Paige Spiranac, an aspiring pro golfer who rose to fame through social media, said cyberbullying nearly drove her to quit the game.
Speaking at a press conference ahead of the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, Spiranac broke into tears as she revealed that she “struggled with a lot of depression” as a result of online abuse following her professional debut at the previous year’s tournament.
“It was really bad,” Spiranac said. “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.”
Spiranac entered last year's event via sponsors’ exemption and shot 77-79 to miss the cut, prompting criticism from fellow pros who questioned whether she had the talent to justify the invitation. Internet trolls, however, used the cover of anonymity to launch more personal attacks.
“To have all these people say that I'm not like a golfer, I'm not a good person, you know, I'm promiscuous or make these judgments about me that are not true, it's really hard, just because I like to wear Spandex on the golf course,” Spiranac said.
In speaking about her experience, she hopes to raise awareness about what she sees as an unaddressed problem.
“Cyberbullying is a huge problem and no one ever discusses it,” Spiranac said. “They never talk about it. It needs to be talked about and needs to be brought to the subject. It's no longer funny. It's not the cool thing to do to make fun of other people, and you need to be supportive and I think that's really important.”