Muffin Spencer-Devlin Is the Best Lesbian, Manic-Depressive, Glass-Blowing Golfer of Them All

The Laguna Beach resident made history when she came out while on the LPGA Tour. That was the easy part

The story ran in early April. Spencer-Devlin didn't lose any of her sponsors. Media outlets across the world picked it up. America's leading gay magazine, The Advocate, followed with a cover story. She started speaking up for equal rights for gays and lesbians, even serving as grand marshal in gay-pride parades.

The reception among straight players on the tour was also supportive. "They were like, 'Oh, man, well-done,' but the gay players were freaked-out—at least that's the way it seemed to me," she says. "None of them wanted to talk about it. At the time, I kind of felt alone."

Six months later, Spencer-Devlin received an email from a gay player on tour. It said something similar to "Look, we didn't know what was going to happen, and we were kind of freaked-out," she says.

Muffin Spencer-Devlin
Ediphotoeye
Muffin Spencer-Devlin
Muffin, reading the rough, at Aliso Creek Golf Course
Ediphotoeye
Muffin, reading the rough, at Aliso Creek Golf Course

The only significant fallout, in terms of outing herself, happened four years later. In 2000, around the time she was considering retiring from the tour due to back pain, the LPGA announced it was starting a Legends Tour, allowing players 45 and older a chance to compete against golfers in their age range.

But Spencer-Devlin realized she wasn't welcome—at least not at the first event. Apparently, a key sponsor was closely affiliated with the Mormon Church. And, she recalls, a friend in the meeting between that sponsor and the LPGA heard the sponsor didn't want her involved.

Personally, it stung. "If there hadn't been that issue, I might have geared up and played that tour. But because it did go that way, I kind of thought, 'Fuck it' and disappeared from golf for a few years," she says. "But, you know, I was ready for life after golf. So who knows? Maybe it all helped me."

This was also around the time her last major manic episode came; it was in New York and toward the end of a long-term relationship. Among the highlights were spending $20,000 in a shopping spree at a ritzy department store (two custom-made suits, a dinner jacket, a velvet three-quarter blazer, various ties and cuff links, and a couple of cashmere sweaters—all of which she still owns, by the way), being arrested for trespassing at the United Nations' headquarters and, the next day, trying to kick the back windshield out of a police car while being transported to Bellevue Hospital Center, 25 years after her first stay there.

After retiring in 2001 (she mounted a semi-comeback in 2004-05), Spencer-Devlin ended her designer diet and went back on lithium, primarily because "Dude, I wanted to eat chocolate and smoke a cigarette again."

Looking out for red flags (she knows that if she sleeps less than eight hours it's time to increase her medication, legal or otherwise), taking her meds, and relying on her close network of friends in and outside Laguna Beach has kept her disorder in key. A fitting testament to that reality occurred two months ago, when her mother passed away. In the past, emotional upheavals might have precipitated a manic episode, but Spencer-Devlin took this one in stride.

"If people suffering from bipolar disorder want advice, I'd say this: 'Take your meds, listen to your doctor and have at least two people—like [the seconds] they used to have in gun duels—who you can reach out to when you need to,'" she says.

* * *

The most inept of the three men who comprise her foursome at Aliso Creek has no game. He dribbles his first tee shot, four-putts the first green and, by the third of the canyon course's nine holes, has lost three balls. Finally, he hits a drive that catches some air.

"Dude, if I had your swing tempo, I'd have won a million dollars every year on the tour," says Spencer-Devlin, without a hint of irony. And, damn, wouldn't you know that by the end of the nine holes, the guy says this was the most consistent round he'd ever played.

Spencer-Devlin doesn't play golf much anymore, having settled into what passes as normal life for her. In 2006, she decided to get married again. (The first marriage was a civil ceremony that ended in 2000.) Although that union has since ended, it led her to the latest phase of a life marked by a bewildering number of phases.

"When you get married, you split the responsibilities up, and one of my tasks was getting gifts for the wedding's guests," she says. "We'd invited 160 people, so there were a lot of gifts to consider. I looked at the usual things, such as candles and stuff like that, but nothing seemed right."

For two years, she had watched her best friend, Megan Eckstrom, apprentice to master glass blower John Barber. Even though Spencer-Devlin has a natural penchant for acting (or acting out), she had never considered herself artistic. But, she figured, what the fuck? She asked Eckstrom to help her create paperweights as gifts.

Spencer-Devlin caught the glass bug. Hard.

"I absolutely caught it," she says. "In the beginning, it was like hitting a three-wood to an island green out of the rough. It was like golf in that you had to be single-minded, and I realized the same things that helped me in golf, such as focus, helped me in glass, and the same things I struggled with in golf, such as impatience, hurt me. Plus, I was making my living using my body again."

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6 comments
Teebird74
Teebird74

I've had the pleasure of working with Muffin and she is a brilliant soul. Not at all the "train wreck" that Nine Iron declared.

Kthune616
Kthune616

By train wreck, you mean inspiration right? If not, you can totally trade your judgemental and uncompassionate brain with someone who suffers from bipolar and see if you can accomplish anything near as impressive.

Driver
Driver

Nope, he meant train wreck

 
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