It was, by all accounts, an unforgettable day for Hailey Davidson. On May 13, Davidson drained a 5-footer for par on the 18th hole to win her first professional title, topping LPGA player Perrine Delacour in the process. That same day she also received an email from the USGA stating that she’d met the organization’s Gender Policy eligibility criteria and can now compete in its championships. She hopes to soon hear similar news from the LPGA via a reciprocity agreement.
“I’m not just going to be stuck on mini-tours,” said Davidson, who is believed to be the first transgendered woman to win a professional tournament in the U.S.
Davidson, 28, works in social media for NBC’s Peacock division under the Golf Channel umbrella but has dreams of competing on the LPGA. In January, Davidson underwent gender reassignment surgery, a six-hour procedure. She’s been undergoing hormone treatments since Sept. 24, 2015, a date that’s tattooed on her right forearm.
“We are currently reviewing Hailey’s application to participate in LPGA Tour events under the LPGA’s gender policy,” said Heather Daly-Donofrio, the LPGA’s chief tour operations officer. “The policy is designed to be a private and confidential process between the LPGA and the athlete.”
In 2010, the LPGA voted to eliminate its requirement that players be “female at birth” not long after a transgender woman filed a lawsuit against the tour.
Earlier this year, the USGA changed its Gender Policy to shorten the length of time transgender athletes had to wait to compete. Under the previous policy, a player must have undergone gender reassignment surgery at least two years prior to the entry deadline.
The revised policy eliminated the two-year period. Gender reassignment surgery must now be completed prior to the championship entry deadline.
The LPGA had a similar two-year rule when Davidson first started looking into its policies six years ago. She pushed to have it changed, and it too was recently removed.
“To be honest, you’re really just putting up a two-year roadblock to hope that we give up by the time that two years finishes,” she said. “That’s all I ever saw it as.”
Davidson got word in early February, while still in Baltimore recovering from surgery, that she could compete in National Women’s Golf Association events. A tournament-hungry Davidson immediately signed up for a tournament scheduled two months later.
On April 20, Davidson competed in her first professional event in six years. She shot 72-72 and finished tied for sixth, three shots behind Paula Creamer and five shots behind winner Megan Osland.
Davidson said she’s lost 9 mph in swing speed and hits it roughly 30 yards shorter off the tee since beginning hormonal treatments. Her doctor required that she lose weight before surgery, roughly 60 pounds, and Davidson reached that goal and then just kept going, losing 90 pounds in the last 300 days. She stayed away from any weight training in the process, doing whatever she could to trim muscle mass.
“Any advantage that existed is fully gone,” she insisted.
The last tournament Davidson competed in as a male was U.S. Open local qualifying in 2015 at Admiral’s Cove in Jupiter, where she lost in a 10-for-1 playoff.
Several weeks ago, Davidson competed in her first U.S. Women’s Open qualifier. While she had permission from the organization to compete in the qualifier, she still hadn’t been cleared for a championship since more information was still required. Davidson shot 1 under in the first round of sectional qualifying at Oceanside Country Club but struggled down the stretch, noting that she couldn’t get out of her mind the fact that even if she finished in the top two, she still might not get to Olympic Club.
“No matter how good I play,” she told herself, “it’s not up to me. Somebody else gets to decide my fate. As a male, you’re taught to go put your mind to it – you can do it.”
She ultimately tied for 10th after rounds of 71-77.
Davidson, who now lives in Kissimmee, Florida, was born with her feet backward, requiring dozens of procedures throughout her childhood to correct. As a result, any sport that involved running wasn’t an option. Davidson said she grew up an angry golfer, prone to breaking clubs. For most of her life in the game, Davidson did everything she could to hide her truth given the conservative nature of the sport.
“I did everything I could to shove it away,” she said.
At the small, eight-player NWGA event on Thursday at Providence Golf Club, Davidson opened with a pair of bogeys in the final round.
“Back when I was a male, I would’ve lost it,” she said. “Probably would’ve shot 80 and my mind would’ve exploded.”
Several months ago, Davidson began working with PGA Tour Champions player Skip Kendall, mostly on putting, and has her eyes set squarely on LPGA Q-School later this summer.
Transgender athletes must indicate to the tour their desire to apply for LPGA qualifying by June 25. The first stage of Q-School takes place Aug. 19-22 in California at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage (Dinah Shore and Pete Dye) and Shadow Ridge Golf Club in Palm Desert. The entry fee alone for Stage I is $2,500. There are three total stages.
Davidson started a GoFundMe account to help realize her dream of becoming the first transgender athlete to earn LPGA membership. She has around $3,500 of her $25,000 goal.
“As cool as it would be the first person to do something,” said Davidson, “to be honest, right now could not be a better time for me to hopefully keep pushing forward and maybe break out, because there is so much anti-transgender legislation. … I feel like actually having representation on any professional sports level will give kids so much more hope.
“When I was growing up that didn’t exist.”
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/05/14/lgbtq-lpga-transgender-woman-wins-florida-mini-tour-event/