Hailey Davidson addresses backlash after second attempt at LPGA card

Hailey Davidson is a professional golfer
Courtesy of Hailey Davidson
0 Comments

Less than a week after missing out on advancing through Stage 1 of the LPGA Qualifying Tournament, golfer Hailey Davidson addressed the wave of backlash she received for her attempt to become the first transgender woman to earn her tour card.

“It’s amazing, one decent round and all of a sudden people start claiming that I’m close to securing my LPGA Tour card and dominating women’s golf,” the 29-year-old Davidson wrote in an Instagram post last Wednesday. “If I were truly dominating, I would’ve cruised through Q-School last year and have much better playing status than I currently do, which is practically no status at all.”

That’s right, Davidson’s bid last week in Rancho Mirage, Calif., was her second attempt at Q-School, and it wasn’t even as successful as last year’s turn in Palm Springs when she made it to the fourth and final round but missed advancing to Stage 2 by four strokes. This year, Davidson missed the 54-hole cut by a shot after rounds of 70-76-73. But national news reports following second-round action last week elevated attention to Davidson’s story, setting off a firestorm.

Davidson’s Instagram post addressed several misconceptions regarding her journey, which she opened up about in December in a first-person essay for On Her Turf.

Born in Scotland, Davidson moved to the U.S. with her family in 1997 and was a self-professed “golf nerd” by the time she was 13. She described herself as “the angriest golfer” as a teenager.

“I wasn’t angry towards others, but I would just get so mad at myself if things didn’t go perfectly,” she said. “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.”

Davidson initially chose golf and played on scholarship for the men’s team at Wilmington (Del.) University, an NCAA Division II school, before transferring to the men’s team at Christopher Newport (Div. III) in Virginia. But a deep depression eventually spurred a personal reckoning, and Davidson began the process of transitioning on Sept. 24, 2015, a date she has tattooed on her right forearm.

After not touching a club for more than two years, Davidson began playing again for fun and rekindled her passion for the game. She landed a job in the golf industry, working for NBC’s Peacock division under the umbrella of Golf Channel, and began jumping through the required hoops to compete in USGA championships and other professional tournaments.

“I dealt with the Tour directly for over four years before finally meeting all of the necessary criteria to be able to play professionally,” she wrote Wednesday. “But, even so, I still had to go through a medical panel to have the fate of my future in golf decided on by strangers. In total, there was a five-year gap between my last competitive round pre-transition to my first round post-transition.”

Davidson has enjoyed some success on the professional level, winning her first professional title on the NWGA (National Women’s Golf Association) tour in May 2021. She is believed to be the first trans woman to win a pro tournament in the U.S., and she followed up three months later by becoming the second trans golfer after Bobbi Lancaster in 2013 to play in the first stage of the Q-School.

Despite not advancing in Q-School last week, Davidson did earn Epson Tour status for 2023, as LPGA rules dictate that any player who shoots better than 88 in all the first three rounds earns status on the developmental tour. However, Davidson points out status does not mean entry into tournaments, but she’s prepared to stay the course.

“There seems to be this notion that I’ll be able to play in Epson events just by signing up,” she noted on Instagram. “In reality, I have much worse status that I did last year when I didn’t get in one event at all. In order to compete against these amazing female athletes, I will need to continue to work hard on my game, which I fully intend to do.”

Davidson also called out the dehumanizing impact of the current debate over transgender athletes.

“I understand the questions and dialogue surrounding transgender athletes. I honestly do,” she wrote. “What I’ll never understand, though, is the hatred that comes with it. Some people initiate these attacks willingly, while others maybe don’t realize how hurtful their words can be.”

Justine Wong-Orantes’ atypical path to becoming one of the best liberos in the world

Justine Wong-Orantes hits the ball in the women's semi-final volleyball match between USA and Serbia during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Getty Images
0 Comments

It’s been 20 years since the same nation held both the Olympic and world volleyball titles at the same time, but libero Justine Wong-Orantes is looking to help lead Team USA accomplish that very feat at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships in the Netherlands and Poland. Competition began on Friday and the U.S. is currently 2-0 after group play wins against Kazakhstan and Canada.

“We’re trying to win, for sure,” Wong-Orantes told On Her Turf. “I think, especially with the new turn of the program and the new year of the quad, we just have a really nice blend of veterans and also newcomers on the team.”

The 14-woman roster for Team USA, which is ranked No. 1 in the world and won its first Olympic title last summer, features six players from that gold-medal-winning team. And while Wong-Orantes is among the 2021 U.S. Olympic team veterans, she’s still a relative newcomer to international play.

The Southern California native enjoyed a notable junior career – she was 12 when she became the youngest female to ever earn an AAA rating in beach volleyball – and was a standout collegian at Nebraska, where she was a member of the 2015 NCAA championship team. But Wong-Orantes followed a different path upon graduation, initially choosing not to go overseas to play professionally.

While she was first selected for the U.S. national team in 2016 and played a handful of international tournaments in the following years, it wasn’t until she started playing professionally in Germany in 2019 that she saw the potential to elevate her position on the roster. In particular, the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics gave her an additional year of overseas experience, which she calls “a blessing in disguise.”

“I just felt like I was still in that developmental stage,” she said. “And a whole year postponement allowed me to go overseas and really get all the touches, all the repetitions, and just kind of expose myself to international volleyball another year. So I was, in hindsight, pretty thankful for that COVID season because I got an extra year under my belt, and I think that just gave me a ton of confidence.”

Ahead of the Olympics, Wong-Orantes earned “best libero” honors at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball National League in Rimini, Italy, which helped secure her spot on the Olympic roster. In Tokyo, she followed up with another standout performance and was named best libero of the Olympic tournament.

