Paige Spiranac says she’s been overwhelmed by the support she’s received - from men and women - after opening up about a horrifying nude photo ordeal recently.
Speaking on her new podcast Playing-A-Round, the professional golfer recently revealed how she felt ‘violated’ when compromising photos of her were circulated online.
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The 26-year-old said she sent a photo to the man she was dating, who then forwarded it on to other friends.
The divisive golfer also took aim at the ‘elitist’ nature of golf, lifting the lid on some of the sexist treatment she’s received throughout her career.
Spiranac 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.
She often comes in for criticism for her social media activity, however she says she was ‘shocked’ by the positive response to her new podcasts.
“When I talked about the nude picture, I got thousands and thousands of messages from men and women who could relate or guys who didn’t know how this made women feel,” Spiranac told the New York Post on Thursday.
“I didn’t expect that response, I was shocked by it. It was overwhelming in such a positive way and it made me realise that even though telling these stories is really difficult, they do make an impact and so it’s worth it in the end.
“At the very beginning, I didn’t think that I would have those responses. I knew there were certain things that I definitely wanted to talk about, like never being accepted in the golf industry, and then the nude picture was something I wanted to discuss.
“I didn’t know how any of that would be accepted by other people, but as those episodes have come out, the response has been overwhelming.”
Spiranac’s ‘horrible’ ordeal after photo circulated
If it wasn’t bad enough that Spiranac’s photo was shared to her partner’s friends, 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’s years-long battle with trolls
Spiranac also 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.”
“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,” Spiranac said.
“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.