When EDGAR met Paige Spiranac
The Insta-famous American golfer is in Dubai this week for the Omega Ladies Masters.Robert Chilton December 6, 2016
American golf star Paige Spiranac has mixed feelings about being back in Dubai at the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters this week. For it was this tournament in 2015 where she made her pro debut as a 22-year-old rookie and endured a torrid time on the course as nerves got the better of her.
However, what made it even worse was the avalanche of abuse the Arizona golfer received on social media. The backlash became so bad Spiranac, who has more than 800,000 Instagram followers, took a three-week hiatus from social media.
But with a renewed enthusiasm for the game of golf and a thicker skin, Spiranac, now 23, says she is a stronger person 12 months after her Dubai debut. She spoke to EDGAR at the Emirates Golf Club ahead of the tournament, and described how she rebuilt her confidence and how she plans to battle bullying.
What do you remember about your first pro tournament in Dubai in 2015?
Everything I remember was not good. I was a mess the whole time and I didn’t get any sleep. I was no nervous and I didn’t know what to expect. It was probably the hardest thing that I’ve ever done.
What did you feel about the criticism you faced online?
There was a ton of negative media attention and a lot of stuff I wasn’t used to. I was thrown into a pit of fire and had to figure it out. People were leaving mean comments and saying rude things. As a 22-year old it was really tough.
Who did you turn to for support?
At the time, nobody knew how to help me really. A couple of professionals who I look up to like Christina Kim reached out to me and that was great. If I didn’t have that support system I don’t know if I’d still be playing golf because it was so traumatic for me.
Did you ask other players for advice?
Yes, last year I felt so out of place. I didn’t approach anyone and nobody approached me. But in Scotland this year I talked to all the girls to try and learn from them because they know the ropes. As a rookie, playing with professionals and seeing how they do things is really valuable. I was taking it all in.
Were you able to take any positives from that negative experience?
I’m now getting involved in anti cyber bullying organisations because I knew how much it affected me. Hopefully my experiences can help other people. Looking back it was probably the best thing for me because it helped me mature, and it was good for my golf career. It motivated me and showed me what I needed to get better at. It’s good to be back in Dubai this year and to breathe a little bit and enjoy the course.
How has 2016 been for you?
It’s been a really good year. I’ve been playing tour events in the States and played in Scotland; I won my first professional event too. This year has been a learning process, good and bad, but my game is going in the right direction.
Do you use a sports psychologist?
Yes, it’s nice having someone to talk to. You have your golf coach but you definitely need a mental coach too. I call him up and talk about stuff and he gives me tips about breathing or how to handle something when I’m stressed out.
Do you use these tips elsewhere in your life?
I use them in every part of my life. For example, breathe in for five, breathe out for five, until you feel good. It gets oxygen into your brain. When you get nervous you breathe fast and that cuts off oxygen and your brain doesn’t function.
What do you think about the course at Emirates Golf Club?
It’s an amazing golf course, and it’s in perfect condition so it’s easy to play well here. It’s beautiful so even if you’re playing bad you can still enjoy it. But it’s probably not the best course for me. I felt good playing in Scotland because I like links golf.
How important is fitness to your game?
It gets hard at times on tour to find the time but I try to get in the gym most days, at least to do some stretching. I work on mobility because I travel so much; sitting on a plane for 15 hours is not good for you. I love fitness so I try to keep up on it and luckily my body’s never out of balance.
Do you pay close attention to your diet?
I try to eat healthy, whole foods, and lots of fruit and veggies. I have one day a week when I eat what I want; if I’m craving something I’ll have it. I don’t deprive myself because I think that’s when you start to get obsessive about food and that’s not good. When I’m playing I snack on beef jerky, nuts, fruit, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I love ice cream – mint choc chip is my favourite flavour.
You have a huge social media presence – what do you like about it?
It’s taken me a while to figure out how to use it in a positive way. Last year I didn’t really know how to use it and it hurt me because I was looking at all the negative things. But now I have an amazing platform to highlight things like bullying and help to grow the game of golf. It’s a tool to spread my love of golf and make the sport cool.
What’s your favourite channel?
Instagram is my favourite. But I love doing goofy faces to my friends on Snapchat. Twitter, not so much, because I don’t think I have many interesting things to say!
Who should we follow on Instagram?
Puppy World has amazing videos – if you like puppies. I love food Instagrams too. But I’m too busy eating to take photos of my food for Instagram.
Omega Dubai Ladies Masters runs December 7-10 at Emirates Golf Club.