DUBAI // Paige Spiranac’s first competitive professional round nearly never happened.
The American, playing the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters on invite, was struck by a severe bout of nerves in her hotel room on Tuesday night, and in the end was just thankful for making her early morning tee-time.
Given what had gone before, signing for a 5-over par 77 at Emirates Golf Club did not seem too bad after all – even though Spiranac sits 11 shots off Liz Young, the first-round leader.
“So last night, I was in my room, kind of locked the door and I was like, ‘I’m not going to play tomorrow, they can’t make me’,” Spiranac said afterwards. “I was crying and I didn’t want to go. So I guess today was pretty good compared to how bad I thought it was going to go after last night.”
The anxiety was still evident when she stepped onto the 10th tee Wednesday – her first hole. Spiranac shanked the ball well left, but managed to compose herself to make par. She then rattled off five more on the bounce, before three bogeys in four holes knocked her off kilter again.
A birdie on her 13th gave brief respite, only for Spiranac to bogey the next. She dropped two further shots on the final hole, when she dumped her ball in water that guards the green. Considering everything, though, Spiranac rated her round an eight out of 10.
“It was funny, my first drive, I was so nervous my hands were shaking,” she said. “I couldn’t even think straight and I just snap‑hooked it 20 yards. But I end up making par, which kind of steadied me a little bit.
“I’m so glad to have it out of the way. I’ve been, I wouldn’t say dreading this, but I’ve been nervous and thinking about this and anxious about this for the last couple months now. So it’s a relief to have it over and I’m really excited to play tomorrow.”
Like much of her life this past year, Spiranac’s performance will no doubt make a significant dent online. The San Diego native, 22, is something of a social media celebrity, with more than half a million followers across Instagram and Twitter.
Predictably, that brings its fair share of criticism, something Spiranac seemed brace for when asked post-round if she had a message for her fans.
“Please be nice to me,” she said. “I know 77 is not the best score, but I broke 80, and I know people were putting bets on it last night. They were saying I wasn’t going to, so at least I got that going for me.”
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Updated: December 9, 2015 04:00 AM