Lana Lawless? Really???

Kathy BissellCorrespondent IOctober 20, 2010

ROGERS, AR - SEPTEMBER 12:  Michelle Wie makes a tee shot on the 18th hole during the final round of the P&G NW Arkansas Championship at the Pinnacle Country Club on September 12, 2010 in Rogers, Arkansas.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Robert Laberge/Getty Images

By Kathy Bissell

Lana Lawless, the woman who is suing the LPGA to be able to play on their tour despite not being born female, has chosen a great name but the wrong battle, in my opinion.

You will not find a stronger advocate for women’s rights than me, but the Lana Lawless dilemma is ridiculous on many levels.

Nobody starts out playing in the LPGA because they want to. And certainly nobody starts out playing the LPGA at age 57 because they want to. I don’t care what sex they are. . .or used to be.

Every player on the LPGA has played amateur golf with some success and entered amateur, or possibly professional tournaments, before qualifying for the LPGA.  If good enough, perhaps receiving an exemption from a sponsor, they will be able to compete on the LPGA one day, which is not likely to be the case with Ms. Lawless.

There are, however, other places for Ms. Lawless to compete.  She apparently does not want to participate in those. So in her case, it is not about the competition: It’s about her wanting attention.  

If Ms. Lawless really wants to play golf why doesn’t she enter events on the Gateway Tour in Phoenix?  Golden State, men’s or women’s, entry is not prohibited in either category. What about the Canadian Tour? Or, you’ll all love this—I didn’t think of this, one of my male friends did— The Hooter’s Tour?  Couldn’t resist.

Taking the other side where women are allowed to play in men’s events, Michele Wie qualified for the men’s Public Links event and was provided a limited number of sponsor exemptions into men’s and women’s tournaments.  Suzy Whaley won the Connecticut  PGA Section Championship—beating men—and later found out that had qualified her for the Travelers tournament in Hartford.  

What has Lawless done that qualifies her to participate in the LPGA?  Nothing that we have seen yet. 

Has Lawless entered and won any of the women’s amateur events in California?  If she can’t win a women’s amateur event in California, why would she believe she had a “right” to play in an LPGA event anywhere?  What’s she done?  What’s her record?  What did she shoot?  Who did she beat?  Has she called up some former LPGA pros and asked them for a game to test her skills? Has she won any men's events?

If she’s really good at golf, she should try to play on the Champions Tour or the Nationwide Tour, where there are no regulations regarding sex of a person at birth. There are plenty of Monday qualifiers for those. Chances are she isn’t good enough to do that or she would have done it already.

All she wants to do is pick on the LPGA.

There are plenty of low handicap players, men and women who think they can secure a place on a professional tour if they got a shot.  News flash:  If you’re not breaking par by a couple of strokes every time you tee it up, to quote the late Bob Rossi, you’ve got no shot.  That means every single time.

If we hadn’t heard about Ms. Lawless beating nearly every course she played pre-surgery, then there’s little chance we are going to hear about her doing it post surgery.  Just because she can hit it a mile doesn’t guarantee her success on any tour, although it is better than being a short hitter.

If there was no other opportunity to play, you might be able to find some sympathy. But no 57 year old woman— check the mid amateur players—would try out for the LPGA any more than a 57 year old man would try to qualify for the PGA Tour.  Why would a trans-gender man now a woman feel that she has the right to do any different?  

If she’s that good she’ll find a place to play golf because people do. Right now, it looks like the only club she knows how to hit is the attorney club.

And Another Thing:

There are reasons the LPGA inserted a born a female clause into their bylaws.  It is because they knew men—like “before” Lawless—would show up and want to enter the tournaments and take away the few opportunities that the women had.  I’m reasonably certain they did not anticipate sex changes when the organization first formed, but maybe the Rene Richards situation sparked the rule.

Anyone who is unfamiliar with how hard the LPGA founders—and those who came after them in the late 1950s and early 1960s—worked to make a tour to provide an opportunity for women athletes needs to study up. 

