University of North Carolina graduate Abby Spector hopes to be giving golf lessons during the day Saturday.

Saturday night?

“I think I might catch the game,” she said with a laugh. Of course, Spector will watch her beloved Tar Heels in the NCAA Final Four.

“If you go to UNC, you have to be (a basketball fan). It gets ingrained in you,” she said. “I love it. I played basketball as a kid.”

Spector, 35, also played a little golf.

Maybe you remember her dominant days – four-time state high school girls’ champion at Waterville High, seven-time Maine Women’s Amateur champion, winner of the New England Amateur and a stellar career at North Carolina.

She is the most recognizable name in women’s golf in Maine, and now that name is attached to Riverside Golf Course in Portland. Earlier this month, Spector was named the Director of Instruction at the municipal course.

Spector is the first PGA pro to work at Riverside in four years – an absence that was noted

in 2013 by the National Golf Foundation, in a consultation commissioned by the city.

“The course is missing some of the key programming and lesson/teaching benefits that come with a properly trained PGA golf professional,” the consultants wrote in their report.

Thus, the arrival of Spector.

“(The report) had everything to do with it,” said Ethan Hipple, Portland’s director of recreation. “We saw Abby as a way to accomplish a lot of our goals.”

Spector had been at Dunegrass Golf Club in Old Orchard Beach for three years, but only seasonally. At Riverside she will work year-round, full-time during the six-month golf season. From mid-October to mid-April she’ll help with marketing and after-school programs.

“I loved working at Dunegrass, but this provides a little more freedom for me,” Spector said. “I’ve designed all the programs I want to teach. And I have a three-hole golf course that is all mine to teach on, which is very exciting.

“We’ll still be able to use the nine-hole (South) course and the 18-hole (North) course when available. The facility was a big piece. Plus it’s year-round, which is nice.”

Spector became a full-fledged PGA pro in 2013 after a six-year apprenticeship process that includes classes, tests and hands-on experience.

“It’s pretty time-consuming but worth it. It’s cheaper than law school,” Spector said.

Law school, as in studying to spend hours at a desk or in a courtroom?

“I don’t see myself working inside,” she said. “I love this.”

And Spector appears to be good at her job. Last year the Maine State Golf Association presented her the Thomas TK Kimball Award, given to a person who “demonstrates their love of the game and the promotion of the sport and its values to junior golfers and others who may benefit from golf’s life lessons.”

Nancy Storey of the MSGA said Spector’s “life experience has put her in a position to reach out and share the importance of golf beyond the championship level. I always hoped she would become a teacher eventually.”

No one, including Spector, expected her to be a teaching pro so soon. A shot at the LPGA circuit seemed a certainty until October 2003, when complications from heart surgery nearly ended her life. She temporarily lost her vision, motor skills and short-term memory. Spector has recovered for the most part, but the episode eliminated any chance of her playing at such a high level again.

That brought Spector to a crossroads in her career. But no matter which road she took, she was bringing her clubs.

“I can’t imagine myself doing anything away from the golf business. I think I’d be miserable. I just love it too much,” she said.

“If I wanted to still be involved in the golf world, which I did, then I had to choose a route. I first did the assistant pro thing. As you go along, especially as an assistant, you end up teaching the junior programs. I gave more and more lessons.”

Spector has worked at courses in Maine, Florida and Massachusetts. She teaches both genders “and all ages,” with some programs especially designed to attract new golfers.

She brings know-how and name recognition to a course that needed a pro.

“She represented the strongest choice for us,” Hipple said. “Great personality, well respected in the golf world, and she loves to teach.

“Every time I mention we hired Abby, I receive nothing but positive feedback.”

 


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