After her retirement last June from 25 years of professional golf, out golfer Rosie Jones became one of very few women in sports broadcasting, taking a job at the Golf Channel as a member of their broadcasting team. She and her girlfriend, Carrie Sexton, have also launched Rosie Jones Golf Getaways, a series of golf vacation packages.
AfterEllen.com recently talked to Jones about her life since coming out, how other golfers — and the LPGA — feel about the closet, Martina Navratilova, Sheryl Swoopes, just how many lesbians there are in the LPGA, and what it’s like having your girlfriend caddy for you on tour.
AfterEllen.com: How do you feel about in being in front of the camera?
Rosie Jones: I’m getting a little bit better at it. It’s a little bit tougher than I thought it would be; it’s a lot different than just thinking about golf. Now you have to say it and say [it] in a way that people understand it and give them information that they want to know. So, it’s kind of confusing at first, but it’s fun and it’s interesting and it’s a new challenge for me. And I’m not sure that I will have a long career in this, but I’m giving it a shot, and I’m trying to do the best I can.
AE: It seems like it would be hard to retire from a sport you played for 25 years. Your body is just so in tune with everything about it, from thinking about your tournaments and playing and being out there. Are you still glad you retired when you did?
RJ: My body is the reason that I had to quit — or wanted to retire — because I was having so many different injuries that were just not going to heal if I played golf. Mentally, it’s harder to retire than it is physically. It’s easy to wake up in the morning and say, "Wow, I’m not stiff; I’m not sore; I don’t have to go and hit a bunch of golf balls and spend a lot of time practicing anymore." But emotionally and mentally, it’s very different, because your identity has been wrapped up [in the] persona of Rosie Jones the golfer … for so many years, so to lay that aside and to rest is difficult.
AE: Now you are playing on the Legends Tour. Out on the Legends Tour, you have [gay golfers] Patty Sheehan, Muffin Spencer-Devlin and Sandra Haynie. The media — especially when you came out — positioned you as being one of the only gay golfers, but those three are out; they just didn’t get as much media coverage. I don’t know if Sandra actually came out.
RJ: You know, Sandra really didn’t come out, and Patty didn’t really come out. She just mentioned, "My partner and I are having kids or adopting kids." I don’t know that she was actually seeking any advertisement or attention from it, whereas it was different when I came out with Olivia, and I had this kind of an engine rolling along with me and promoting media attention on it. So it was kind of a different situation for me as apposed to Patty, Muffin and Sandra.
AE: Sandra kind of got outed at the time from dating Martina Navratilova. It just got mentioned in a couple of books and a couple of other places, but I never actually heard Sandra come out and talk about it.
RJ: You know, I had kind of forgotten that; I didn’t even know it. I’m going to have to ask her about that sometime.
AE: There have been a couple of books that have been popping up about Martina, and they have been mentioning Sandra Haynie. I don’t know why they are mentioning that now and not before, so I wasn’t sure if Sandra was OK with that.
RJ: Well, I think she is. She has told me that she is interested in doing some stuff with Olivia, and so I guess she is pretty out. I actually saw her out on one of the Olivia trips, so I don’t know that she is actually out, but she is not in. [Laughs.]
AE: You know, that is an interesting thing that I definitely see with women’s sports. There is such little coverage of women’s sports, it’s not necessarily that women aren’t out; they are just not in the media. Their athletic accomplishments are barely in, so their personal life just hasn’t been an issue.
RJ: Well, sometimes the personal issue becomes bigger than the sport itself. Some reporters react differently to different things and different topics like that, and some are just not very comfortable with it.
AE: At the Dinah Shore tournament you played in when you first came out, you had your girlfriend caddy for you. I’ve heard mixed reviews from golfers who have had their girlfriends caddy for them.
RJ: For the most part, when Carrie and I are on the golf course, we have a business relationship going on, and every now and then those walls fall down when we might be talking about something else or another. She has caddied for me for two years, so she didn’t just caddy for me at the Dinah Shore, so she is a pretty seasoned caddy for me. Actually, that was maybe her fourth or fifth tournament.
[Speaking to her partner in the room:] Did you caddy for me for one year or two?
Carrie Sexton: Two.
RJ: We were able to keep that "work-ship" and "girlfriend-ship" separate in most cases.
AE: When you first came out, she said that she wanted this to be about you, and she wanted to stay out of the spotlight. And then at the Dinah Shore, she had an Olivia-sponsored outfit.
RJ: It’s customary that a lot of players ask for caddies to wear that endorsement product too, and so Carrie did actually have a contract with Olivia to wear the hat.