Earlier this year, I was on the phone with a good friend who is on the other end of her golf journey. She finished her career in college golf and is now starting in the working world. Her golf clubs sit in the corner of her apartment and are no longer tools of her trade but instead toys to have fun.
The last time we spent an extensive time talking, we were both walking the same path as collegiate golfers. Now, I am walking the fairways of professional golf and she’s walking the sidewalks of Philadelphia on her way to work - two vastly different experiences, each offering its own unique wisdom and perspective. Far removed from competitive golf, I was interested to see what she had to say now as an outsider and what she would tell her younger self. Four words rang off her tongue and immediately echoed in my brain. “It won’t last forever.” That is a mantra I’ve carried with me throughout this season.
She was trying to convey the point that competitive golf won’t always be a huge part of my life. In her personal hindsight, she was recommending that I enjoy it and cherish the gift of the game. She probably doesn’t know the profound impact it had on me until reading this piece.
The realization of “it won’t last forever” hit the LPGA family this week. On April 12th, LPGA founder, Shirley Spork, passed away at the age of 94. Many pieces have been written about the presence she had on tour and how her vibrant personality will be missed. She had a storied career in competitive golf, but her resume runs long with the impact she made in the sport.
My first impression of Shirley came when I was watching The Chevron Championship at Mission Hills on TV when I was younger. She sat among the other founders watching the talent that replaced them. It struck me how far removed these women were from their glory days on the course, yet they were still there supporting and growing the LPGA - a responsibility they always honored. During this year’s Chevron, Shirley’s induction to the LPGA Hall of Fame was announced at Mission Hills. Like all of us, her time in competitive golf wouldn't last forever, but now her legacy will. If you’ve watched the movie, “The Founders,” you would agree that if there is anyone worthy of that honor, it should be the 13 women who laid the foundation of our Tour.
Our Founders had a fire, passion, drive and vision that we can only admire. Shirley’s time with us wasn’t forever, but her legacy is. The first time I ever dealt with death, a mentor of mine shared this advice: “You live for those who have passed, because by you living, their legacy lives on."
That is now our responsibility. When our time in competitive golf comes to an end, it is our duty to make sure that the legacies of all those have passed live on. I hope we carry ourselves with the same character Shirley did and honor their commitment to improve the Tour for those that follow our footsteps. If it weren’t for those who preceded us, we would not have the privilege to walk pristine fairways week to week. It is my hope that we maintain a perspective that “it won’t last forever,” while we create a better playing field for those who pick up where our final putt dropped.
Thank you, Shirley for the profound impact you had on this game and all of its players. We will honor the example you set and hope to make you proud as you look down and watch your Tour grow.