Paige Spiranac currently has 1.3 million followers on Instagram and 179,000 on Twitter, and she can trace her meteoric rise on social media to something she experienced at Raccoon Creek Golf Course in Littleton on July 9, 2015.
That was the day that Spiranac won the 100th CWGA Match Play Championship at Raccoon Creek. In the scheduled 36-hole final of that milestone CWGA event, Spiranac played stellar golf, finishing 9 under par for 35 holes in outdueling University of Colorado golfer Brittany Fan 2 and 1 for the title.
It was a triumphant return to Colorado for Spiranac (at left on that day), who grew up in the Centennial State and won the 2010 CWGA Junior Stroke Play as well as the 2006 CJGA Tournament of Champions. (As a pro, Spiranac finished ninth in the 2016 CoBank Colorado Women's Open; pictured below.)
While a story with pictures on the CWGA Match Play victory appeared on the CWGA and CGA websites that day in 2015, there were other things going on.
According to a recent article in azcentral.com, the digital home of The Arizona Republic newspaper, "She picked up her first individual win in years, and checked her phone as she walked off the course, assuming the stream of texts was to congratulate her. Then she checked Instagram.
"Thousands of people had followed her. As she searched for explanation, a friend texted her a link to an article on (name redacted) a website devoted to frat parties and college girls. Spiranac clicked the link. The bro-targeted site had declared, “The Whole World Is About To Fall In Love With Paige Spiranac,” complete with a dozen photos and a link to her Instagram account.
"... Thousands of more people found her and followed Spiranac. She told her sister she just wanted a 'K,' to see her follower count tick from '9,999' to '10K.' That happened in a few hours. Then it kept climbing.
"Twenty-thousand. Fifty. By the next day, she had more than 100,000 followers."
Since then, the numbers have kept skyrocketing. But Spiranac has become adept at making the numbers work in her favor.
Golf Digest put her on the cover of its magazine in May 2016, an issue that featured "innovators and infuencers changing the game."
As an attractive social media sensation and professional golfer, Spiranac often makes public appearances (including at the PGA Tour's Waste Management Phoenix Open last week), does some modeling, is a brand ambassador for PXG, and speaks out publicly about cyberbullying and its effects.
And this week, Sports Illustrated announced that Spiranac will be among those featured in its 2018 Swimsuit Issue. Included is a story entitled, "Paige Spiranac Is Using Her Platform as an SI Swimsuit Model to Fight Cyberbullying". For that article, CLICK HERE.
In connection with that topic, Spiranac serves as an ambassador for the Cybersmile Foundation, a non-profit that works to battle cyberbullying.
"It still hasn't hit me that I'm going to be in the 2018 @SI_Swimsuit issue," Spiranac wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. "But thank you for listening to my story and why I'm so passionate about stopping cyberbullying!"
Spiranac was born in Colorado and lived in the state full-time until she was 13. Then she split time between Arizona and Colorado until she went to San Diego State as a student-athlete.