By returning to golf, Hailey Davidson wants to inspire transgender kids

Hailey Davidson is a professional golfer
Courtesy of Hailey Davidson

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.

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    2023 March Madness: Utah Utes engineer dramatic turnaround for third-ever Sweet Sixteen appearance

    Members of the Utah Utes celebrate their win over the Princeton Tigers in the second round of the NCAA Womens Basketball Tournament.
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    SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The No. 2-seeded Utah (27-4) women’s basketball team held off a pesky 10th-seeded Princeton squad on Sunday, winning 63-56 to advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championships for the first time since 2005-06 and just the third time in the program’s history.

    “I’m proud of our team,” said eighth-year head coach Lynne Roberts after the second-round win at Utah’s Hunstman Center. “We set out to do this a year ago. We lost in this game at University of Texas and the goal was to be able to host (this year) so that we could have that home-court advantage and it made a difference.”

    Utah’s fourth-year junior Alissa Pili backed up her recent second-team All-American honor with another 20-plus-point performance, scoring 28 on 8-for 13 shooting with 10 rebounds and going 11-for 13 on free throws. Sophomore forward Jenna Johnson added 15 points and six rebounds.

    There’s been a lot of talk this weekend about how the Utes’ previous few seasons have ended – beginning with a rough 14-17 season that was cut short in 2020 due to the pandemic, followed by an abysmal 5-16 record in 2020-21. But the tide turned last year, as Utah rebounded with a 21-12 season that ended with a 78-56 loss to Texas in Austin in the second round of the NCAA tournament one year ago.

    So, what changed?

    “Last year, everyone was new to the NCAA tournament, so I think everyone was just experiencing it for the first time,” mused Johnson. “Losing in the second round last year, we’re definitely a lot hungrier this year, and then obviously hosting in Salt Lake, it’s fun just being in your own environment, to be around your own fans. I think it gives us an elevated level of confidence, both knowing what it’s like it play in this tournament and also getting to be at home.”

    “Yeah, freshman year was kind of rough,” added third-year sophomore Kennady McQueen, who chipped in nine points Sunday. “We did experience losing a lot. … Coach Roberts, she said we are not going to have another season like that. We all stood behind her — the people that stayed — and brought in great people like starting last year with Jenna and Gi (Gianna Kneepkens) and people like that who have had a huge impact in helping us to where we are today. …

    “When you get together a group of people that have the same goal in mind and will do make anything to make it happen, I think that’s where we have seen our success rate going up. This past offseason, we just kept getting better, and of course, the addition of the Alissa Pili really helped. When you bring a group of girls that have the same dream and same goal at the end of the year and doesn’t care about personal stats more than winning, I think we get the season that we have today, and it prepares us for deep run in March.”

    In particular, McQueen believe it was Utah’s improvement in their defense that was crucial to the turnaround. “Everyone knows how good we are on offense, but if we can’t get stops, it doesn’t matter how good you are on offense,” she said. “So that’s just been a key the whole past off-season and all of this season — just getting better on defense.”

    MORE FROM ON HER TURF: Alissa Pili revives her love of basketball with record season at Utah

    Roberts credits their defensive improvement with a “philosophical mindset change,” explaining, “We worked on [defense] a lot differently, a lot more intentionally. Strategically we made some changes of how we are going to defend, and I won’t bore you with that. But there was a lot, just different things because you have to play to your strengths. You can’t be a run-and-jump pressing team if you don’t have the depth and athletes to do it. You can’t be a zone team if you are not super big. You have to figure out what fits your personnel, and so that’s what we did.”

    There’s also the undeniable impact of Pili, a transfer from USC who has found her stride as a Ute, where she recently was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year.

    “She kind of is the straw that stirs the drink for us right now,” said Roberts of the 21-year-old Alaska native. “She’s a nightmare to defend because she can shoot the three, and she’s also really athletic and mobile, so it doesn’t matter who we are playing. I think you have to gameplan for her. But then with her three-point shooting, you know, you have to pick your poison.”

    But Roberts also gave plenty of kudos to Johnson, whom she describes as “phenomenal.”

    “She’s 19 going on 40,” Roberts said of Johnson. “She’s the most mature, even-keeled consistent player we have. What I love about her is she is who she is. She’s confident in who she is. She knows who she is. She also is incredibly busy off the court.

