An emotional Paige Spiranac has spoken about the “cyber bullying” she faced on social media platforms after making her professional debut at the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters 12 months ago.
The American golfer had received an invite from organisers to compete in the 2015 event, with her large followings on both Twitter and Instagram being seen as a way of helping promote the event at Emirates Golf Club.
But Spiranac, 23, who has been invited back again for this year’s event, which begins on Wednesday, revealed that her presence at the event had led to some negative feedback from people online and that it had affected her badly.
Spiranac, speaking at a news conference on Monday, explained she wanted to speak about the criticism and personal attacks she and her family had faced to help others deal with it in the future.
Of how she had felt following her performance in Dubai, where she missed the cut, she said: “It was really bad. Right after, I took about three weeks off, just not looking at anything. But when you see the comments that people say, they are extremely cruel.
“They attack not only me but my parents, my family, my friends, and you know, they say I’m a disgrace to golf. It’s really hard and I still get those comments and I still deal with it every day.”
Of the need to highlight what she had been through, she added: “I think it’s really important. I think people need to see how much it actually does affect me, and the things they call me.
“I feel like I was raised right from my parents, and for them to attack my parents and attack what I’m doing, it’s really difficult. I struggled with a lot of depression after it, because as a 22-year-old, you feel like you’re not worth anything.”
Spiranac emphasised that she wanted to bring the subject to the forefront to raise awareness of the issue and the impact it has on the victim.
“Teenage suicide rates are up right now, and they think it’s because of cyber bullying,” she added. “And so if I can share my story and I’m OK with being emotional about it and I’m OK with kind of expressing what happened to me, because people don’t realise how hard it was on me and how hard it was and the comments I do get and people threatening my life and saying the world is better off without me, people don’t see that side of it. I think it’s really, really important to share that with everyone.”
Spiranac comes to Dubai again having made progress in her game since last year. She made the cut at the Ladies Scottish Open at Dundonald Links in the summer and claimed her first professional victory on the Cactus Tour.
Her performance in Scotland was her best golfing moment to date. “I started off so bad,” she recalled. “I bogeyed the first hole, doubled the second, parred and bogeyed again. I was like ‘Oh, my gosh, this is going to be the worst round ever’. And it ended up turning out to be really good, because I made like three birdies coming in and it just felt good to like prove myself and actually make a cut and prove what everyone was saying was wrong.”
But as to her aspirations this week, Spiranac said she believed she had already achieved her goal by highlighting the online abuse she had suffered, and that was more important than what happens on the course.
“It doesn’t matter how I play this week, it really doesn’t,” she said. “But the fact that I’m here and I’m sharing my story, hopefully can save someone’s life, I think that’s so much more important than if I make the cut or miss the cut.”
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