LPGA's Jones believed 1st to endorse gay-oriented company

Golf

March 23, 2004|By David Whitley | David Whitley,ORLANDO SENTINEL

The idea came during a round of drinks on a cruise. Rosie Jones pondered a bit, then decided it was time.

"I'm ready to do this," the LPGA golfer said. "This is a great opportunity."

Jones was on an Olivia cruise. The travel company caters to gay clients, and Jones was preparing to tell the world she is a lesbian.

She shared that on the ship with Judy Dlugacz, Olivia's founder. Before Dlugacz could pick up the bar tab, they'd struck a historic deal.

Beginning with this week's Kraft Nabisco Championship, Jones will wear her sexuality on her shirt. The Olivia logo will also be on her hat. Jones, a winner of 13 LPGA events, will probably be the first American professional athlete to endorse a gay-oriented company.

"I know that coming out in today's politically supercharged environment surrounding gay issues has the potential to spin into something I do not intend," Jones wrote in a New York Times op-ed piece announcing her sexuality.

"It in one way reflects the progress being made in sports in relation to being gay and accepting gay people as a normal part of culture," said Mary Jo Kane, the director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota.

"Lesbians have had to be silent and in the closet," she said. "What she's done is courageous."

Muffin Spencer-Devlin is the only other LPGA member who has come out.

The LPGA Tour's popularity among lesbians is widely acknowledged. This weekend's event in Palm Spring is known as "Lesbian Spring Break."

The Orlando Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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