Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 9 August 2020

Social media butterfly Paige Spiranac ready to make her professional golf debut in Dubai

John McAuley speaks with the 'extremely nervous' American golfer who will play in her first professional golf tournament – the Dubai Ladies Masters this week – but who is no stranger to the public eye.
American Paige Spiranac hits out of a bunker during a practice round at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai on Monday. David Cannon / Getty Images
American Paige Spiranac hits out of a bunker during a practice round at the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai on Monday. David Cannon / Getty Images

DUBAI // Known for her poise in front of the camera, Paige Spiranac knows that will be severely tested between the ropes this week.

The American golfer competes in the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters from Wednesday in her first professional tournament, and acknowledges much of the focus will be on how she performs in the season-concluding event on the Ladies European Tour.

This is no trick-shot tutorial on Twitter, or lifestyle video on Instragram, the domain Spiranac has already got, ahem, down to a tee. With 50,000 followers on the former and almost 10 times as many on the latter, she is obviously used to the attention.

Read more Dubai Ladies Masters news:

Photo gallery: Paige Spiranac hits the course in Dubai ahead of Dubai Ladies Masters

The Dubai Ladies Masters tees off at Emirates Golf Club on Wednesday

So what is the overriding objective on the first tee on Wednesday when Spiranac-the-social-media-sensation becomes Spiranac-the-competitive-pro-golfer?

“Not throwing up, that’s my No 1 target,” she said. “I’m extremely nervous, I’m going to be 100 per cent honest with that. It’s my first big tournament, the first time I’ve been here and the first time out of the country, so it’s kind of a lot.

“I’m just trying to keep everything calm and collected and seem like I’m keeping it together. That’s the main goal right now.”

She has already sought solace in her closest companions, although they hardly seem the sympathetic type.

“All my friends are putting on bets if I actually will be sick or not,” Spiranac said. “But I just want to stay in the moment. I don’t want to get ahead of myself.”

It has been difficult to keep a rein on her rise thus far. Spiranac, 22, burst onto the scene this year, when she created an Instagram account, began uploading pictures striking poses or hitting shots and was soon generating headlines online and in print.

While her fashion sense no doubt attracted eyeballs, Spiranac has genuine golfing talent, too, having graduated this year from San Diego State University, where she was an integral component of their successful college golf team.

She turned pro in August, expedited, admittedly, by her fast-expanding profile, and at the next opportunity plans to attend Q-School for the LPGA Tour.

However, with the fame has come the infamy. Some have questioned her credentials, criticised her soaring celebrity. Spiranac, though, is prepared to handle the rough with the smooth.

“I understand where they’re coming from,” she said. “Yes, I’ve played golf and had good results, but when you look at my game compared to the top players in the world, I’m not in the same league. They do have a right to say, ‘Yeah, she’s not on tour’, because I’m not. I just turned pro and this is all new.

“But I wish they could see I’m working as hard as I can. I may make it and I may not. I’m just trying to focus on what I need to do to get to that next level, try not to focus on what they say too much and try to focus on all the positive.​”

That next step begins on Wednesday, when Spiranac takes on the great and the good of the Ladies European Tour.

Dubai provides her introduction to the pro game, the starting point to what she hopes will be a successful quest. In July, the tournament organisers phoned to offer the invite, something Spiranac was never going to turn down. Even with older sister, Lexie, in tow this week, the Dubai debutante is still struggling to take it all in.

“When the call came I was crying in my room because I didn’t know if I would be ready, and I’m still crying in my room and not sure if I’m ready,” she said. “I’m so blessed and so lucky. I honestly can’t believe I’m here. I’ve never travelled and it’s 15 hours away from where I live.

“Someone told me Dubai is a mix between Vegas and Disney World, but it’s way cooler than that. Every time I’m just blown away by, like, the buildings, and how nice the people are here and the hospitality. Everyone’s welcomed me with open arms, so it’s been great. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to come for my first tournament.”

jmcauley@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE

Updated: December 7, 2015 04:00 AM

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