STATELINE – Paige Spiranac is making her American Century Championship debut this week, and if you have spent any time on the Internet, you already are aware of her.
The 24-year-old Spiranac, who played college golf at San Diego State and hopes to play on the LPGA Tour one day, has 1.4 million followers on social media, the largest following of any female golfer. Her Instagram account is just shy of 1 million followers, and she has 186,000 followers on Facebook along with 121,000 followers on Twitter.
Spiranac, a former gymnast until injuries ended her career at 12 after a second broken kneecap, has garnered a huge Internet following thanks to her work with the Cybersmile Foundation, an organization focused on battling cyber bullying.
Tuesday afternoon, she spoke with a group of children from the Tahoe Boys & Girls Clubs on that subject.
“They are a little bit young right now and may not know what cyber bullying is, but maybe in a couple of years they will remember what I said,” Spiranac said. “I was the victim of cyber bullying when I was younger. I got really depressed. I was bullied a lot, and I didn’t know how to handle it. I want to use my experience to help other people.
“I looked around at all the organizations, but the owner of Cybersmile was the only one who got it.”
Spiranac had a medical condition that prevented her from growing hair on her head. She said kids threw rocks at her and generally made her life difficult.
Victims of cyber bullying can suffer a plethora of problems, according to the Cybersmile website. The problems range from social isolation, eating disorders and poor school or work attendance, to depression, self-harm and suicide.
Spiranac told the group 75 percent of kids 10 and under have been cyberbullied, and she gets a lot of negative mail and even death threats.
And, she stressed to them they should learn the rules to protect themselves.
“When you get bullied (on the internet), you can block them and they are out of your life forever,” she told the kids. “Take a screen shot of the e-mail and show it to your parents or a teacher.”
Spiranac, who won an event on the Cactus Tour in 2016, is excited about the opportunity to play in the ACC. “There are some really good players,” she said. “It will be nice to play a tournament and not worrying about winning; just having fun. I’m excited to be here. Everybody has been amazing.”
Spiranac is one of four women in the field this year, joining Kathryn Tappen, Blair O’Neal and Lisa Cornwell. O’Neal and Cornwell both work at Sports Channel, and Tappen works at NBC.
Spiranac recently teamed up with Barracuda Network, the title sponsor of the Barracuda Championships. Barracuda Networks and Spiranac have teamed up with the hope of eradicating cyberbullying by making digital platforms safer.
“I am extremely excited to partner with Barracuda,” said Spiranac in a recent press release. “I am thrilled to work with an organization equally committed to helping protect people and promote safer online environments, and highlighting the work that Cybersmile is doing through my other passion, golf.”
Spiranac said her father introduced her to golf, and she took to it immediately.
AUTOGRAPH TIME: Fans were out in full force as the Tahoe South Celebrity Pro-Am was held Tuesday morning. Fans followed their favorite player around the course, and their were big crowds by the putting green and driving range.
WINNERS BY SPORT: Baseball has produced 10 winners in the event, eight by Rick Rhoden and two by Mark Mulder.
Football is next with nine winners – four by Billy Joe Tolliver, two by Mark Rypien and one each by Dick Anderson, Al Del Greco, and Chris Chandler.
Hockey has had six winners, five titles by Dan Quinn and one by Mario Lemieux.
FOUR ACES: There have been four aces in the history of the event – Rudy Gatlin (1995, No. 5), Dan Jansen (1999, No. 5), Marshall Faulk (2009, No. 17) and Joe Sakic (2011, No. 17).
The ace by Sakic earned him $1 million.
SCORING FORMAT: In case you’ve forgotten, the Modified Stableford awards 10 points for a double-eagle, eight for an ace, six for an eagle, three for a birdie, one for a par and zero for a bogey. A double-bogey costs a golfer two points.
TICKET PRICES: The ticket prices are $20 for today and Thursday, and the cost goes up to $30 for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.