Good time for women in golf

Good time for women in golf

Abby Spector

31

Head pro at Sugarloaf Mountain Resort Golf School

Carrabassett Valley

When Abby Spector was 14, she and her father and younger brother Toby would travel all over the East Coast just so Abby could compete in golf tournaments. Her father would lie about her age and enter her in junior golf tournaments just to see how she’d do.

The future was bright for Spector, who grew up near Waterville. She went to the University of North Carolina on a full scholarship for golf. And people said – as they had since she was a girl – that she would someday play on the professional woman’s tour if she wanted to.

But in 2003, Spector nearly lost her life during emergency open-heart surgery. She lost her sight, parts of her memory and her coordination. And hitting a golf ball with that sweet swing became a thing of the past.

Spector, 31 now, has recovered her sight, her coordination and her ability to swing a golf club. While she says “the condition of her golf game isn’t where it was,” she is making a name for herself by instructing others. She spent this summer as the head professional at Sugarloaf, her first season there in the job and the first woman to hold the position. In the winter, she is the assistant golf professional at the Gasparilla Inn and Club in Boca Grande, a position she’s held since 2007.

Spector, the winner of seven women’s Maine Amateur championships and the 2001 New England Women’s Amateur title, is in charge of all instruction at the Sugarloaf Golf School, including the Nike Junior Golf Camps. She said she enjoys teaching young people the tricks of her trade, drawing on not only her own experience, but also the advice she’s gotten through the years.

“All instructors draw from their experience and the coaching they’ve had,” Spector said “And obviously my father and I still talk. He pulls things out of books for me to use in my lessons.”

Spector said it’s a good time to be a woman in golf. She lost out on a head pro job in North Carolina before Sugarloaf hired her because management at that course had some puzzling concerns about women taking over. Sugarloaf, on the other hand, was actually looking for a woman to head its golf school.

“Seventy percent of new golfers (in the U.S.) are women,” Spector says. “In the junior program (which she runs at Sugarloaf) there are almost as many girls as boys, which wasn’t how it was when I was growing up.”

While Spector is no longer competing for championships, she is banking on her younger brother Toby, now 26, to fulfill the dreams her family once pursued on her behalf. Toby is working to make it onto the professional tour, a process that Abby calls “exciting and nerve-wracking.

“I do miss playing, so I’m a bit jealous that he gets to compete so much,” she admits. “But I’m proud of him. My life has just taken a different path. I’m happy to be where I am.”

Abby Spector gives pointers to a student at Sugarloaf Mountain Resort Golf School, where this summer she was the head pro.

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