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.”