Lana Lawless has just won her first big LPGA fight. This one was not on the golf course however. It was in the court room of public opinion and her LPGA colleagues were the jury.
LPGA players have just voted to eliminate the rule requiring players be female at birth. Lana Lawless underwent gender reassignment surgery in 2005. Since that time she has been living as a female. In 2008, she won the women’s world championship in long-drive golf. She then sought to qualify for more prestigious LPGA events.
But she was halted at the "female at birth" requirement. Lawless threatened to bring a lawsuit and the LPGA acted. The threat of California being nixed from their tour schedule was too much to ignore. So now Lawless is able to compete in LPGA events. But will she?
This is an extremely complex issue filled with variables that could hinder Lana Lawless and her desire to become a female professional golfer. So can we expect her on the tour?
Lana Lawless just passed the most difficult hurdle of getting into the LPGA. Having the skill and talent is secondary if you are trumped by the rule book.
Now that the rules have been changed, Lawless can get to qualifying. If she was willing to go to the Supreme Court with her case, you can believe that she will do everything in her power to make it on the tour.
There is no shortage of motivation in Lawless. I expect her to get be busy qualifying very shortly.
Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it. Now that Lawless can make the LPGA tour, she needs to qualify. She is playing much more for herself. She may put the weight of all transgender people on her shoulders.
Golf is an exacting sport already. To add any form of unwanted pressure could be disastrous.
Allow me to be cynical for a moment. Name one of the least watched sporting events in the world. Yes, you guessed it. No one watches the LPGA. At least not as many as the tour would like. Lana Lawless may be a thorn in their side for a moment, but once she plays in her first event the tide will turn.
If even for the curiosity of the unknown, spectators will tune in. There is no precedent for how a person who was once male will fair in a weekend tournament with professional golfers. The LPGA will afford her every opportunity to make a name for herself.
Extrapolating from the pressure contingent, the fairness card will be played. How tough will it be to sink a 15-foot putt when you know that the woman you are playing with may hate your guts. This may be the sentiment from the average LPGA tour professional.
There is a very real sense among people that being a transgender female affords you the strength of the man you once were. Lawless has done her best to dismantle that sentiment.
Lawless has stated, "I am a female, the law recognizes me as female, my birth certificate now says that I am female, I am anatomically female, and I have lower testosterone levels than most women. I am not 'femaleish.' People say that I will have an advantage because I was once male. That is simply false. I have been beaten by other women before and most likely I will be beaten again. I just want to compete with the other girls. These rules need to change so that other trans people coming up behind me can be treated equally and fairly."
But the question looms as to whether LPGA players believe this.
While not many have seen her play, Lana Lawless does boast a one handicap. This is well within the parameters of an LPGA player.
With that type of handicap, you need to be a well rounded player. Lawless would have to be very adept at the short game and the tinier nuances of the sport to tout such a handicap. If she can maintain that type of production. There is no reason she cannot make it based on merit.
The average age in the LPGA is 30 years old. Lana Lawless is 57. The tour is much more extreme than playing a leisurely sport. It can be extremely taxing to play that many holes per week and to be continually on the road.
It is true that no matter what gender you might be, the body gets worse at physically skilled events as we get older. There is no other sport that takes as much muscle memory as golf. Each swing has to be the right speed and placement that you need it to be. Even if Lawless makes it, she may not be in the LPGA for long.
The average LPGAer drives the ball about 270 yards, on a good day. Lana Lawless won the LPGA's long-drive competition with a 335-yard drive.
Even if her short game is not working, it will be a nice plus to land on the green in one shot the majority of the time. If Lawless can bomb the ball like this consistently, she would be a monster on the tour.
Lana Lawless is an amateur. She has never played in the LPGA and is as of right now, green to what it takes to make it. Even if she hits the ball a ton, who is to say how accurate she can be?
She is hoping to jump into a sport filled with golfers that are in the best shape of their lives. More than that, they are golfers from birth. They have been exacting the golf science their whole life. Meanwhile, Lawless is a retired police officer. There is no way she has as much on the course experience as these seasoned pros.
The LPGA acted fairly quickly when their hand was forced. But it makes sense. Women have always had to fight an uphill battle for equality. There is no way that the forward thinking players of the LPGA would not want to include females of the transgender variety.
Females are much more accepting because they have had to deal with a lot more than us guys. I believe that while there may be disgust on the tour, it will be mere pittance to the scene if the roles were reversed.
Men are slow to yield in their beliefs. The PGA would still have their feet planted in the ground on this one.
There are too many variables to consider when asked if Lawless can make it in the LPGA. Any amount of error could derail her chances.
Her appearance on the tour could turn into a side show. From there, the negative publicity might have her questioning her dream to play. Her age is another factor. If she can't maintain the endurance it takes to play a whole season, she will be left wanting. Currently, Lawless is 5'11" and 200 pounds.
But more than any reason, you have to consider that entering a professional sport is exacting. Being successful in one is like winning the lottery. There are too many things that can go wrong here.
I would like to point out that I am very happy for Lana Lawless. As I see it, she has already won. She has opened the door for a very specific group of people. Their plight and difficulties had a light shone on them.
This article is to assess whether Lana Lawless can make a functional LPGA golfer. She cannot. To say that at the age of 57, she can just go into women's golf is to diminish that sport greatly.
If she does, it will be because she handled the pressure and proved to be an immensely talented player. There is much more to women's golf than bombing the ball down the fairway.
But here is to wishing Lana luck in her endeavor.