As to how the Wong-Orantes transformed into one of the world’s top liberos, she points to her background as a beach volleyball player. She began competing at age 8, and her first partner was Sara Hughes, a star on the AVP Pro Tour who also won two NCAA titles with USC.

“I think having that background and just the court awareness that beach volleyball forces you to have allowed me to really have a good read on the game,” said Wong-Orantes. “I think that’s what makes a great libero is just reading and always being reactive towards the ball.”

Wong-Orantes also credits the assistance of mental coach Sue Enquist, a former UCLA softball coach and U.S. national team coach, who now helps teams work on their culture and relationships. Enquist began working with the U.S. volleyball team during the pandemic and has continued in her role ever since.

“We just worked on a lot of stuff within ourselves, within our program, how to communicate with each other off the court, and I think that honestly propelled us into such a high, high level with how we worked with each other, and then that transferred onto the court,” explained Wong-Orantes, who noted the team has Enquist on speed dial while at the World Championship. “I really commend Sue. I just really give a lot of praise to her because I think our culture was never bad, but I think [she] just transformed into a different level.”

2022-09-26 - FIVB Volleyball Womens World Championship 2022 - Day 4
ARNHEM, NETHERLANDS – Justine Wong-Orantes (far right) poses for a photo with her U.S. teammates after defeating Canada at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Rene Nijhuis/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Wong-Orantes said she and her U.S. teammates are on their toes for the world championships, which features twice as many teams (24) as the Olympics and a “more grueling” format.

“It’s going to be a long tournament, and I think we’re really going to need all 14 of us that are here. I’m pretty certain that, at any given moment, someone’s going to be called on and someone’s going to need to step up in big moments.”

2022 Ascendant LPGA: How to watch, who’s playing in Texas’s annual signature event

Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand hits her second shot on the 16th hole during the final round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
Getty Images
0 Comments

The LPGA make its annual stop in The Colony, Texas, this week for the 10th edition of the Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America, where Thailand’s 19-year-old rookie Atthaya Thitikul comes in hot off her second career win and second playoff victory this season at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

Leading the 132-player field at Old American Golf Club, located at Golf Clubs at The Tribute, are Texas residents and past champions Cheyenne Knight and Angela Stanford. They’ll compete for the $1.7 million prize purse alongside major champions Nelly KordaLydia Ko and Brooke Henderson. Last year’s Ascendant LPGA champion, world No. 1 Jin Young Ko, will not be defending her title after announcing earlier this month she would be missing several weeks due to a nagging wrist injury.

This past weekend in Arkansas, Thitikul took the lead with a 10-under 61 in the second round and shot 68 in the final round to finish regulation tied with Danielle Kang at 17-under 196. Thitikul, who won the JTBC Classic in March in a two-hole playoff vs. Nanna Koerstz Madsen, drained an 8-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to secure the win over Kang.


How to watch the 2022 Ascendant LPGA 

Coverage of the 2022 Ascendant LPGA from Old American Golf Club in The Colony, Texas, can be found on Golf Channel, with streaming options available any time on any mobile device and online through NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

  • Thursday, Sept. 29: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Friday, Sept. 30: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Saturday, Oct. 1: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Sunday, Oct. 2: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel

Who’s playing in the 2022 Ascendant LPGA

Six of the top 10 players in the Rolex World Rankings are among the field in Texas, including:

  • No. 2 Nelly Korda
  • No. 4 Lydia Ko
  • No. 5 Atthaya Thitikul
  • No. 6 Brooke Henderson
  • No. 7 Lexi Thompson
  • No. 10 Nasa Hataoka

A number of local Texans also are in the tournament, headlined by past champions, Angela Stanford (2020) and Cheyenne Knight (2019), and two junior champions of the Volunteers of America Classic Girls Championship, who are playing on a sponsor exemption: Yunxuan (Michelle) Zhang (2022), a freshman at SMU, and Avery Zweig (2021), a high school sophomore from McKinney, Texas.


Past five champions of The Ascendant LPGA

YEAR WINNER SCORE MARGIN RUNNERUP
2021 Jin Young Ko (South Korea) 16-under 268 1 stroke Matilda Castren
2020 Angela Stanford (USA) 7-under 277 2 strokes So Yeon Ryu, Inbee Park, Yealimi Noh
2019 Cheyenne Knight (USA) 18-under 266 2 strokes Brittany Altomare, Jaye Marie Green
2018 Sung Hyun Park (South Korea) 11-under 131 1 stroke Lindy Duncan
2017 Haru Nomura (Japan) 3-under 281 Playoff Christie Kerr

Last time at The Ascendant LPGA

South Korea’s Jin Young Ko carded a final-round 69 to maintain her 54-hole lead at Old American Golf Club and held on for a one stroke win at the 2021 Volunteers of America Classic, her eighth career LPGA tour title. Ko finished regulation at 16-under 268, edging Finland’s Matilda Castren by one stroke.

It kicked off a five-win season for Ko, who had just lost her No. 1 ranking to Nelly Korda the week prior after holding the top spot for 100 straight weeks. She regained the No. 1 ranking back in October 2021, after earning her fourth win in seven starts at the BMW Ladies Championship.


More about Old American Golf Club

Opened in 2010, the Old American Golf Club is one of two clubs at The Tribute, a lakefront resort community on Lewisville Lake in The Colony, Texas. Designed by Tripp Davis and 12-time PGA Tour winner Justin Leonard, Old American plays as a Par 71 and stretches to 6,475 yards on the tournament scorecard.