Dubai: America’s Paige Spiranac is hoping to prove she’s more than just a pretty face heading into the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters at Emirates Golf Club from Wednesday.
The 22-year-old from Scottsdale, Arizona, has half a million followers on Instagram and is being billed as an internet sensation ahead of her invite appearance here.
Spiranac matching the doors of her Dubai hotel room
But she primarily wants to be known for her ability as a golfer, and as such, this professional debut could well prove decisive. “I can’t hide the fact that this is my first big event and I don’t know how I’m going to handle it,” said the communications graduate, who turned professional in August after leading her San Diego University side to victory in this year’s Mountain West Conference Golf Championship and the Colorado State Match Play tournament.
“I’ve played college and junior golf, and I’ve been in pressure situations before, but this is obviously on a bigger scale. So hopefully I can keep it together and do what I’m capable of doing,” added the four-time Junior PGA Championship qualifier and three-time US Girls’ Junior Amateur participant.
Spiranac at Emirates Golf Club
“I want to prove myself because I have been working really hard. Depending on what I shoot, it’s basically going to be down to whether I can keep myself — my mind and my nerves — under control.”
Asked if being billed as an internet sensation ahead of a golfer annoyed her, she replied: “I’m very grateful to be here [in Dubai] because of social media, I wouldn’t be here without it. I never really sought this [the invite] out, it just came to me.
Spiranac expertly exits a bunker
“I’m very fortunate that I have all these followers and that they like watching me and seeing what I do. So, I think it’s really cool, and it’s given me a gateway to help my professional golf career, and that’s really what I want to do, is just play golf, because I love it so much. So, I’m happy Instagram has given me this opportunity.”
And of perceived criticism towards her invite, she added: “I understand where they are coming from. I mean, I’ve played golf and have 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.
Spiranac on board the Emirates A380 which brought her to Dubai
“But I wish they could see that I’m working as hard as I can. I may make it, I may not make it. But I’m just trying to focus on what I need to do to get to the next level and trying not to focus on what they say.”
What would constitute a good debut for her? “I just want to let everything else go and do what my game is able to do and hopefully I can perform that way. It’s not really performance-based, it’s more about keeping things under control.”
And if successful this week, Spiranac — who was a gymnast before injury forced her into golf — said she would look towards getting her card.
“This is my first tournament and from here I’ll play the first stage of [LPGA] qualifying school when it comes up again. I definitely want to earn my way on Tour because I need more experience and more rounds under my belt before I do anything else.”