A transgender golfer has managed to secure her spot on a prestigious tour, specifically designed to provide ‘growth opportunities’ for female players.
Hailey Davidson, 30, who was born in Scotland but now lives in Florida has long been aiming to become the first transgender woman to earn a Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tour card – and has moved a step closer to her goal.
Davidson won the NXXT Women’s Classic at Mission Inn Resort and Club near Orlando, Florida.
Securing victory gives Davidson access to the Epson Tour, which is awarding exemptions to their top five players.
Hailey Davidson, 30, won the NXXT Women’s Classic at Mission Inn Resort and Club near Orlando, Florida. It gives her access to the Epson Tour which is awarding exemptions to their top five players
The Epson Tour is the qualifying tour for the LPGA, the Tour Card for which Davidson has been aiming. The LPGA Tour removed their requirement for golfers to be ‘female at birth’ in 2010
Davidson won the NXXT Women’s Classic at Mission Inn Resort and Club near Orlando, Florida and was more than 100 points ahead of her closest rival
The tour is the qualifying tour for the LPGA, the Tour Card of which Davidson has been aiming for.
News of the win sparked anger online, with many highlighting how Davidson would likely be able to hit the ball further than a player born female.
The LPGA Tour removed their requirement for golfers to be ‘female at birth’ in 2010.
However, Davidson’s very presence as a trans-woman removes one of those spots from a cisgender woman.
The irony of Davidson’s win is that the exemptions were specifically introduced to allow female golfers the ability to compete on the Epson Tour and provide ‘unparalleled professional growth opportunities for women golfers.’
Davidson touted her victory on X, writing: ‘I was finally able to get my 4th professional win after two playoff holes… Also moved me into 1st place in the season rankings for two Epson Tour exemptions!
‘Most importantly though, thank you to absolutely everyone who has supported me from my fellow competitors to all of you that I may or may not have had the chance to meet yet. Thank you all for helping me wade through any hate and making me feel loved.’
Davidson told Golf Week that the ‘trans issue’ is also a source of angst for her as well.
‘I guess that’s what frustrates me the most. If I play bad, then people will feel justified – ‘Oh well, she played bad and wasn’t good enough.’ – If I do anything good, it won’t be because of the fact that I put my whole life into this … it would be because I’m trans.
‘I want to make sure everything I do is positive to the point that there’s nothing negative people can say,’ she said. ‘I’m not standing up on the first tee saying ‘Oh, I’m Hailey. I’m the trans girl.’ If it comes up, it comes up.’
Davidson’s very presence as a trans-woman removes one of the tour’s spots from a cisgender woman
Hailey Davidson, 30, appears to be on her way to becoming the first transgender woman to earn an LPGA tour card after now qualifying for the Epson Tour
The mother of tennis star Andy Murray, Judy Murray, said that Davidson’s position was completely unfair on other biological women
In August 2022, the mother of Wimbledon champion tennis star Andy Murray, Judy Murray, said Davidson’s position was completely unfair on other biological women.
‘Not fair at all. Protect women’s sport. Listen to the facts, the scientists and the medics. This is wrong,’ she tweeted.
Murray was one of a number of users on social media commenting on the fact that Davidson may well earn her LPGA tour card.
Davidson has dismissed criticism of her participation in women’s sports as ‘transphobia.’
Although the top male golfers can typically hit the ball further than their female counterparts, Davidson claims that the majority of criticism about her competing in the women’s circuit is transphobic rather than a real dialogue over the sport.
Davidson said that after her transition, she now hits the ball 15mph slower.
‘I’ve seen that it’s not about protecting women’s sports or me having an advantage, it’s just that you don’t like trans people,’ Davidson said during an interview on the Like It Is podcast.
‘It’s very sad that that’s what it comes down to. In the last couple of months, that’s what I’ve come to learn.’
‘I’m determined to get a hole-in-one on camera one day!’ Hailey Davidson, 29, wrote on Instagram as she posted video of herself practicing on the links
Davidson is seen in 2015, prior to transitioning
Davidson is seen recovering in hospital following her transition to become a woman
The NXXT, Epson Tour and LPGA all have strict policies that allow trans-women to take part in the competition alongside those who were born female.
‘The LPGA has a comprehensive Gender Policy that allows transgender athletes, including those who have transitioned from male to female, to participate in its events. This policy requires transgender athletes to provide a declaration of their gender identity, proof of gender reassignment surgery, and evidence of at least one year of hormonal therapy maintaining testosterone levels at a specified range.