    “We were talking as we were getting ready to watch film, just shooting the breeze a bunch of us, we were talking about movies. And she was like, Oh, I don’t watch movies. Why not? I don’t have time. I get bored. What do you mean you don’t have time? Do you watch shows? No, I don’t ever watch TV. It is because she is doing all of these other extracurricular activities.”

    As for guiding to the Utes to becoming a championship program, Roberts still sees it as an uphill battle – but one that she and her players are ready for.

    “I always use the analogy of pushing the boulder up the hill,” she said. “And doing things for the first time, you have to have that mindset. You have to keep pushing. It’s been incredibly fun to see the support, and I think the swell is a perfect word for it. Most importantly, our players feel it.

    “This is why you play, right? And it means so much. I know I say it over and over, but this is not going to be a flash-in-the-pan [season]. This isn’t going to be a ‘Oh, remember that year they had such an incredible year?’ We are going to keep doing it.”

    RELATED: 2023 March Madness 2023 — Updated bracket, scores and schedule for NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship

    2023 March Madness: Updated bracket, scores and schedule for NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship


    Editor’s note: We’ll keep this page updated, so be sure to check back here for winners, scores and next-round details as the tournament progresses.

    The bracket for 2023 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship is officially set and defending champion South Carolina earned the No. 1 overall seed for the second straight season. A total of 68 teams will see tournament action, beginning with the “First Four” games on Wednesday and Thursday, followed by Round 1 play kicking off on Friday.

    On Her Turf has compiled the matchups, sites and schedule for the tournament, which culminates Sunday, April 2 with the title game from American Airlines Center in Dallas.

    2023 tournament No. 1 seeds:

    • South Carolina Gamecocks
    • Indiana Hoosiers
    • Virginia Tech Hokies
    • Stanford Cardinal

    Last four teams in the tournament:

    • Illinois
    • Mississippi State
    • Purdue
    • St. John’s

    First four teams out of the tournament:

    • Columbia
    • Kansas
    • UMass
    • Oregon

    RELATED: South Carolina nabs No. 1 overall seed in NCAA women’s basketball tournament

    ‘First Four’ game schedule

    Wednesday, March 15

    • 7 p.m. ET: 11. Illinois vs. 11. Mississippi State (South Bend, Indiana)
      • Winner: Mississippi State, 70-56
    • 9 p.m. ET: 16 Southern U vs. 16 Sacred Heart (Stanford, California)
      • Winner: Sacred Heart, 57-47

    Thursday, March 16

    • 7 p.m. ET: 11 Purdue vs. 11 St. John’s (Columbus, Ohio)
      • Winner: St. John’s, 66-64
    • 9 p.m. ET: 16 Tennessee Tech vs. 16 Monmouth (Greenville, S.C.)
      • Winner: Tennessee Tech, 79-69

    Bracket, schedule* by region 

    *Includes scores, game time and TV network, if available


    Columbia, S.C.

    • Round 1 — Friday, March 17:
      • 1. South Carolina 72, 16. Norfolk State 40
      • 8. South Florida 67, 9. Marquette 65
    • Round 2 — Sunday, March 19:
      • 1. South Carolina 76, 8. South Florida, 45

    Los Angeles, California

    • Round 1 — Saturday, March 18:
      • 5. Oklahoma 85, 12. Portland 63
      • 4. UCLA 67, 13. Sacramento State 45
    • Round 2 — Monday, March 20:
      • 4. UCLA vs. 5. Oklahoma, 10 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

    South Bend, Indiana

    • Round 1 — Friday, March 17:
      • 6. Creighton 66, 11. Mississippi State 81 (First Four winner)
      • 3. Notre Dame 82, 14. Southern Utah 56
    • Round 2 — Sunday, March 19:
      • 3. Notre Dame 53, 11. Mississippi State 48

    College Park, Maryland

    • Round 1 — Friday, March 17:
      • 7. Arizona 75, 10. West Virginia 62
      • 2. Maryland 93, 15. Holy Cross 61
    • Round 2 — Sunday, March 19:
      • 2. Maryland 77, 7. Arizona 64


    Bloomington, Indiana

    • Round 1 — Saturday, March 18:
      • 1. Indiana 77, 16. Tennessee Tech 47 (First Four winner)
      • 8. Oklahoma State 61, 9. Miami 62 (FL)
    • Round 2 — Monday, March 20:
      • 1. Indiana vs. 9. Miami, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

