'Trans women need to play': PGA, SF's Harding Park working to make golf inclusive for LGBTQ community

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- At San Francisco's TPC Harding Park on Wednesday, the clear, blue sky above was not the only reason golfers were breathing a sigh of relief. For Suzanne Ford, a trans woman, she finally felt welcomed on a golf course.

"We're standing in a really special place, like really special," Ford, who serves on the SF Pride board, told ABC7 News.

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Ford grew up playing golf, and continued well into her adult life. It wasn't until she transitioned to a woman at the age of 48 that she quit.

"It just didn't feel comfortable anymore," she explained. "I played with all straight guys, and they weren't that happy about it, and it just didn't feel like home anymore."

Fast forward to today, to San Francisco Pride's second annual golf day - a first of its kind, PGA-sanctioned event aimed at bringing the LGBTQ community into the often-exclusive world of golf.

"In the past it was known as a white man's sports, and those days are now well behind us," said Tom Smith, the General Manager of TPC Harding Park.

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One of the founders of this tournament is Greg Fitzgerald, a golf professional who believes he is the first male PGA member to publically come out as gay. That was just three years ago.

"The sports world has been behind the times about being diverse, inclusive and welcoming," Fitzgerald said. "Whether you're talking about basketball, or football, or baseball or whatever."

Golf is no exception. Fitzgerald -- with the help of Smith, Ford and her fellow SF Pride board member, Nguyen Pham -- are working to change that.

"When I first think of golf, I think of beautiful white people playing a sport that takes a really long time in a really beautiful setting," Pham said. "Now that I've been in this world for just over a year now, I see the potential for diversity that the world of golf can offer."

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"It's fantastic," Fitzgerald added. "I get emails constantly that I'm just reading while I'm at work and I start crying because somebody has said, thanks for doing this. And look at all the people here today."

For Ford, this movement to make golf more inclusive is life changing. Prior to transitioning, she would use golf as a way to interact and network with clients. She says she's nearly ready to start doing that again.

"it's one of the few things, when you wake up on a morning where you're playing golf, it's like when you were a kid and you were pitching in a little league game," she said, fighting back tears. "But, yeah, I was excited this morning."

"I was going to go play, right?" she added. "Trans women need to go play."
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