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Rosie Jones "comes out" with new sponsor

LPGA golfer Rosie Jones has publicly acknowledged she is a lesbian and has entered a sponsorship agreement with a travel company that caters to a gay clientele.

Jones, a 13-time winner in 22 years on the tour, explained her decision in an article she wrote in the sports section of Sunday's New York Times.

``I'm a little bit nervous,'' she said after completing her round Friday at the Safeway International tournament. ``This is different for me only because it's all right out there -- to my fans and the media. Before I wasn't really open to scrutiny, but now I'm going to be.''

Beginning at next weekend's Kraft Nabisco Championship in Rancho Mirage, Calif., the 44-year-old Jones will be sponsored by Olivia, a prominent company that provides travel services to gays.

Jones said her friends and associates had long known that she was gay, but she did not make that fact public.

``I'm sure some people will criticize me for coming out so late,'' she wrote in her Times article. ``To them, I say simply, I wasn't ready until now. If gay rights is about anything, it should be about letting people come out on their own timetable and on their own terms.''

That was one reason for making the announcement in an op-ed piece.

``I got to say it the way I wanted to say it on my terms and in my timing,'' she told The Associated Press.

Jones said she has been comfortable with the fact she is gay for 25 years.

``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,'' she wrote. ``I have strong feelings about gay and lesbian civil rights: I vote; I have my beliefs. And I support causes and people, both gay and straight, who have inspired me through the years.

``But first and foremost, I am a proud and blessed member of the LPGA and a professional athlete -- not an activist.''

She said that when she spoke to family, friends and LPGA officials about her decision to go public, all were unanimous in support.

``I think more people are ready for this kind of situation,'' Jones said, ``and I think they're kind of used to it in sports with a few people having come out before me.''

She said she hopes fans continue to support her.

``I'm optimistic that my fans will see me as the same competitive, hard-working Rosie I've always been,'' Jones wrote, ``and respect this new aspect of my life as I respect their diversity.''

Her article concluded: ``Fine, I'm gay. Now let's go play golf.''

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