But at a time when many successful gay women are open about heir sexual orientation, the players are not. "They worry they'll lose endorsements," says Trish Owens, he co-manager of Delilah's, a lesbian bar in nearby Cathedral City. 'But we've had several players in his week."
On even the most superficial level, almost all of the players refused to publicly discuss Dinah Shore Weekend. Muffin Spencer-Devlin, who a year ago revealed in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED) that she is a lesbian, de-dined to be interviewed by SI last week. So did veteran player Allison Finney, who is tour president and a number of the LPGA executive committee. "I don't want to talk about it," she said. "I'll talk about our game and our players, but I don't lave anything to say about that."
When Nancy Lopez, who won the Dinah in 1981, was asked if the social gathering that has grown up around the tournament has had any impact on the players, she looked like a deer caught in the headlights. Topless pool parties? Twenty thousand lesbians? "I didn't know that," she said.
One golfer did confide that she was told by a fellow pro, perhaps jokingly, that this was not the tournament to invite her parents to. An-other player. Michelle McGann, said that "the crowds are unbelievable. It's a great time of year, a great party. It's like being at a basketball or football game. I think it's good for all of us."
Many of the younger women at the Dinah last week preferred to lounge by the pool at one of the party hotels. It was women like Kristy Cummins, a 35-year-old insurance broker from Sacramento attending her third Dinah, who were more apt to hang out at the tournament. "A lot of the women just come for the parties and all the other women here, but I think the older ones come for the golf," she said while walking the course watching Liselotte Neumann play. "There's a larger crowd of lesbians here [than elsewhere on the tour]. People feel they can be more themselves than at other events."
Cummins is the kind of person the week's corporate sponsors are trying to reach. "Dinah Shore is the top lesbian event on the West Coast," Vivien Gay, a consultant with the Napa marketing firm Isosceles, which advised one of the Dinah Shore Weekend promoters, told The Wall Street Journal last week. "It attracts the starched-linen [higher income] lesbians."
The Dinah also attracts beginning golfers, like Micki Jones, a firefighter from San Francisco. She says she watches the tournament from start to finish, although she's somewhat underwhelmed. "I enjoy the golf more than the parties," says Jones, "but to me this isn't much of an athletic event. Look at them—they're 50 pounds overweight. It's a game of finesse, I guess, but so is marbles."
Women make up a relatively small percentage of golfers in the U.S. Of the estimated 25 million players, one in five is female. Of new golfers, one in three is female. While the LPGA isn't on a par with the PGA Tour, prize money has increased dramatically. King, for example, earned $135,000 for her victory, compared with $90,000 when she won in '90.
There's no doubt that last weekend was a success, although there was some grumbling about the cost. "It used to be a lot different, much smaller," says Lisa Ferguson, a 31-year-old hair colorist from Los Angeles who has attended 10 Dinahs. "There used to be one hotel [where the parties were held]. Now there are three or four. It's so big. Now it's all about money. We just got charged five dollars for a beer. To get into a club now is 20 bucks a head, and that doesn't include the beer. If you want a hotel, it's $400 or $500. It's a ripoff now."
The packages put together by event producer Joani Weir at the Doubletree Resort are typical. Weir reserved all 289 rooms, plus 15 of the resort's 47 condos, from Thursday through Sunday. She then charged $150 a night and offered several packages, depending on which assortment of pool parties, comedy shows and other activities her customers planned to attend.