Golf is a numbers game and increasingly so for the Ladies European Tour as we revealed in our 9 for 9 feature in this month’s bumper 100th issue of Golf Digest Middle East.
By Kent Gray
There are few more polarising figures in golf than Paige Spiranac and the American’s anointment as the most influential female to play in the Middle East this past decade will undoubtedly fuel the fevered divide.
What’s not at question is the staggering amount of eye-balls the wannabe professional golfer-cum-social media goddess has drawn to the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters in the past two years.
The Ladies European Tour is a tough sell as the LET itself has found this season with six events dropping off the schedule, including Qatar. With due golfing respect to 2011 champion Lexi Thompson and the brilliantly kooky Shanshan Feng who has captured four of the last five titles on the Majlis, Spiranac has played a pivotal role in ensuring Dubai remains a beacon amid that gloom.
Her golf scores – 77-79 in 2015 to finish +12 and 77-80 last year for another cut missing +13 aggregate – invited trolls the world over to have a pop. But the faceless cowards were drowned out by much bigger numbers, those enticing new fans to the royal and ancient game.
“The Daily Mail ran a story on Paige in 2015 and they contacted us later to tell us that in the history of the Daily Mail, it was the first time golf had ever been the No.1 story read worldwide,” Tournament Director David Spencer says. “The readership was larger than football. I mean I think we had 500 million media impressions that year and we’ve broadened that since”.
The more satisfying figure for Spencer were the number of young girls – and boys – who showed up for a clinic on the Friday of last year’s tournament, chiefly due to Spiranac.
“There is obviously a connection to golf via social media and we’ve got to be competitive with other sports. It’s not easy to get sponsorship.”
Spiranac won’t be put through the “trauma” of playing a third straight year from Dec. 6-9 but will be back in late Jan. to serve as the official starter at the Dubai Desert Classic. The men are secretly excited too, patently aware what the 24-year-old’s 1.5+ million social media followers could do for their own profiles.
Tweet about it all you like, but the new age of celebrity driven pro golf is here to stay.