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Transsexual wants change to golf rules

Transsexual Mianne Bagger called on golf's governing bodies on Tuesday to change the eligibility rules as she prepared for her Australian Women's Open debut.

The Danish-born 37-year-old, who was born a male but underwent sex change surgery in 1995, is a three-time South Australian amateur champion and turned professional in August.

She is playing in the tournament at Concord Golf Club starting on Thursday on an invitation from Women's Golf Australia.

But, at present, the game's professional bodies, including the US-based Ladies' Professional Golf Association and the Ladies' European Tour (LET), state that members must have been born a woman in order to become a playing member.

"But I want to play professional golf and have the same opportunities as other women," said Bagger as she faced an onslaught of media attention.

"It's my dream to play top level golf and this is the most fantastic week of my life.

"I can understand the view (that she should not be playing) but people don't understand transsexualism. When you undergo sex change surgery, the physiological changes include losing muscle mass and strength. It's a false assumption that I am more powerful."

In fact, Bagger hits her drives around 210 yards, which is much shorter than most of the field. World number one Annika Sorenstam averages around 260 yards.

"The difference between men and women, it is not black and white and it's an issue that has to be faced," Bagger said.

"The International Olympic Committee stopped doing gender testing because it was too hard."

In Tuesday's Pro-am, a barrage of television cameras followed Bagger, and she said she was "overwhelmed" by the amount of attention.

"I was really nervous and I don't know how I will cope when play gets under way on Thursday," she said. "But I know I'm good enough to shoot sub-par rounds."

Bagger left Denmark for Australia in 1979, settling in Melbourne, but she says she would love to go back to Europe and compete on the LET.

And Ian Randell, Chief Executive of the LET, conceded that Bagger's plight was worth addressing.

"At the moment, she can't play because our rules state that players must be female at birth," he said. "It probably needs further analysis, but we will certainly look at the issue."

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