Neck problems apparently will cause LPGA's out lesbian golfer Rosie Jones into retirement, reports 365gay.com. Jones came out in March in a New York Times letter to the editor. The Safeway Classic in Portland Oregon may be her last regular tournament. Jones says she's getting tired after 23 years of playing and her degenerative neck disease is becoming less bearable.
WCT reporter Yvonne Zipter spoke to Jones a few weeks ago.
Rosie Jones, who came out publicly on March 21, 2004, in The New York Times' 'Backtalk' section, has won 13 LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) titles and earned more than $7 million in winnings over the course of her career. Jones called to talk about golf, coming out, causes close to her heart, and love while driving through the desert on her way home to Atlanta.
When Rosie Jones went on an Olivia cruise in January of this year, she had no idea that it would be a life-changing vacation. On the cruise, Jones met Olivia owners Judy Dlugacz and Amy Errett and talked to them about maybe working with them after she retired, doing golf outings and the like. 'But their idea was to jump right in and do some representation [of me] on the LPGA tour this year. After I thought about it awhile and realized I would have to come out in order to represent them, I thought it was a great idea, that it would be great for women's sports, and the gay community, and probably for the LPGA.' Read more story below....
It was not a decision she made lightly, however, acknowledging that homophobia continues to hold professional sports in its sway. 'The fear is, corporate America, still,' says Jones. 'They own the teams, they sponsor the events, they endorse the players, and if they endorse an openly gay person, that might somehow reflect negatively on them ... . Like when Martina Navratilova came out, she lost all of her sponsors.'
'But I felt like the trends had shifted, and America's view right now is a politically charged arena as far as gay marriage goes and equal rights for gays. And I feel like I've been on tour for 23 years, and I'm a very respected player out there, and I think people are going to respect me no matter what—for the game I have and the person I am, the professional that I've been.'
And having apparently gauged the social climate correctly, Jones, unlike Navratilova, has been finding support wherever she turns since she came out.
'Everything's been really positive and really supportive,' Jones says of her public coming out. 'The media has been absolutely darling. There's not been one negative thing that I've been exposed to, whether it's a newspaper article, magazine article, anybody saying anything to me. The LPGA, of which I've been a member for 23 years, has been very supportive. My peers have been great.' All of her sponsors, too, have stuck with her. Besides Olivia, Jones has endorsements from such mainstream companies as Ecco, a shoe company out of Denmark, and Titleist, the golf ball company.
Jones also has the blessing of the woman she's been with for the past few months. 'I definitely had to sit down and go over things with her before I made this decision. She was very supportive, very excited by it. She is actually out within her work space, but doesn't want to be out publicly, with me, as far as her name goes. [But] she's been very supportive, very patient: there's been a lot of attention on me. There's always a lot of attention 'being in professional golf and out there every week, but it's been even more so with the coming out part.'
The couple is hoping to keep their private lives as private as they can. 'This is about me,' Jones says. 'This is really about me being a professional golfer, an openly gay professional golfer on the LPGA, and it's not really about what my personal life is like.'
But although Jones has been playing golf since she was 11 in Albuquerque where she grew up, 'I was the typical tomboy and took to it right away,' she does, of course, have a personal life. According to the LPGA.com Web site, the 5'7' brown-haired, brown-eyed Jones enjoys fishing, dancing, woodworking, and traveling with her dog Rosko. It is her love of animals that has fueled her support for the Humane Society of America. She has also donated money to organizations devoted to breast cancer.
'But as far as gay issues, I've done very minimal up to this point,' admits Jones, citing the pressures and time commitment of playing for and touring with the LPGA as reasons for not having yet found her political voice. 'But you know what? Now, I'm getting out there, I'm getting more interested in different causes. It's kind of opened a whole new door for me.'
So while Jones has not heretofore publicly expressed her conviction that gays and lesbians should have equal opportunities in the workplace and be able to receive all of the benefits for their partners that straight married people would (she opposes the proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage), she doesn't rule out that she may someday use the podium afforded her as a professional athlete to give voice to her political concerns.
For now, though, it is golf that commands her attention: 'It's a great game. It brings me to nature, and I play amongst it and in it and around it, and it's the challenge of getting that damn ball into the hole. Constant aggravation.' Golf, and her new girlfriend: 'I hope she's my life partner forever and ever, and I can't wait to get home right now,' Jones says over the rattle of her Jeep on the desert highway. 'I've got about 2,000 miles to go!'