RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — Playing in her first tournament since her transition, Caitlyn Jenner impressed both the modest gallery Wednesday in the ANA Inspiration Pro-Am at Mission Hills Country Club as well as herself.
“It was 51 degrees and 7 in the morning and yes, I holed out [from more than 120 yards on the first hole],” Jenner said. “The wind wasn’t up but, yeah, we’re having fun.”
A single-digit handicapper before her transition, Jenner said she is treated “better” as a woman at her home course, Sherwood Country Club near Thousand Oaks, California.
“They changed everything [for me],” the former Olympic decathlon gold medalist said. “A locker room change. They went right to my handicap from the ladies tees. There was a tournament they said I couldn’t play because it was a men’s tournament. They’re all in there, so they’ve been great. And next week they have a ladies tournament and all the ladies want me to play.”
But her Pro-Am partner and longtime friend Danielle Kang as well as LPGA pro Jaye Marie Green have seen the other side, including someone writing that they were going to unfollow Green after she posted an Instagram photo of she and Caitlyn.
“It kind of made me then realize what Caitlyn goes through every day,” said Green, who deleted the negative comments. “That’s crazy. I mean, I just posted one picture and I have 20,000 followers. She has two million or whatever.”
According to Kang’s mother, Grace Lee, a fellow pro told her daughter that she would not want to play with Jenner this week and was met with an instant rebuke by the 23-year-old. Jenner, who was introduced to Kang at Sherwood six years ago and told her about being transgender not long after, greeted the LPGA player with “my daughter” when she saw her Wednesday.
“Her name was always Caitlyn [to me],” Kang said. “The other person was Caitlyn. She told me and explained it to me. People all talked bad about Bruce but to me, he was always a nice guy, a good friend.
“I just didn’t like what people were saying … that he was weird … so I confronted him. [I said] ‘What’s the deal? Why do people keep saying that?’ So he sat me down at lunch at Sherwood and explained the whole deal. And I said, ‘OK, let’s go play golf.'”
Kang said she talked Jenner into cancelling other commitments this week to play the Pro-Am, and her mother said Jenner calls Danielle “every tournament.” Clearly, little is off-limits in their friendship.
“She told me she putts better now because her boobs anchor her,” Kang said.
“Yes, I do,” Jenner agreed.
Jenner received more interview requests this week at the LPGA’s first major tournament of the year than any player including No. 1 Lydia Ko. But as for Jenner’s acceptance on the golf course or off, she said she doesn’t worry how many people like her.
“I don’t worry about popularity,” she said, “but I feel I’m in a position [now] to do more.”