Mianne Bagger becomes first transgender athlete to play in pro golf tournament

On March 4, 2004, Mianne Bagger, a golfer from Denmark, makes history at the Women’s Australian Open as the first openly 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 assigned male at birth 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 gender and sexual identity as a teen, stopped playing golf and felt “thoroughly depressed…suicidal.” She had gender affirming 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 her competitors welcomed her participation at the Australian Open. 

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.  

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