What she has lost, instead—sacrificed, actually—is that membrane of politeness that keeps journalists and fans from asking questions that are too personal. Spencer-Devlin's sexual history is now pretty much an open book, from her teenage gropings with a man twice her age to her first intimate encounter, in her early 20's, with a woman. ("My mother asked me in 1975 whether I didn't like men. I told her I love men, and I think the earth would be a sad place without them. I just didn't want to sleep with them.") Was it true that Spencer-Devlin had dated numerous women while playing golf around the world? Absolutely. In the '80s, did Spencer-Devlin and a woman exchange vows and later separate? Yes again.
The details, she hastens to add, are not pertinent; what matters is the honesty attached to coming out.
"I truly believe that keeping a secret is an energy-consuming act. If every day when you wake up you have 100 units of energy for the day, and you have secrets, they might take up 10 units of that energy. After a time you might not even be aware of it anymore, but you have that much less energy to apply in your life. And that's unhealthy."
But Spencer-Devlin is too candid to offer honesty as her only motivation for coming out. A month or so ago, she showed a friend an old photo of herself at age five wearing her favorite play outfit, a suit of armor. "We all live with a myth," she said, explaining her lifelong fascination with King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. "Mine is the hero myth."
The question Spencer-Devlin can't answer, curiously enough, is, "What's it like being a lesbian on the LPGA tour?" She chooses not to generalize and can quote only from her own experience—"Everyone responds differently to stimuli"—and she has no more interest in presenting a false picture than she does in outing a friend. "I'm no Margaret Mead," she says. "I haven't studied lesbians in sport or even women in sport." The observations she does make are commonsensical, such as, "On the tour, lesbians do present a picture to the world of living a solitary life."
Some myths she is happy to dispel. Lesbians are a minority on the LPGA tour, she says, despite the public perception that it's filled with gays. (She readily concedes that she is not the only golfing lesbian who wondered last year why it took so long for CBS television to hold announcer Ben Wright accountable for his published remarks about lesbians and women in golf. "It's not so much what he said as the fact that he later lied about saying it. He made an honest reporter out to be a liar.") Spencer-Devlin also gives thumbs-down to the idea that a woman's appearance is a giveaway; the tour is composed not just of gay women and straight women, but of feminine-looking gay women—"lipstick lesbians"—and masculine-looking heterosexual women. She recalls a tournament round in 1979, her rookie season, during which she spoke freely about her girlfriend to a player she assumed was gay—only to have that player respond by talking about her boyfriend. "I was embarrassed," Spencer-Devlin admits. "But it was a defining moment for me, because I quickly realized that she really didn't care. After that I never felt the need to hide my sexuality from my peers."
But to the rest of the world she remained closeted. Within earshot of journalists, sponsors and fans, she referred to her "significant other" without using gender pronouns. Sometimes she compounded the deception by turning the absent lover into a man. It bothered her to lie, and sometimes she would reveal her secret, off the record, to a trusted journalist. But her overall strategy was one of deceit by omission. "I don't think anybody in a healthy relationship wants to hide the fact that they're in love," she says. "And no one wants to disguise the person with whom they're in love."
For Spencer-Devlin the beginning of the end came in 1992 when a three-year casual friendship with Roth turned into something deeper during the week of the Nabisco Dinah Shore in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Several months later they began living together, and in 1994 they bought their shoe-box-shaped house above Laguna Beach. On a typical day at home Spencer-Devlin sings the libretto of Camelot while working out on the step machine in the living room; Roth, in another room, composes scores for films and commercials. "What attracted me to Muffin was her generosity of spirit," says Roth. "Muffin has this side of her where if I said, 'Do you think we could go to the moon?' she'd say, 'Sure, when do you want to go?' "
It is a relationship that seems, on the one hand, to be intellectual: the coffee table offers neatly aligned copies of The New Yorker and Esquire, and either woman can, with ease, drop the name of theologian Pierie Teilhard de Chardin or psychotherapist J. Konrad Stettbacher. The romantic side of the attachment is revealed in a passage from notes Spencer-Devlin has been keeping for a planned autobiography. In her writings she describes a sojourn with Roth in Paris: "Dinner at the Cafe de Marly.... Its walls are deep, Richelieu red.... We shared a small bottle of Burgundy, a plate of fresh asparagus.... After—we drank café crème and smoked small cigars."
Clearly, that lack of self-consciousness is something she would like to experience on the tour. "Paul Azinger wins a tournament," Spencer-Devlin wrote in her notes, "and his wife is there on the 18th green with hugs and kisses. Could you imagine me hugging and kissing my woman lover at the conclusion of my last tournament win? Well, [that's what you'll see] at my next one."