Crossing the divide
By STEVE SPINKS
MIANNE Bagger longs for the day when she's known as just another professional lady golfer.
But she's realistic.
After all, she is the first transsexual woman to qualify for the European Ladies Tour.
Bagger caused a sensation early last year when she played in the Australian Women's Open in Sydney after receiving a sponsor's exemption.
And the 38-year-old knows a similar sensation will occur this Sunday when she plays at the $15,000 Optus World/Sony Ericsson Coraki Ladies Pro-Am.
"It would be nice (to be known as a golfer)," Bagger told The Northern Star.
"But my ultimate hope is for the issue of transsexualism to be better understood.
"That it's a condition you are born with and you go through life being treated for."
Bagger has been a trailblazer in women's golf.
Since playing the Australian Open (February 2004), she forged a professional career in Sweden and Denmark before the European Ladies Tour changed its rules (November 2004), allowing transsexual women to compete. The change was in line with the International Olympic Committee.
Bagger subsequently qualified for the European Tour in November last year in a tournament in Italy.
The Australian Ladies Professional Golf Incorporated has since changed its eligibility rule, allowing Bagger to compete on the local tour.
Since having the final operation in 1995, which made her a transsexual woman, Bagger has dealt with plenty of attention. But she has rarely encountered disparaging comments on the golf course.
"In regards to snide remarks, I've had none at all," Bagger said.
"I'm sure there has been some behind the scenes but they would mostly come from people who don't know me or from people who haven't met me or played with me.
"Out on the course I'm just another golfer."
Much of the contention about Bagger's inclusion on the tour seems to stem from the misconception that because she was formerly a male, she would have an unfair advantage strength wise.
But this is not the case.
The administration of female hormones over a number of years and then surgery has reduced Bagger's testosterone output by so much, that she actually produces less than a normal woman.
"Put it this way," she said.
"I'm not one of the longest hitters out there and that's been shown again and again."
So what is Bagger hoping to get out of the Coraki Pro-Am?
"My main aim is just to play well," she said.
She will arrive in Coraki on Sunday morning.
After Coraki comes the real test ... a full season on the European Tour.