Mo Spada's golf obsession
Records are often set and milestones often reached because people set out to accomplish them.
Occasionally, they just happen … because.
That’s how Maureen ‘Mo’ Spada of Sunset Beach, N.C., recorded the most golf rounds played in the Carolinas by a female in 2015, according to Carolinas Golf Association records.
Spada posted 275 rounds for her handicap calculation with the amateur golf organization, the most in the Carolinas by a whopping 32 rounds.
The mark is simply a byproduct of her passion.
“We play because I love to play,” said Spada referring to husband, Rick. “I like being outdoors. I like seeing all the terrific wildlife. I like the exercise and I’m competitive. It’s a lot of fun, and having a husband that plays also makes it a lot easier because he has the same philosophy too, pretty much.”
Rick, 71, is a retired high school social studies teacher and Mo, 60, was a school and reference librarian – a rather chatty one. “I was the loud librarian,” she joked.
The couple purchased a vacation home at Sea Trail Golf Resort 11 years ago and moved to Sea Trail full-time nearly four years ago from Accord, N.Y. The move to better weather freed Spada up to play incessantly.
The reigning Sea Trail women’s club champion estimates she played more than 300 rounds last year, including those with formats that wouldn’t count toward a handicap.
“I thought I probably played more like 300 or 325,” Spada said. “Some days I played 27 holes, some days I played 36, so I’m sure I played more than that, and lots of times when we play extra rounds we’ll play a scramble for fun. And when I practice, even though I’m playing golf I’m not playing for score. I might play two or three balls.”
Rick played 208 rounds despite surgeries on his back and hand that kept him off the links for extended periods. He typically joins his wife for non-league rounds, though she’ll occasionally play by herself to music.
I won’t play in pouring rain and I won’t play in freezing cold. But we’ve played during this real bad stretch of weather [in late January] and we were the only people on the golf course. One day we played and it never got above 39 degrees.
Spada recorded numerous rounds in the 70s last year and had a low of 75 in league play. In addition to a women’s league at Sea Trail she is on two different traveling teams.
She was down to a 10 handicap but was up to a 17 by the first of February. Of course when you play six or seven rounds a week, the handicap gets completely recycled every three weeks since only the most recent 20 rounds are applied. “I went into a big slump, which I’m in now,” she said. “That’s golf.
“… People will look at me and say, ‘Do you play every day?’ And I’ll say, ‘Well, pretty much.’ And then they’ll say, ‘Well, if you play that much you should be a lot better.’ I think sometimes playing a lot makes it worse.”
Golf courses don’t get a break when she’s on vacation, either. The Spadas were on a 12-day trip to the oceanfront paradise of Cozumel, Mexico, over the past two weeks and had six tee times booked at a Cozumel course prior to their departure and planned to book a few additional rounds once there.
Winter isn’t a sufficient excuse, either. The Spadas have played a form of golf in the snow in New York with a 5-iron, tennis ball and cross country skis.
There is a no-golf threshold, but it’s rarely met over the course of a year. “I don’t play in pouring rain,” Spada said. “I’ll play in a drizzle if it’s warm. I won’t play in pouring rain and I won’t play in freezing cold. But we’ve played during this real bad stretch of weather [in late January] and we were the only people on the golf course. One day we played and it never got above 39 degrees.”
Spada has been lobbying Sea Trail’s operators to allow walking, which would increase her rounds. “If you can walk, you can play in anything,” she said. “That’s how I was able to play in New York all year.”
For now, they settle for alternating power walks on or between holes while the spouse drives the cart.
Spada’s body has held up well, for the most part, to all the swinging. She had back surgery for a severely herniated disk about eight years ago and was told by the doctor she wouldn’t be able to play golf for five months. She was playing within three months, despite it being February in New York. She broke her ankle skiing several years ago but returned to the game with a brace.
“I never get tired,” Spada said. “I’m fit, I power walk and watch my diet.”
How did she become so obsessed with golf? “I have no clue, because I never played golf as a kid. I didn’t grow up in a country club. My parents didn’t play. I played tennis. I didn’t know anything about golf.”
When Spada was 32, her sister was marrying a county champion into a golf-centric country club family and she felt she needed to learn the game, so she asked Mo to join her for an exploratory round at Roundout Golf Club in Accord. Spada borrowed clubs and enjoyed it despite playing poorly.
After the round, course pro John DeForest – knowing she was off from her school librarian job for the summer – asked if she’d be willing to bartend part time at the club. She agreed, and she and her then-boyfriend Rick, who was a caddie growing up and played on a high school team, were given free golf at the club as a perk.
“We got free golf and we got hooked,” Spada said. “Now all of our best friends are golfers. We don’t even know anybody who’s not a golfer, pretty much.”
She’s off to a pretty good start in 2016 to surpassing the 275 rounds, having played 27 rounds in January. “My only goal is I’d like to get my handicap down,” she said.
That might take three weeks.
Most rounds posted with the CGA in 2015
Belfair Golf Club
Foxfire Resort & Golf
Jackson Springs, NC
Dolphin Head Golf Club
Hilton Head Island, SC
Country Club of Salisbury
Sea Trail Resort
Sunset Beach, NC
Belfair Golf Club
Midland Valley Golf Club
Dataw Island Club
St. Helena Island, SC
Belfair Golf Club