On March 4, 2004, Mianne Bagger, a golfer from Denmark, makes history at the Women’s Australian Open as the first transgender athlete to compete in a professional golf tournament. Bagger shoots an underwhelming 84 (12 over par) in her first round, but that is a footnote to the historic performance.
Bagger told reporters it took her a while to overcome the nervousness associated with the feat: “I don’t know where my swing was. ... I was pretty numb the first seven holes. I couldn’t really feel much below my shoulders.”
Bagger, who was born male in 1966, began playing golf as an 8-year-old. She was photographed with star golfer Greg Norman in Golf World magazine as a 14-year-old. However, she struggled with her sexual identity as a teen, stopped playing golf and felt “thoroughly depressed...suicidal.” She had gender reassignment surgery in 1995 and resumed playing golf again at age 32 in 1998.
Some questioned whether the 5-foot-10, 150-pound Bagger would have a physical advantage over the field. Bagger told Jay Schadler of ABC-TV's Primetime she would not, and here competitors welcomed her participation at the Australian Open.
“She's a girl now, let her have a go," said Laura Davies. "…She's not gaining any advantage from what I understand. She doesn't hit the ball 350 yards. Why not give her a chance?"
In 2004, Bagger qualified for the Ladies European Tour and had a couple decent showings in her career. In addition to leaving a legacy as the first transgender professional golfer, her advocacy caused a number of golf associations, such as the LPGA, to amend their bylaws to remove “female at birth” requirements.