    Villanova, Pennsylvania

    • Round 1 — Saturday, March 18:
      • 5. Washington State 63, 12. FGCU 74
      • 4. Villanova 76, 13. Cleveland State 59
    • Round 2 — Monday, March 20:
      • 12. FGCU vs. 4. Villanova, 7 p.m. ET (ESPNU)

    Baton Rouge, Louisiana

    • Round 1 — Friday, March 17:
      • 6. Michigan 71, 11. UNLV 59
      • 3. LSU 73, 14. Hawaii 50
    • Round 2 — Sunday, March 19:
      • 6. Michigan vs. 3. LSU, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Salt Lake City, Utah

    • Round 1 — Friday, March 17:
      • 7. N.C. State 63, 10. Princeton 64
      • 2. Utah 103, 15. Gardner-Webb 77
    • Round 2 — Sunday, March 19:
      • 2. Utah vs. 10. Princeton, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)


     Blacksburg, Virginia

    • Round 1 — Friday, March 17:
      • 1. Virginia Tech 58, 16. Chattanooga 33
      • 8. Southern California 57, 9. South Dakota State 62
    • Round 2 — Sunday, March 19:
      • 1. Virginia Tech 72, South Dakota State, 60

    Knoxville, Tennessee

    • Round 1 — Saturday, March 18:
      • 5. Iowa State 73, 12. Toledo 80
      • 4. Tennessee 95, 13. Saint Louis 50
    • Round 2 — Monday, March 20:
      • 12. Toledo vs. 4. Tennessee, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)

    Columbus, Ohio

    • Round 1 — Saturday, March 18:
      • 6. North Carolina 61, 11. St. John’s  59 (First Four winner)
      • 3. Ohio State 80, 14. James Madison 66
    • Round 2 — Monday, March 20:
      • 3. Ohio State vs. 6. North Carolina, 4 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Storrs, Connecticut

    • Round 1 — Saturday, March 18:
      • 7. Baylor 78, 10. Alabama 74
      • 2. UConn 95, 15. Vermont 52
    • Round 2 — Monday, March 20:
      • 2. UConn vs. 7. Baylor, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)


    Stanford, California

    • Round 1 — Friday, March 17:
      • 1. Stanford 92, 16. Sacred Heart 49 (First Four winner)
      • 8. Ole Miss 71, 9. Gonzaga 48
    • Round 2 — Sunday, March 19:
      • 1. Stanford vs. 8. Ole Miss, 9:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Austin, Texas 

    • Round 1 — Saturday, March 18:
      • 5. Louisville 83, 12. Drake 81
      • 4. Texas 79, 13. East Carolina 40
    • Round 2 — Monday, March 20:
      • 4. Texas vs. 5. Louisville, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)

    Durham, N.C. 

    • Round 1 — Saturday, March 18:
      • 6. Colorado 82, 11. Middle Tennessee State 60
      • 3. Duke 89, 14. Iona 49
    • Round 2 — Monday, March 20:
      • 3. Duke vs. Colorado, 9 p.m. ET (ESPNU)

    Iowa City, Iowa 

    • Round 1 — Friday, March 17:
      • 7. Florida State 54, 10. Georgia 66
      • 2. Iowa 95, 15. Southeastern Louisiana 43
    • Round 2 — Sunday, March 19:
      • 2. Iowa 74, 10. Georgia 66

    Regionals/Final Four schedule, how to watch

    Sweet 16: Friday and Saturday, March 24-25; Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Greenville, S.C., host: Southern Conference and Furman; and Climate Pledge Arena, Seattle, hosts: Seattle and Seattle Sports Commission

    Elite 8: Sunday and Monday, March 26-27; Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Greenville, S.C., host: Southern Conference and Furman; and Climate Pledge Arena, Seattle, hosts: Seattle and Seattle Sports Commission

    Final 4: Friday, March 31, 7 p.m. ET and 9:30 p.m. ET (ESPN); American Airlines Center, Dallas; hosts: Big 12 Conference and Dallas Sports Commission

    Championship Game: Sunday, April 2, 3 p.m. ET (ABC); American Airlines Center, Dallas; hosts: Big 12 Conference and Dallas Sports Commission

    MORE FROM ON HER TURF: 2023 March Madness — All about the 32 automatic qualifiers