr. Feelgood’ by Mötley Crüe when Paige showed up with her manager, Todd Hahn.
Paige had shown up to the boys club and for a second we had forgotten all about our manners. Paige, graceful as ever, sat down, smiled, and asked us, “How is a push-up bra like a bag of chips?” I don’t know? “As soon as you open it you realize it’s half empty.” We cracked up, this girl can hold her own. I spoke to Paige yesterday and asked her what her first impressions of us were. “I’m used to it, people making jokes, it was perfect, my kind of crowd.”
(listen to Paige’s podcast with theCHIVE right here)
Paige is a self-admitted nerd, her weak spot is Marvel and the Avengers series. She also likes nerd reality TV. When I asked her what her dream job would be other than Golf, she didn’t hesitate, “I’d be a sasquatch hunter. I’d just spend my day squatchin’.”
But she’s a sexy nerd. Wait, a sexy, athletic nerd. Halfway through the podcast as she was explaining the the Hulk was originally grey when he was introduced and that the Hulk’s full given name was Robert Bruce Banner because Stan Lee accidentally wrote some comics with his name as Bob Banner rather than Bruce Banner. Technically both names are correct.
A sexy, athletic, smart, nerd. Hopefully this helps everybody understand why Paige became such a polarizing athlete in 2015. She’s got it all, but this is America in 2015, so it’s important to find the weak spots and exploit them so we can feel better about ourselves. So let’s do that, shall we?
Back to Dubai
Paige has an amazing short game and her putting stroke is balanced and easy. But her long swing can get quick at the top, especially under pressure. Her long swing was shaky the first two days in Dubai.
Paige shot a 77 and 79 on Thursday and Friday and missed the weekend cut. That’s all, she missed the cut; she didn’t play to her full potential but she certainly didn’t play terrible.
The critics came down on Paige hard, some saying she didn’t deserve to be there, she shouldn’t have played the event and her presence was bad for the game?
As I mentioned, the day Paige tee’d off she was the most googled athlete in the world. Prior to Paige’s arrival in Dubai, how many American had ever heard of the Dubai Ladies Masters?
With more attention on any sport, attendance spikes, and players make more money. High tides raise all ships. In Dubai, one girl single-handedly put a little-known tournament on the map and in so doing, helped her sport. But nope, she shouldn’t have been there. Women’s professional golf should carry on as-is, comfortable in its own obscurity.
Saying the game of golf is stagnate right now is giving it more credit than it deserves. Participation is slumping, equipment manufactures are down across the board, and dozens of underused courses are closing every week.
There is only one demographic in the world right now in which participation is actually growing, girls age 6-17. Interest amongst beginers grew by 100,00 over 2013, perhaps a reflection of the (maybe) improving economy. Those girls would love a role model that makes the sport cool and more accretive to kids to help foster that growth. A young, talented, well-spoken, Paige Spiranac perhaps? She certainly has the potential to be an amazing role model. And we all know the guys are paying attention too.
Still, Paige took the criticism hard. “It was everywhere, and I read it. I was looking for reassurance and it was all negative. There was one moment when I was crying in my hotel room eating chocolate cake, like the whole cake, and I was feeling bad for myself and I took to social media saying I might quit the golf. It was obviously a rash decision that I regret. It didn’t help things.”
I asked how she picked herself up? “My parents helped, they don’t coddle me. They told me if you wanna quit, quit, nothing’s stopping you. Pull it together. And I did.”
“… and I’m focused on being positive and surrounding myself with people who believe in me. But most importantly, I have to believe in myself, and I do.”
Paige is as focused as ever this year. She’s looking to make the necessary adjustments to her long swing needed to get her tour card. I asked her if she had accepted any other tour exemption offers?
“To be honest, I’ve been offered a couple and I’ve turned them down. I won’t take that until I’m ready. I think you create your own opportunities in life too, I’m not above the exemption, but I won’t accept it until my game is where it needs to be…
“And one more thing, I’m not going to stop taking those selfies.”
I remember as our day with Paige in Phoenix came to a close, I had an idea. I brought a pitching wedge to the resort and a few balls. There was a small patch of grass on the resort, mostly used for small wedding ceremonies. I asked Paige if she minded hitting some balls? Here’s the rub: She’s have to split a narrow passage between the main building and some tall trees, then fly the house behind, the owner we found out later, had just gotten a new Bentley. Paige didn’t hesitate, “Let’s do it.”
She took off her heels and, one after the other, perfectly split the building and the trees. The resort staff and bar patrons gathered around. The manager approached me later and said he was going to put a stop to it but he couldn’t stop watching, “That girl’s got confidence.”
That she does.
Follow Paige on Instagram!