Early LPGA members set up the courses.  Then played them. They went to baseball games and other sporting events in the towns to drum up interest. They did media interviews, clinics, pro-ams. They met with sponsors. They went to parties and dinners. 

It was heavy lifting to get the LPGA off the ground, and if you do not believe that, talk to one of the founders still living. 

Fifty plus years later, the LPGA is one of the few professional sports organizations that provides women athletes with an opportunity to earn a living.  Certainly, it is one of the oldest.  They even predate the men's PGA Tour. Why should they allow a man who didn’t want to be a guy anymore play their tour just because he changed his plumbing?

Another Thing, Part Two:

The reason it’s unfair for someone who has been a man at one time to play on a regular basis on the LGPA comes down to one thing:  Upper body strength, pure and simple. I don’t care what the ruling is for the Olympics.  If you know anything whatsoever about golf, you know that distance comes from strength and the ability to move a club head fast. 

You only get that with upper body strength.

Alice Dye—wife of Pete Dye for those who do not know—has won a number of state and national amateur titles in golf and has worked with Pete designing courses.  She is an expert on “forward tees.”  Now whether you call them ladies tees, forward tees, senior tees, or just the ones up there, the reason the women do not play the same length as the men comes down to one thing: upper body strength.

As Alice Dye explained to me one day after she and Pete and I were walking the Citrus Course in La Quinta during construction, the average woman does not possess the same amount of upper body strength as the average man.  The average man, she indicated, with little skill, could stand up and whack at a golf ball 200 yards on strength alone. No skill. The average women, no matter how hard she hits it, is lucky to move the golf ball more than 130 yards, Alice said.  Maybe 150 with roll. You’ll note I said average. Alice has studied this kind of thing, and she has played many rounds of golf, dating all the way back to her pre-college days. There is just not much she does not know about women’s golf.  

Michelle Wie, part-time LPGA player, part-time college student, leads the LGPA in driving distance at 275.4 yards.  Paula Creamer, US Open champ, averages 241.5.  Many low amateur men can out-hit Paula Creamer because they have more upper body strength.  So Paula Creamer, or the next Paula Creamer, has to give up her spot in an LPGA tournament because some 57 year old trans-gender person believes she now has a “right” to play on the LPGA?  Where was the law suit when she was a guy?  That would be the way to make the case. Not after a surgery has added and subtracted parts. 

Guess what Lawless’ distance was at the 2008 Long Drive Championship?  Three hundred thirty five yards. That’s nearly 100 yards longer than Paula Creamer’s average.  And Lawless complained that taking the hormones had caused her to become weaker.  How far did she hit when she was a he? Apparently not long enough to beat the men.

Ms. Lawless has already proven that the Olympic committee is wrong.  She has proven with her Long Drive participation that no matter how many hormones she takes, she still is going to have—by birth—more upper body muscle and upper body strength than even the longest hitting women. Even European Tour player Laura Davies doesn’t hit a golf ball 335 yards. 

Lawless and her attorney apparently insist that her birth certificate says she was born a woman. Well, I suggest somebody was paid to create a false identity.  Maybe there are penalties for that kind of misrepresentation.  Any legal action will certainly turn up the real birth certificate that shows she was born a boy, whatever his name was at the time, and that she was not born a girl since she admits to having the sex change made.

I am enlightened enough to believe that it is possible for genders to be stuck mentally in the wrong physical body, for lack of a better way to put it.  There are enough cases of it to indicate that the people making a sex change are sincere in their emotional pain and not doing so frivolously. Why would anybody do that on a whim?    

However, just because Lawless elected to make a radical change for personal psychological reasons, the LGPA does not have to change its rules. If she admitted to a sex change, and if she claims she is now a women, then that leaves one other sex that she changed from. 

She was a man previously.

Lawless was not born a female, no matter what her current “new identity” birth certificate says. Do you want to bet that when it comes to collecting retirement pay from the State of California she’ll decline to collect what she was owed as a male police officer? I bet not. I bet she endorses the check to her new identity and cashes it.   

If Lawless wants to play golf, there are places for her to play. This has never been about golf.  It’s all about attention.  

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