‘It also includes provisions for confidentiality and the recognition of decisions regarding gender verification made by other golf tours or sports authorities,’ NXXT Tour Director Bennett Noe said in a statement.
‘This alignment across the NXXT, LPGA, Epson Tour, and USGA ensures a consistent approach towards transgender athletes, emphasizing fair competition and integrity in the sport.’
Davidson last competed as a male golfer in 2015, after which, she began hormone therapy treatments. She has been competing on the East Coast Women’s Pro Golf Tour
Davidson last competed as a male golfer in 2015, after which, she began hormone therapy treatments and underwent gender reassignment surgery in 2021.
‘I know I have what it takes from being around professional golfers on the LPGA/PGA/Champions Tour over the recent years and staying very competitive with them all,’ Davidson said in 2021 while trying to fundraise for qualifying school.
‘While I know that I have the talent and mental game to make a career out of playing, the initial cost of tournaments and practice expenses is what truly holds me back.’
While failing to make qualifiers that particular year, Davidson stayed competitive in other tournaments, ending one match just three shots behind 2010 U.S. Women’s Open champ Paula Creamer.
Should Davidson finally make the LPGA, she would be the second transgender woman reach the first stage of LPGA Q-School.
In 2013, Bobbi Lancaster, a 63-year-old physician from Arizona earned Symetra Tour status in 2013, but decided to spend her time traveling the country as a human rights advocate according to Golf Week.
Davidson said that after her transition, she now hits the ball 15 mph slower, adding that she doesn’t have much of an advantage against other female golfers
Davidson claims that the majority of criticism about her competing in the women’s circuit is transphobic rather than a real dialogue over the sport
On social media, there has been a backlash at Davidson’s success.
‘If it’s not one ‘breaking through’ it’s another one. This time a Hailey Davidson. Truly @LPGA time to revisit your ‘rules’ and re-set following those from other major sport federations. Women deserve a fair playing field. Male bodies remain male bodies with built in advantages,’ wrote Dorothy van Koolwijk.
‘This idea that because trans women have advantages, it must be unfair, that’s simply not true,’ said Joanna Harper. @golfweek @GolfweekNichols , pls speak to expert scientists on this issue who AREN’T trans activists,’ wrote Jennifer Gingrich who describes herself as a radical feminist.
‘Why have a separate category in #golf called ‘ladies’ if anyone is allowed to self-identify into it? Instantly, it becomes a bogus ‘lesser men’ extension of the #PGA. How could @LPGA #LPGA undermine itself in this most ridiculous way? Tossing out legitimacy of the league?’ wrote Linda Blade.
‘I am an expert in muscle. It is absolutely unfair. When you add in stronger tendons, ligaments, bones. Longer limbs, wider shoulders, narrow hips. All real advantages,’ argued another Twitter user.
‘There was a time, in global sports, certain born women athletes were harassed to prove their feminity (sic) through hormone tests and all nonsense. Some of them were ripped off their medals. Today they are openly letting born males to compete & snatch the victories from women. Insane,’ added Mohammed Riyaz.
A number of users on social media were unhappy that Davidson may well earn her PGA tour card
Davidson’s success comes amid a culture war in America over regulations in allowing transgender athletes to compete in women’s sports.
Although professional bodies like the LPGA and PGA set up their own rules and regulations many years ago, more recently debates have erupted across the country over athletes competing in high school and college.
The issue took center stage in 2022 with UPenn swimmer Lia Thomas, who began competing in women’s collegiate swimming a year and a half after transitioning.
Thomas went on to break several women’s records, much to the dismay of several of her teammates, and the NCAA and US Swimming bodies were criticized for allowing Thomas to compete.
Professional competitive swimming association FINA has since effectively banned trans women from competing in the sport, by saying they must have begun to transition before puberty kicked in, which is illegal or almost impossible to do across most of the US.
The issue took center stage in 2022 with UPenn swimmer Lia Thomas, pictured, who began competing in women’s collegiate swimming a 18 months after transitioning setting records
18 states have now outlawed transgender students from competing in girls’ sports.
One notable example is Ohio, which passed a bill requiring students accused of being transgender to provide a doctor’s note detailing their sexual anatomy, their testosterone levels, and their genetic makeup.
In New Jersey, Republican lawmakers proposed the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, which would require female student-athletes to verify the nature of their genitals to compete.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Michael Testa, compared genitalia checks to random drug tests that college athletes are subject to, and said he didn’t foresee any problems with irate parents accusing girls of being transgender.