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Mianne Bagger cleared for Women's British Open

Transsexual golfers will be allowed to play in this year's women's British Open in a policy change made by the Ladies Golf Union.

The move, announced Wednesday, comes 11 months after Danish-born Mianne Bagger became the first male-born golfer to play in a professional women's tournament.

The LGU, which governs amateur golf in Britain and also runs the women's British Open, followed a similar move made last year by the Ladies European Tour, the governing body of professional women's golf in Europe.

Bagger, who had a sex-change operation in 1995, is playing this season on the Ladies European Tour and expected to enter the women's British Open. The tournament is open to amateurs and professionals.

The LPGA -- the professional women's tour in North America -- prohibits transsexuals from playing and allows only women who are female at birth.

The first tournament under the LGU new rules will be the Ladies British Amateur on June 7-11 at the Littlestone Golf Club in southern England.

The British Open is July 28-31 at Royal Birkdale, near Liverpool in northwest England.

``We have a legal situation in Europe and the U.K. that is different to America, so in a sense we had no option but to address the situation,'' said Andy Salmon, chief executive of the LGU. ``In America, they reserve the right not to address it at the moment.

``It has taken a considerable time to finalize the gender policy document and we are convinced that we have a document that is fair to all.''

LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw said late last year his organization was considering a change, partially because of rule changes made by other golf bodies and the International Olympic Committee.


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