LPGA Founder Shirley Spork Dies Aged 94

Spork, who was one of 13 founder members of the LPGA, passed away in Palm Springs, California

Shirley Spork at the 2021 Cognizant Founders Cup alongside winner Jin Young Ko and LPGA-USGA Girls Golf member Sofia Riccobono
(Image credit: Getty Images)

LPGA Tour founder member Shirley Spork has died aged 94, the organisation has announced. 

Spork was one of 13 founder members of the LPGA Tour, which was established in 1950. She was also responsible for the LPGA Teaching & Club Pro Division. Born in Detroit in 1927, Spork lived close to an 18-hole golf course, which gave her an early interest in the game. She played in tournaments in Detroit aged 14, and continued playing throughout her college years. In 1962, Spork finished runner-up in the LPGA Championship. From the mid to late 1970s, she worked for the National Golf Foundation as an educator. She was also named LPGA Teacher of the Year twice, in 1959 and in 1984. She continued teaching into her 90s and still attended LPGA tournaments, including the 2021 Cognizant Founders Cup.

The news of Spork's passing comes just two weeks after it was revealed she was being inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame. At the time of the announcement, which came at the Chevron Championship, Spork was the only surviving member who had yet to be inducted, and she remarked: “Getting into the LPGA Hall of Fame is the highest honour ever in our profession, so I’ve climbed the whole ladder and gotten to the top,” Poignantly, she concluded: “I hope I can sit up on that ladder for a few more years and enjoy it.” While that wasn’t to be, her legacy is significant. This year, LPGA Tour members will play across 34 tournaments for $85.7m in prize money. 

Tributes have been paid to Spork following the news, including from the USGA, which released a statement on Twitter saying: “The game would not be where it is today without the trailblazing spirit of @LPGA founder Shirley Spork. Her leadership, friendship and love of the game will be greatly missed.” 

Meanwhile, LPGA Tour Commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan spoke of the positive impact of Spork on her life. She said: “Not only did she attempt to improve my swing, but from the moment I met her she made it clear that she was there to help and to provide guidance, wisdom and support. She embraced me into the LPGA family with enormous kindness and spirit, like she has done to so many others throughout her life. For this, I will be forever grateful.”

 

Mike Hall
Mike Hall

Mike has 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on sports such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the sport’s most newsworthy stories. Originally from East Yorkshire, Mike now resides in Canada, where the nearest course is less than a mile from his home. It’s there where he remains confident that, one of these days, he’ll play the 17th without finding the water. Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.