Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Everything's Coming out Rosie: Pro Golfer Rosie Jones Is Coming out, Keeping Her Friends, Gaining Endorsements, and Playing Her Best

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Everything's Coming out Rosie: Pro Golfer Rosie Jones Is Coming out, Keeping Her Friends, Gaining Endorsements, and Playing Her Best

Article excerpt

Frankly, we already knew Rosie Jones is gay. If you're a lesbian and a fan of professional golf--unless your gaydar needs a major tune-up--you guessed a long time ago that Rosie was "one of the gals." She's your-favorite-gym-teacher cute and unapologetically tough-minded as a player. Having won 13 tournaments in her 22 years as a pro, Rosie's a star of the Ladies Professional Golf Association and a perennial fan favorite among gays and straights.

But having your sexuality tacitly acknowledged by winking lesbians is quite different from announcing it to the world. That's what Rosie did in late March when she bylined an article in The New York Times revealing that she's now representing the lesbian cruise line Olivia and that, yep, she's gay. That was followed by a big public party during the famed Dinah Shore weekend in Palm Springs, Calif. (held during the tournament now formally called the Kraft Nabisco Championship), where Rosie's involvement as Olivia's spokeswoman was displayed in advertising.

She now joins a very select group of professional athletes who are openly gay; in women's golf only Muffin Spencer-Devlin and Patty Sheehan have previously decamped from the closet. Golf has long been stigmatized for its presumed lesbian presence--the old insult (or compliment, depending on your point of view) was to say that the L in LPGA stood for lesbian--players have feared that coming out would ruin their sponsorship opportunities as well as further stigmatize the tour. But when Olivia president Judy Dlugacz suggested to Jones that she represent the company--they met when Rosie and her girlfriend took an Olivia cruise--that solved the loss-of-sponsorship dilemma and thus challenged Jones to come out and prove that she and the tour could stand the heat.

The friendly, fast-talking Jones recently spoke with The Advocate at a country club in the Los Angeles suburb of Tarzana, where she was about to play in her second tournament since the announcement. In Palm Springs she had not only withstood the tsunami of public attention but finished the tournament impressively, in a tie for eighth place.

What reaction did you expect to receive compared with what's happened since you came out?

It's pretty reasonable [compared] to what I thought it was going to be. There's been a lot of media interest. When the tour gets to the East Coast, it will probably be regenerated.

The LPGA has seemed very supportive.

I called up our commissioner, Ty Votaw, when I first thought I was going to do this, and he said, "No problem. Congratulations, and you'll have whatever support you need from the LPGA." That was great to know, that there wasn't going to be friction.

I read a very nice article in your favor by a male columnist for Golf World magazine.

Five or 10 years ago I think there would have been a lot of bad press about it, a lot of negative things. They'd start picking on the tour--"That's not what the tour needs; the tour needs more sex appeal." That doesn't mean lesbians can't have sex appeal ... but it's been like that in all of women's sports.

Now I think people are saying, "So what? Rosie Jones has been a great golfer, that's what's important. Good for her that she's come out and has gotten endorsements to boot." Not only did I get the Olivia endorsement, I picked up another sponsor, Ecco shoes, the same week.

And you told Ecco what you were about to do?

I told them before I signed the contract. And I spoke with my clothing company, Jamie Sadock, and my ball and glove company, Titleist, and they have no problem either.

You've been on the LPGA tour since you were 22, and now you're 44--could you imagine having done something like this 22 years ago?

No--I would have been too scared, for a lot of reasons. I had been gay for only three years at that point and didn't want to be exposed in that way. I also didn't want to hurt my endorsement chances, because corporate America then was very straitlaced and traditional. …

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