Shirley Spork is one the 13 original founders of the LPGA with the likes of Bade Didrikson Zaharias and Patty Berg, but first she was a self-described Tomboy from Michigan who loved golf. She started playing with one club, an old putter from a dime store bin at age 10. She became a regular visitor to Bonnie Brook Golf Course in Detroit, which was near her childhood home.
She became one of the state’s best golfers. While attending Eastern Michigan University (then called Michigan State Normal College) to earn a teaching degree, she was the individual winner of the 1947 Intercollegiate Championship, the forerunner to today’s NCAA championship. At home she won the Women’s District Golf Association’s Match Play Championship three times in four years, and then won the 1949 Michigan Women’s Amateur Championship.
After graduating from EMU, Spork taught at a Detroit public school, but she decided she would rather play golf. She turned professional in 1950 at the urging of Zaharias and played on the original LPGA Tour. Her top finishes included a second in what became the LPGA Championship and she tied for eighth in a U.S. Women’s Open.
She found tour golf a tough road and turned to teaching the game. She helped found the LPGA Teaching Division in 1959 and is in that group’s Hall of Fame.
Spork was honored in recent years by the Women’s Michigan Golf Association and she took part in the 100th Michigan Women’s Amateur celebration two years ago at age 89. At that time, she was still giving putting lessons to anyone wise enough to ask.
Year inducted: 1989