Shirley Spork, one of 13 founders of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), has died aged 94, the organization said Tuesday.
A trailblazing figure for women’s golf, Spork died in Palm Springs, California, where she had been coaching since the early 1950’s, the LPGA said.
Born in Detriot, Michigan in 1927, Spork was an avid golfer through her time at Michigan State Normal College before graduating in 1949.
A year later, she turned pro and, alongside 12 others, founded the LPGA. In 1959, along with co-founders Marilynn Smith, Betty Hicks and Barbara Rotvig, she launched the organization’s inaugural Teaching Division which would become the modern-day LPGA Teaching and Club Professional Membership (T&CP).
In 2022, LPGA Tour members will play across 34 official events for prize purses totalling $85.7 million, while the T&CP’s membership exceeds 1,700 across 25 different countries.
One of two to be a two-time winner of LPGA Teacher of the Year, Spork carved a legendary career in coaching, continuing to work in Palm Springs well into her 90’s.
“Through the years I have met a lot of people and made a lot of dear friends,” said Spork, according to the LPGA.
“It was fun to go to work every day and teach because people who came to me wanted to learn how to play.
“Learning to play the game of golf is like eating an elephant – it’s overwhelming unless you eat just one bite at a time and slowly digest it.”
Hall of Fame
Two weeks prior to her death, Spork was informed at the Chevron Championship that she was to be inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame alongside the remaining eight organization founders yet to be admitted.
“Getting into the LPGA Hall of Fame is the highest honor ever in our profession,” Spork told the LPGA.
“I’ve climbed the whole ladder and gotten to the top. I hope I can sit up on that ladder for a few more years and enjoy it.”
Tributes recognizing Spork’s legacy for the sport have poured in on social media.
“The game would not be where it is today without the trailblazing spirit of LPGA founder Shirley Spork,” the the US Golf Association tweeted Tuesday.
“Her leadership, friendship and love of the game will be greatly missed.”
Canadian golfer Alena Sharp, LPGA Tour member since 2005, said that the sport had lost a “true legend.”
“You paved a path for all of us,” Sharp tweeted Wednesday. “May we learn from your passion and love for life and golf.
“You were an amazing role model. Thank you for all you have done for women’s golf!”