Golfer and Instagram star Paige Spiranac has opened up about her ‘disgusting’ ordeal after having nude photos shared online by someone she trusted.
Spiranac has been a divisive figure in the sporting world since bursting onto the professional scene in 2015 after starring at college level.
‘THAT DOESN’T HAPPEN’: Golfer's insane shot leaves viewers baffled
‘FOUR TIMES’: Shock new claims in Patrick Reed cheating scandal
She hasn’t been able to live up to the hype on the golf course, but has amassed a staggering Instagram following of over 2.1 million people.
Speaking on her new podcast Playing-A-Round, Spiranac recently revealed how she felt ‘violated’ when compromising photos of her were circulated online.
The 26-year-old said she sent a photo to the man she was dating, who then forwarded it on to other friends.
If that wasn’t bad enough, she then started receiving messages from complete strangers who had seen it.
“It was horrible,” Spiranac said. “Just getting these random messages from people you don’t know and they’ve seen you in such a vulnerable way. It was disgusting.”
The American golfer broke down in tears on the podcast as she recounted how the person she sent the photo to blamed her for the ordeal.
“When I finally confronted the guy and said, ‘I can’t believe you did this to me’, he said — and I’ll never forget this — ‘You are the sl*t who sent it to me’,” she said. “He said, ‘You deserve this’.”
“I would wake up every single day, I would check my phone and be like, ‘Am I going to be on TMZ today?
“That was the worst part. I was constantly stressed out that someone was going to see it and someone was going to get it and that it was going to get out.”
Spiranac was then left completely mortified when a fan pulled out an enlarged copy of the photo and asked her to sign it at a tournament.
“I can never escape this picture,” Spiranac said. “It’s always there.
“These little things kept happening where I was like, ‘OK, I think I’m over it’. Maybe a month will pass then it gets brought up again. And it gets brought up again, and brought up again and it keeps also reminding me of this guy and what he did to me and all of this trauma.
“Every life event was also tied into that, which was super traumatic for me.”
How Sports Illustrated shoot helped Spiranac
In 2018 Spiranac was asked to pose for Sports Illustrated, an empowering moment she says helped her take back control of her body.
“I was nude, I was completely naked. That was the best moment for me,” she said.
“I felt so empowered and I was like, ‘OK, if I’m going to do this, I’m doing it on my terms and I took it back, I took my body back.
“That was the moment I won, right there, when I did Sports Illustrated Swimsuit and I had my t**s out.”
Spiranac’s years-long battle with trolls
Spiranac broke down in tears at a press conference before a tournament in 2016 after receiving online threats that more photos would be published online.
“I think it’s really important…people need to see how much it actually does affect me, and the things they call me,” Spiranac said at the time.
Her invitation to play at Dubai Ladies European Tour events in 2015 and 2016 sparked global headlines that kicked off a challenging period in her life.
One of the top players in women's golf, Laura Davis, commented at the time: "If she's here for any other reason than she's a great golfer, then it's a little bit pointless.”
No doubt hindered by the mountain of pressure to perform and the fact she had been branded a “micro-celebrity” by the media, Spiranac missed the cut both years.
That sparked the ongoing debate about whether she was a model or a golfer and if she deserved the opportunities that had been afforded her.
“I had a really rough go of it both times I was here,” Spiranac said in Dubai in 2018.
“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.
“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.”
The 24-year-old has now taken some time away from golf to focus on a media career and her anti-bullying charity work.
She is an ambassador for Cybersmile, educating young people about the dangers of cyber-bullying.
Spiranac’s rally against LPGA dress code
She was also one of the most vocal critics of an LPGA policy to introduce stricter dress codes, slammed by many critics as a way of “body shaming” female golfers.
“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?” she said.
“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.”