Long drive champ is not a man, baby, but she used to be
Here’s a shocker: The woman who hit a golf ball farther than the rest of her competitors hasn’t always been a woman.
Lana Lawless, a 55-year-old bartender and local celebrity from Palm Springs, Calif., belted out a 254-yard drive into a 40 mph wind at the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship at Mesquite (Nev.) Regional Park this fall to upset favorite Phillis Meti of Auckland, New Zealand, by four yards. Having undergone gender reassignment a few years back, the former Southern California cop has been competing legally as a woman in this event since 2006.
Now, she’s a world champion, and predictably, some are not happy about it.
In a Golfweek story by James Achenbach, three-time world champion Sean “The Beast Fister” was quoted as saying: “I am shocked more women are not complaining about this. It’s not an apples-to- apples deal. Men and women are different.”
Former women’s world champion Lee Brandon added: “In 2005, the USGA approved transgender involvement in competition, so I don’t see how we can dispute this. However, if a woman has the knees, hands and feet of a man, she has genetic real estate that is more gifted.”
And so we have controversy, although Lawless submits to frequent testing and doctor’s reports certifying she is within the normal limits of a woman.
I’m surprised this hasn’t come up before. After all, it’s been more than 30 years since Dr. Renée Richards (formerly Richard Raskind) challenged the tennis establishment to play in the U.S. Open’s women’s division and eventually compete on the women’s tour with a measurable amount of success.
And while Long Drive competitions aren’t exactly the tour, the next step seems logical. Lawless, who played to a plus-1 as a man, hasn’t announced plans to try to play on the LPGA Tour, but what if she did? And if she did make it on the LPGA Tour and started winning, what would the conversation be like? Imagine a transgendered woman capturing the U.S. Women’s Open and the disgruntled competitors who lost to her.
I have a hard time believing anyone would go through the grueling process of a sex change just to gain an advantage in sports, but at the same time, do women who used to be men have an advantage? It’s certainly a question I’m not qualified to answer, but it’s hard to believe they don’t. And if that’s the case, is it fair to the rest of the field?
There are no easy answers on this one. It’ll be interesting if someone takes this to the next level like Dr. Richards did.
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