A vibrant lesbian golf community has existed just out of the mainstream spotlight for decades. Over 40 years ago, in 1979, LPGA co-founder, player, and out lesbian Betty Hicks wrote an article about queer women in the sport for pioneering LGBTQ+ publication Christopher Street. Nearly two decades later, in 1998, LPGA Hall of Famer Patty Sheehan came out of the closet in Golf World Magazine, describing the experience of adopting a baby with her partner Rebecca Gaston. By 2001, The Observer labeled the Dinah Shore Classic, a major LPGA tournament now named the ANA Inspiration, a “lesbian bacchanal where any self-respecting U.S. dyke goes to get a tan, get a girlfriend, and get laid. Oh, and maybe watch some golf.”
However, the more familiar stereotype of the older, straight conservative male golfer isn’t too far from reality, at least on a national scale. A 2016 Sports Illustrated poll found professional players had a strong dislike for Hillary Clinton — 56 percent said they wouldn’t vote for her even if she cut their taxes in half — but found no such feelings for her golf-loving, fash-curious opponent. According to the 2019 National Golf Foundation Industry Report, 75 percent of players are over 35, only 23 percent are female, and 82 percent are white.
It wasn’t until more recently, however, that other sexuality and gender expressions were visible in the sport. For example, it took until 2018 for Tadd Fujikawa to become the first out professional male golfer. And it wasn’t until this year that the first transgender person, Hailey Davidson, won a professional tournament in the U.S.
But in San Francisco, the rainbow flag belongs on the course as much as the pin. That’s why the city is home to the first ever LGBTQ+ sporting event endorsed by the PGA, the San Francisco Pride Golf Tournament. The fundraising event began in 2019, and last year, even with strict coronavirus safety guidelines, hosted 150 players and raised nearly $35,000 for the SF Pride organization. This year, the event will be held October 8-9, and features an expanded playing field with two teams per hole. However, in addition to raising funds for an important cause, the event is also boundary-breaking in and of itself, paving the way for out-of-the-closet golfers to celebrate their identities in a notoriously exclusive sport.
“Since we founded the event in 2019, the SF Pride Golf Tournament has made remarkable strides for the LGBTQ+ community in a space that had largely been unavailable to us,” says Nguyen Pham, Board Secretary of SF Pride and a member of the Tournament’s Core Planning Team, in a press release. “As a golf outsider, I’ve felt truly welcomed into this space each year, and I’m thrilled for our historic event to continue building inclusion in the sports world.”
On Friday, Oct. 8, a Pride Golf Award Reception will be hosted at Beaux, a gay craft cocktail lounge and nightclub in the Castro, while the actual tournament will take place all day on Saturday, Oct. 9. Entry fees are $400 for the reception and tournament, $350 for just the tournament, and $75 for just the reception. Guests can register online at the San Francisco Pride website.
The tournament is held at TPC Harding Park, the site of last year’s PGA Championship, where 2019 Cal grad Collin Morikawa took home the title after closing a three-hour nailbiter with a clean eagle shot. The course is marked by whoville-esq top-heavy Monterey Cypress trees, which frame the holes in a picturesque manner without obscuring shots that go astray. Small greens make keeping a low score difficult, with the trickiest holes closing out the round. It was named after golfer and U.S. President Warren G. Harding.
“This tournament is a major fundraiser for SF Pride, and previous years have been nothing short of magical,” says Suzanne Ford, Vice President of SF Pride’s Board of Directors and an avid golfer. “No one ever leaves TPC Harding Park without having a wonderful experience.”