UPDATE Aug. 22, 12noonET: Hailey Davidson made the cut after 54 holes and is headed to the final round of the LPGA and Symetra Tour qualifying tournament in Palm Springs.
In the middle of what’s become an “Inclusion Summer” in sports, a 28-year-old golfer in Florida named Hailey Davidson made waves of her own.
With a one-stroke victory in a National Women’s Golf Association event in Davenport, Fla., May 13, Davidson achieved what is thought to be the first time that a transgender woman has ever won a professional golf event. She discussed the win and the backstory behind it at length on The Trans Sporter Room podcast in June.
On Monday, Davidson starts toward what has been her goal since returning to tournament play earlier this year — a spot on the LPGA Tour for 2022. She will compete in the first stage of LPGA tour qualifying school, or Q-school, at Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert, Calif., with three iconic tour courses.
“Q School stage 1 is actually a 72-hole tournament,” she told Outsports Sunday as she prepared for her trip to California. “I don't know much about the courses, but I will be playing a practice round at each.”
The format calls for 18 holes each on the Rancho Mirage Dinah Shore and Pete Dye tournament courses, and another 18 at Shadow Ridge. A cut will be made after those 54 holes, and the survivors will move forward to a final 18 on the Dinah Shore Course. Those permitted to move forward will head to a second stage to be held in Florida in October.
Survivors from stage two head into the Q-Series, two weeks of play where those at the top of the leaderboard will earn LPGA or Symetra tour cards for 2022.
The challenge ahead is the latest for an athlete who has met quite a few challenges head-on. Competitive in junior and collegiate competition, her goals on the links collided with her struggle with gender identity off of them. That struggle led her away from tournament play for six years as she worked through her transition.
In April, three months after having gender-affirming surgery, she competed in an area U.S. Women’s Open qualifier where she was in contention, but faltered late. She has been competitive in NWGA events, adding two more victories to her historic effort in May. The most recent win was just two weeks ago.
Even with fighting her way to the top of some leaderboards, Davidson heads into Q school seeing a lot room from improvement.
“My game has been very inconsistent due to working a full-time job and not having money for lessons,” she noted. “I know I have the talent. It just needs the time to fully show up. If I can play well enough to get through stage one, I can hopefully raise more money, then I may be able to play and practice full-time without the need of a day job.”
One factor she says may be an advantage is a mental strategy equipped for what to come and what could happen.
“I try to make golf fun and enjoyable, so during my bad rounds it helps me find the positives, if any existed,” Davidson explained. “This also helps me when I win to know that if I play well, I can compete. What really matters to me is how I feel about my game that day, and not as much the result on the leaderboard. If one happens the other comes with it.”
After three days of practice rounds, the qualifying tournament itself will be played this Thursday to Sunday.