Glamour golfer Paige Spiranac: 'People see me as a gimmick'
GOLFER Paige Spiranac reveals she had death threats and was blackmailed - as she denied being a glamorous 'gimmick'.
The American has 1.2 million Instagram followers and believes she is treated unfairly for being a woman who dresses differently in a sport dominated by middle-aged men.
The 24-year-old is ranked outside the top 1000 and, with few top-level opportunities in the US, the spotlight was turned on her in Dubai.
But that attention - plus all her videos and photos on Instagram - helped send Spiranac's critics on social media into overdrive.
She told The Guardian: "I was harassed, my family was harassed.
"I was receiving death threats, people were invading my privacy, I was being blackmailed. This was going on while I was trying to play."
She added: "When it comes to the golf industry, I know that people see me as a gimmick. I don't think I am.
New year, new me💁🏼 But really I’m tired of defending myself for no reason and wasting my time worrying over opinions from people who are just trying to bring me down. I know who I am, I know how much I give back, and I know how I treat others with kindness. Putting someone down will not make you feel better. So let’s be nice this year☺️
"If I was a guy and I had the same social following, I don't think people would call it a gimmick. They'd say it was great.
"People seem to think I got where I am because of the clothes that I wear.
"That's unfair to me and unfair to all of my accomplishments.
"I probably do more community service than any other professional golfer.
"For people to say: 'You only show some cleavage, that's why you have what you have,' is unfair. That's the injustice that we face every day as women and I see it a lot in golf.
"It's such a male-dominated sport, it has been around for so long and there are traditions.
"People like their traditions without change. When someone comes in wearing leggings instead of trousers, it is like the world is ending.
"I have always had a different fashion style. I always felt like I never belonged and it is tough because I am a good player, I know what to do but I still don't like going to new clubs because I am worried someone will say my skirt is too short or I don't have a collar. Why does that even matter?"
Spiranac admitted missing the cut in Dubai's Ladies European Tour events in 2015 and 2016 put even more strain on her.
She said: "I had a really rough go of it both times I was here.
"There was a lot of media, it was really stressful and I found the experience really hard. I said I wasn't coming back to play."
But she returned for the Dubai Desert Classic last week, where promoters took advantage of her celebrity by making her the tournament starter.
Spiranac added: "The people who are saying golf is progressive, if you look at them they all look the same.
"They are all middle-aged men. They obviously feel accepted.
"When you go to a golf course and look around, you see a bunch of guys, everyone looks like you so you are going to feel great.
"If you are walking in as a woman, you don't feel the same."