Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan and a longtime resident of the Coachella Valley, Shirley Spork’s influence on countless generations of golfers is undeniable. With a sharp sense of detail and technique coupled with her instructional skills, she was one of the first great teachers of the game.
A solid player herself, she won the inaugural 1947 National Collegiate Golf Championship (the equivalent of today’s NCAA Championship) as an individual at Eastern Michigan University and finished runner-up the following year.
Spork is most notably remembered as one of the 13 founders of the LPGA in 1950. Throughout the first half of the decade, she served as the Western educational director for the National Golf Foundation and taught golf at Bowling Green State University.
In 1954, she began working as an instructor at Tamarisk Country Club in Palm Springs, California. During this time, she spent her summer months competing on the LPGA Tour and her winter months teaching in the desert. She quickly became a well-respected instructor and in 1959, helped establish the LPGA’s Teaching Division – the Teaching and Club Professional Membership – serving on the first Teaching Committee as a chairperson for eight years.
Spork earned LPGA National Teacher of the Year honors in 1959 and 1984 for her work as a teaching professional and was ultimately honored with the Ellen Griffin Rolex Award in 1998 – the LPGA’s highest teaching honor. In 2000, she and the other founding members were awarded the LPGA Commissioner’s Award. She won the “Heritage Award” from the Southern California Section of the PGA in 2017 and was inducted into the PGA of America Hall of Fame in 2019.
Though she never won an LPGA Tour event, Spork’s career is a study in shaping how today’s game is taught. While she passed away in April 2022, her legacy and contributions to advancing the game will continue to impact the lives of young golfers and aspiring professionals.