Pro Paige Spiranac talks teaching 1D's Niall golf in Dubai
By David Light
Published: Tue 23 Jan 2018, 5:25 PM
Last updated: Sun 28 Jan 2018, 1:39 PM
THE OMEGA DUBAI Desert Classic, taking place at the Emirates Golf Club this weekend, always conjures up a host of surprises, but this year the tournament is pushing out the boat. Not only is American pro golfer Paige Spiranac the competition's Official Starter, she will also be hosting a Constellation Clinic, giving out lessons at the course's driving range at 5.30pm on Friday. With the help of world number 11 Rory McIlroy, the duo will teach One Direction's Niall Horan (yes, really!) how to improve his game.
We caught up with the woman of the moment to find out more.
You're returning to Dubai, what are your feelings about the city? Is there anywhere, aside from the course, that you always have to visit?
Aside from all of the amazing restaurants and architecture, everyone has always been so friendly and welcoming in Dubai. The team behind the Omega Dubai Classics is like a second family to me, they've helped me grow as a person and get through some tough times.
I actually don't have any regular stops I have to visit - there's so much to do. I try to visit new places when I get the chance. Boating around the Dubai Water Canal and seeing the penguins at Ski Dubai have definitely been two highlights that I'd love to do again, though.
Tell us about the Constellation Clinic. What will you be doing and what do you hope attendees will get out of it?
I'll be hosting the clinic with Rory McIlroy and Niall Horan. Rory and I are going to give Niall a lesson, and then hit some shots while we give tips. I love giving golf lessons, so the Constellation Clinic is one of my favourite pieces of the tournament.
Do you know Niall? Are you a One Direction fan? How well do you know Rory McIlroy? Do you think you could take him in a one-one-one?
I've actually never met either of them! I do love Niall's new songs and was happy to see him win the American Music Award for Best Newcomer (even though he's already a superstar). As for Rory, seeing as he hits his drives over 300 yards, I'd have to play a VERY good round to keep up! But it would be fun to try one day.
Taking it back to the beginning, what made you get into golf? Who were/ are your sporting inspirations?
I started out as an Elite gymnast, but had a serious injury that forced me to quit. I knew I wanted to stay in sports, so I tried a bunch of things and immediately fell in love with golf. I'm an introvert and was really attracted to the fact that I could just go out by myself to practice for hours.
The way Serena Williams has been handling becoming a mum and being a world class athlete is very inspiring. There's so much pressure on women to rush back into their careers and to return to their pre-baby self immediately, and I love that she really seems to be taking her time.
Do you find your sport is progressive in that women's golf is as respected and well-covered as the men's game? Do you feel you have been welcomed into the game? Would you change anything?
I think the women are well-respected as athletes, but they're still not as well-covered as the men. It's a difficult question to answer because it's such a complicated situation. The women don't get more coverage because they don't bring in as many viewers or as much money, but part of the problem is that there needs to be more coverage and excitement first to get people to watch and spend money. However, traditional media isn't as powerful as it used to be and there are so many other platforms, like Instagram and YouTube, women's golf can use to bring awareness and excitement to the game on their own.
If you could have a round of 18 with any three people from history who would it be and why? What would you ask them?
I love to have fun and laugh on the course so I would want to play with Jimmy Fallon, Justin Timberlake, and Anna Kendrick. Probably not the most insightful answer but I just think it would be such a fun round of golf with so many laughs.
What are your personal sporting hopes for 2018?
As I've moved through my career my goals have shifted. After my first year as a professional when my goal was to make the LPGA, I realised I loved golf but didn't love competing and the lifestyle of being on the road. Right now I'm focusing on being an ambassador for golf and fighting against cyber bullying. I found that I love charity work and giving back in many ways, and I feel most fulfilled when I feel like I'm making a positive impact. I'm more passionate about lifting up others than I am about winning. It's hard in today's culture, however I think people need to realise you can be successful in unconventional routes in life, and we all should do what makes us happy.
What can you tell us about being the Omega Dubai Desert Classic Official Starter? What does that mean to you?
I'm so honoured to have been asked. Although I'm a little nervous because it's something I've never done before (and there are some difficult names to pronounce), I'm excited to be a part of the tournament in such a unique way.
After golf do you have any further ambitions?
I get asked about acting a lot, but honestly it's never something I've wanted to do. I really enjoy creating cool online content, so I'd love to continue to work with interesting partners on fun projects. I like being able to work on a wide variety of projects and keep a flexible schedule. Right now being able to grow what I'm currently doing over the next few years would be perfect.
How important is social media to you? Do your fellow players share your enthusiasm? Do you think golf needs an injection of something along the lines of more stars taking to social media to make it more accessible?
I'm so lucky to have such an amazing following. It's not always easy to deal with the cyber bullying, but the positive, supportive community makes everything worth it. I do see more and more players investing time in to social media, but I don't think everyone realises how much work it takes to develop good, engaging content. It's a specific skill and can be a big time commitment that's hard to manage when you're playing full time on tour, so for golf using fewer key influencers to help boost the game as a whole might be a better strategy. Showing more personality and behind the scenes work is always a good thing when it comes to making something accessible, so I definitely think more of that via social always helps!