Editor’s note: Hailey Davidson is a professional golfer on the Symetra Tour and also works for NBC’s Peacock division under the umbrella of Golf Channel.
By Hailey Davidson
I was born in Scotland, the home of golf, and the sport is something I gravitated towards as soon as my dad introduced me to it.
After my family moved to the United States, I spent all of my free time at Stoneleigh Golf and Country Club in Round Hill, Virginia. During the summer, my parents would drop me off at 7am and then pick me up after work. Being at the golf course was way better than being stuck at home all day.
The result? I learned absolutely everything about that course, I knew every inch of ground. I was the 13-year-old kid who would help answer questions for new members. I was such a golf nerd.
But while I loved golf – and excelled at it from a young age – on the inside, I was sad, confused, lost, angry, and so much more. And looking in a mirror just made things worse.
Golf is such a mental sport – and with all the time alone to constantly think – I became the angriest golfer. I wasn’t angry towards others, but I would just get so mad at myself if things didn’t go perfectly.
At the time, there weren’t any openly transgender athletes and as a result, I saw it as an either/or situation. I could either choose golf – or I could be myself. I didn’t think those two things could coexist.
And so I chose golf because society looked up to professional athletes and looked down on those who were different. I believed that if I poured all my energy into the sport and got really good, all of those other thoughts would go away for good.
For a while, it worked.
But by the time I was 19, 20 years old, I was in such a dark depression.
I had just moved to Florida to be closer to my parents and I was trying to play professionally, but any win or achievement I earned on the golf course was only a small band-aid over a “wound” that kept expanding.
As much as golf was the only thing I believed I was good at, I eventually realized that – if I didn’t come out as transgender, if I couldn’t be my authentic self – I might not be here anymore at all.
ALSO FROM ON HER TURF: How can sports be more inclusive of trans and non-binary athletes?
When I first came out, it wasn’t great. I lost my job and most of my friends. And for two years, I didn’t play golf at all. It just wasn’t financially feasible. The closest I got to a golf course or touching a club was playing putt-putt at Disney once or twice.
After a few years in retail, I was able to land a job in the golf industry, which helped me get back into the game I had built my whole life around.
Once I started to play again, it was just for fun. I didn’t think I’d ever be good enough to play professionally or be allowed to compete. And it didn’t happen overnight, either. To get to this level, I’ve had to jump through a lot of hoops over the last five years, especially with USGA – giving them years of documents, providing bloodwork – just to be eligible to play.
But along the way, one of the things that has excited me the most is that my anger is gone.
I realized that my anger was the one thing that held me back before. And now that it’s gone and I can truly be myself, I have so much untapped potential.
At LPGA qualifying school (aka Q-school) this year, I was three over for my first five holes in the tournament. A few years ago, I would have completely lost it in that situation. I would have yelled at myself that I was wasting my time and just completely given up.
But instead, I was able to just laugh and joke it off. First, I knew that there was a lot more golf still left to be played. And second, it’s just golf. I have been through so much worse. This change in attitude is what helped me fight and ultimately make the 54-hole cut in just my eighth tournament back.
Next year, I’ll be playing partially on the Symetra Tour, along with other tours, and I’m going to do all I can to take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself.
My long-term goal is to not only play on the LPGA Tour, but to have a full and successful career out on the golf course. I want to be known not just as a transgender athlete, but also for what I achieve in the sport and the impact I can have on others’ lives.
I know I could’ve used a role model like myself when I was a teenager: someone who shows that it is possible to both be yourself and keep playing sports. And while I want to use my platform to help others, I also want to make sure that people don’t just think of me as Hailey, the transgender person. Because I’m also Hailey, the professional golfer.