She carries a cane but is loath to use it, opting instead to hold it up as a pointer or swing it as she gives a tip or two, a makeshift club when a wedge or a 9-iron is not handy. At 92, Shirley Spork is one of only two remaining LPGA Founders. There were originally 13, three carloads of women who barnstormed the nation in 1950 with the hopes of eking out a living as the first band of female professional golfers. Spork remains as sharp as ever and still teaches at Tamarisk Country Club, which is located on Frank Sinatra Drive in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
“Frank came out quite a bit,” Spork said late last week in Florida. “He never came to me (for lessons) but he brought Grace Kelly out to get lessons from me when she was in the desert.
“(Princess Grace) was a lovely woman – great kids she had, too – and she really wanted to hit the ball. But she had a lot of other things going on.”
Spork can’t stop teaching. She tried to give me a lesson after spending a day speaking and entertaining. “You can’t get to your right side if you start there,” she said. “Look at all the older swings that are coming back around again. You have to be on your left side so that you can move to your right side on the backswing.”
She can’t help it. It’s who she is.
Born in Detroit two years before the stock market crash, Spork lived just off the 17th fairway of Bonnie Brook Golf Course where her father became the caretaker after losing his job in the Great Depression. Shirley saved enough money from selling golf balls she found in her yard to buy a putter when she was 12, which she used to hit full shots since it was her only club. The local pro finally took her in, outfitting her with enough clubs to play. Just like that, an 80-year love affair with the game began.
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