Thursday, January 01, 2009

Did women's long drive winner shaft the competition? Things to think about during golf's off-season.

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Recently, a former SWAT team cop from Los Angeles won the golf RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship. The nearest competitor lost by only a few yards in windy conditions and, where some of the challengers didn't seem to mind the outcome, a few had problems with it. Why, you may ask?

By the way, I am not talking about newly crowned RE/MAX long drive champion Jamie Sadlowski, who, with his 160-pound frame, defeated guys almost twice his size with great timing and a convincing hockey-esque style slap shot. Instead, this blog focuses on the controversy surrounding 55-year-old Lana Lawless, a 175-pound transgender who once weighed in at 245-pounds and was considered by law enforcement peers to have a very "tough and mean exterior" as Lawless admits. Lawless took women's RE/MAX honors this year after a narrow defeat at last year's semifinals.

Clubhead speed, not power alone, made the difference in the case of Sadlowski who carried his drive 400 yards. Lawless claims that her muscles have atrophied with the help of drugs that stem the flow of testosterone and that she is, for all intents and purposes, more woman than man. Sure she had drives of over 300 yards but she only bested her nearest opponent, 21-year old former long drive champion Phyllis Meti, by four yards.

About three years ago the Ladies Golf Union, which oversees that British Open, allowed transgenders to compete and Mianne Bagger took them up on their offer, becoming the first transgender since Renee Richards to play a professional sport. Looking at Bagger's 2008 stats, she appears to be a solid player with no advantage over the other players in the field but instead seems to fit right in to the middle of the pack.

The question is then, is there a definitive advantage of transgenders over "real" women and should transgenders be allowed to compete against their "peers"?

Three-time world champion Sean "The Beast" Fister said, "It's not an apples-to-apples deal. Men and women are different." Former women's world long drive champion Lee Brandon added, "if a woman has the knees, hands and feet of a man, she has genetic real estate that is more gifted."

Fox Sports polled the internet asking if it is fair for women who used to be men to compete as women and, out of almost 90,000 respondents, the answer was an overwhelming "No".

Where the average person may have trouble accepting transgenders into the fold, the media has said, "Vive la difference!" with ABC-TV leading the way featuring characters in both "Ugly Betty" and "All My Children". Of course transgenders don't have to physically compete in this platform so the question of athleticism still remains but, as long as proper procedures and guidelines are followed to ensure that transgenders do not have an unfair advantage, I think they should be allowed to compete. However, for those men who cannot adequately compete alongside their own gender and choose to make the switch solely for one-upmanship over the fairer sex, think again. Is the mandatory onsite testing really worth it?

I guess we won't be seeing "Philomena" Mickelson on the LPGA Tour any time soon!

This week on the Golf for Beginners show we not only talk about transgenders making their way onto the sports scene but also offer some great golf tips courtesy of Butch Harmon.

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