LPGA founder Shirley Spork dies in Palm Springs at the age of 94

LPGA founder and Hall of Famer Shirley Spork died Tuesday in Palm Springs. She was 94 years old.

The LPGA announced Spork’s passing on social media tuesday afternoon. Just two weeks ago, Spork learned she would finally be inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame.

“Getting into the LPGA Hall of Fame is the highest honor ever in our profession, so I’ve climbed the whole ladder and gotten to the top,” Spork said. “I hope I can sit up on that ladder for a few more years and enjoy it.”

Spork was born in Detroit, Michigan but lived and taught golf in the Coachella Valley since the 90s, although her history in the desert dates back even further.

Before becoming a professional, Spork won the 1947 National Collegiate Golf Championship as an individual and finished runner-up in the event a year later. She turned pro in 1950 when she became one of 13 women to sign the original charter of the Ladies Professional Golf Association.

Spork’s death leaves Marlene Hagge as the only surviving LPGA founder.

Spork played on the LPGA tour while also working as a teacher at Bowling Green State University. According to the LPGA, in 1954, she began coaching at Tamarisk Country Club in Rancho Mirage.

Her background and passion for teaching led to her convincing the LPGA to create the tour’s teaching & club pro division in 1959. The decision passed by one vote, writes Ron Sirak, a longtime golf writer.

The division started with six members. Now it has more than 1,700 members.

Spork would go on to win the LPGA Teacher of the Year Award in 1959 and 1984.

She worked over the years with the First Tee Coachella Valley program, teaching and speaking with local girls about the game of golf. She helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for the program through the Shirley Spork Pro-Am.

This past December, she surprised First Tee’s LPGA Girls of Golf Class.

Spork showed up regularly for the first major of the year at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage. This year, marked the final year that the LPGA would hold the major in the Coachella Valley, a tradition that had previously remained in place for 51 years.

Spork also attended the Founders Cup, often greeting players with a handshake and a swing tip off the 18th green.

“There are many things I admire about Shirley but one, in particular, is her passion to continue to learn and stay involved with the game,” said Karrie Webb, the only woman to win five different majors. “When she’s at an LPGA event you will always find her on the range watching all the girls, getting to know them, and maybe even giving a tip or two.”

Spork continued playing golf into her 90s, never tiring of the sport she loved.

“I have played golf for almost 80 years, and in my life, I have eaten probably six-eighths of the elephant,” she said. “Hopefully, I’ll have time to work on that one next bite.”

Spork was inducted into the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame in 1968, the Eastern Michigan University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1981, and PGA of America Hall of Fame in 2019. Spork also won the Heritage Award from the SCPGA in 2017 and was recognized with the LPGA Commissioner’s Award in 2000.

Be the first to know when news breaks in Coachella Valley. Download the News Channel 3 app here.

Leave a Comment