LPGA Founder, Teacher, Second grandmother. My friend.
How do you describe someone who had such a monumental impact in just a few words? A true trailblazer for women's golf, Shirley Spork paved the way for so many of us to achieve our dreams. But off the course, she truly changed my life.
As I sit here processing the news that Shirley is no longer with us, I am trying to remember some of the many beautiful moments we shared together. The 2018 Marilynn Smith Charity Pro-Am, where I had the honor to first meet Shirley as she welcomed me into the LPGA family with open arms. The 2019 Founders Cup, where I got an hour-long history lesson from Shirley before seeing her swing a club and give lessons at Top Golf. Countless Zoom calls throughout COVID, photoshoots at the 2021 Cognizant Founders Cup and dancing on the first tee together at the Solheim Cup.
Just two weeks ago, we were reunited at The Chevron Championship. On Monday, I got to witness our Commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan give Shirley the news that she was to be inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame, along with the remaining eight LPGA Founders who were not already enshrined. She couldn’t resist giving all of us hugs after she found out.
“Getting into the LPGA Hall of Fame is the highest honor ever in our profession, so I’ve climbed the whole ladder and gotten to the top,” Shirley said. “I hope I can sit up on that ladder for a few more years and enjoy it.”
I got to be “Shirley’s keeper” later that week, guiding our very special VIP as we went around the course to meet with various onsite media and fans. She was especially proud to show off her Tiffany & Co commemorative silver engraved card from when she was honored with the 2000 Commissioner’s Award.
We shared more laughs and stories, especially during a special one-on-one sit-down interview. All I had a chance to say was, “A couple days ago, you found out you were to be inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame” before Shirley cut me off to express her surprise and elation. In typical Shirley fashion, she then launched into a 20-minute series of stories that ranged from the history of Palm Springs, the first golf club she ever owned, and the founding of the LPGA.
“It’s like a plant; we are the seeds. We had a little pot, we put some seeds in the pot, poured a little water in it, got some support systems. And this plant grows to a big, huge plant. And that’s where we are today.
“I got to see where [the LPGA] went, where it is, and where it’s going. I feel like we’re at a sound base with our support group of sponsors. We have nowhere to go but to grow, grow, grow. So that little plant where we planted the seeds is growing and it’s getting bigger. We’ve got to get a bigger pot to put it in.”
Anyone that was ever fortunate enough to speak with Shirley knows how cherished those encounters were. As I was driving Shirley around Mission Hills, she put her arm around me to say, "You miss your grandmother, don't you?" I replied, "I really do, but you're like a grandmother to me." Her radiant smile warmed my heart.
Just a few days ago, Shirley called to tell me how she started physical therapy and was getting ready for the Cognizant Founders Cup, where we were going to celebrate her 95th birthday. My heart is so heavy knowing we won't get that celebration, but I feel so blessed for all the moments that we were able to share together. I will miss her hugs, her history lessons, her phone calls and emails with stories and YouTube videos she thought I would enjoy. I will always cherish each and every moment.
Shirley Spork. 94 years young with spirit, tenacity, and spunkiness that I can only dream of emulating. All I can say at this point is thank you, Shirley, I will forever Act Like a Founder for you