Transgendered golfer barred from women's tournament
July 20 2004 12:00 AM ET
A golfer who was born a hermaphrodite was barred from a women's golf tournament because her birth certificate lists her sex as male. Instead, 40-year-old Danielle Swope will play in Saturday's qualifier for the Fort Wayne, Ind., Men's City Tournament. "I have respect for the men for at least giving me the opportunity to play. The women I don't have any respect for," Swope told Fort Wayne's Journal Gazette newspaper. Swope, who was born in Meridian, Miss., said she was born with both male and female reproductive organs and underwent gender-reassignment surgeries to become completely female. But her Mississippi birth certificate states that she was born male. The Fort Wayne Women's Golf Association said that is why Swope cannot play in the Women's City Golf Tournament, which begins Saturday. Swope, who took up golf about two years ago, also was barred from last year's tournament. "I feel sorry for her all around," said Linda Franze, president of the Fort Wayne Women's Golf Association. "I can't imagine what she's going through. But there are rules, and they apply to all of us."
The LPGA Tour, U.S. Golf Association, and the Ladies' European Tour all have policies that require players to be female at birth. The Indiana PGA and the Indiana Women's Golf Association adopted similar rules last fall after Swope entered the Indiana Women's Open. "Up until Danielle entered one of our events last year, we hadn't considered how to handle that situation," said Mike David, executive director of the Indiana PGA. Swope, who said she was outclassed, withdrew from the Women's Open without finishing the first round. "This policy wasn't put in place because participants were concerned Danielle might go out and win," David said. "We wanted to make sure everything was fair as we moved forward with the playing fields."
The USGA put the "female at birth" clause in its entry forms in 1989, while the LPGA Tour added the restriction in 1991. The reason for that restriction was Charlotte Wood, a transsexual who was 50
when she finished third in the 1987 U.S. Senior Women's Amateur and reached the semifinals of the U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur. Unlike Wood or Australia's Mianne Bagger--both of whom were born male--Swope was born with both ovaries and testicles, reported the Journal Gazette, which reviewed her medical records. Swope was raised as a boy, and her mother had her undergo a hysterectomy at age 11, she said.
Swope moved to Indiana in 1992. From 1995 to 1997, she said, she underwent a series of surgeries to make her completely female. She legally changed her name from Daniel Swope to Danielle Swope in 1996. Swope, who is 5 foot 4 and weighs 160 pounds, has a handicap index of 11.2. She said Fort Wayne women's golf officials told her that they were concerned she might "overpower" the tournament competition. Officials did not understand that her body does not produce testosterone at the same levels as someone who was born completely male, Swope said.
Franze, the Fort Wayne golf official, said it was Swope's birth certificate--not competitive concerns--that kept her out of the tournament. "That was never a point in this," Franze told the Journal Gazette. "The point is, she was born male, and our participants have to be born female. That's the bottom line. The USGA and the Indiana state association go by that." Swope wants to have her birth certificate changed to state she was born female. According to the Mississippi State Department of Health, such a change could be made under a court order, though the change would have to be noted on the document.