Paige Spiranac's empowering Sports Illustrated shoot

Golf glamour girl Paige Spiranac has sent a powerful message to her haters after appearing in Sports Illustrated's latest swimsuit edition.

The 24-year-old professional golfer has been a social media sensation since joining the LPGA tour in 2014, but has received her fair share of criticism.

Spiranac frequently treats her some 1.2 million Instagram followers to videos of trick shots and tutorial sessions.

However her performances in competition have led to many labelling her a gimmick.

Spiranac in action on the golf course. Image: Getty

Her impressive social media profile and mini-celebrity status are at odds with her lowly world ranking (outside the top 1000), forcing Spiranac to deal with some shocking online abuse, including death threats.

And in an emotional interview with Sports Illustrated, Spiranac broke down while revealing the toll it has taken.

"I've been bullied my entire life," she said.

"I get 'slut-shamed', I get harassed, I get death threats.

"But no one ever looks at the person that I am or the good work that I do.

"I was bullied so bad to the point that I didn't want to live any more.

"People say these things and they think that it's funny, or it has no effect, but words cut deep, they really do."

Spiranac also opened up on how her Sports Illustrated shoot helped her feel empowered and in control of her sexuality.

"I finally took back what is mine," she said.

"It helped me take back my body, my sexuality, and it was like 'you guys want to see sexy, this is sexy'.

"It was really liberating to be myself and feel like I wasn't less of a person or that I hadn't accomplished anything.

"To finally embrace the sexy side and be confident and love the skin I'm in, it was a really powerful moment and I'm so thankful."

Spiranac's invitation to the Dubai Ladies European Tour events in 2015 and 2016 sparked global headlines that kicked off a challenging period in the American's 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."

And so 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 recently.

"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 recently took 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.

And she’s now part of a group of women, including fellow athletes Eugenie Bouchard, Caroline Wozniacki and Ronda Rousey, who she has looked up to ever since she was young.

“I’ve been a fan for such a long time and I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would get the opportunity to be a part of the SI Swimsuit family,” she said.

“If you like it (the shoot), great, if you don’t like it then that’s your issue but you’re never going to take away the fact that I’m a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model and I’m going to have that for the rest of my life.”

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