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Why Caitlyn Jenner thinks it's 'cute' being barred from men's golf tournament

Caitlyn Jenner opens up about her continued love of Olympic decathlon and NASCAR, and she talks about the affirmation she has felt from being barred from her golf club's tournament that was for men only.

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Caitlyn Jenner may be 40 years removed from her Olympic success, but the gold-medal winner of the 1976 decathlon says she remains very much a fan of this multi-discipline event and its competitors.

"I follow the decathlon, from the outside. We have the number one guy in the world, a guy named Ashton Eaton, the greatest athlete this country has ever produced. I mean, this guy is just like, wow."

Jenner, who came out last year to worldwide fanfare, invited me to sit down with her for a wide-ranging conversation earlier this month, leading up to the season two premiere of her docs-series, I Am Cait. Parts of my interview first appeared in The Advocate.

For readers of Outsports, Jenner talked about a subject she's never discussed with any journalist: the passion she feels for sports, just as she did before her well-publicized transition. She acknowledged that going to professional sporting events is "too much of a headache factor" in terms of her security.

And, Jenner told me, Eaton is not just a fellow Olympian, he's a fan of hers, too.

"He won the games last time around," Jenner said. "He broke the world record. He's like, just great. I know Ashton, and he's a friend. He's been very nice and has called me, after it was all said and done, saying, ‘I support you, I love what you're doing' and all that kind of stuff. He was great. In fact all the guys in the decathlon have done that. They have been really, really good."

Jenner conceded she doesn't follow the Olympics per se. But that allows her more time to compete and watch the two sports she does feel passionate about.

"I still love golf. I don't go to tournaments but I watch it on TV."

She plays golf at the elite Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif. It was originally designed by Jack Nicklaus in 1989 and earlier this month reopened after an extensive $10.5 million renovation supervised by the golf legend.

"Tearing the whole thing up and starting the whole thing over," said Jenner. "I played my last round on a Saturday and on Sunday I had my FFS [facial feminization surgery] done," she said of a club event in February 2015.

"And I'm leaving the club, knowing it's going to be down for nine months, and I thought, whoa, this ought to be interesting, nobody knows what's going on. Diane Sawyer hadn't been out [for my sit-down interview with her], none of that. I wondered how this was going to go. So far it has gone beautifully."

Jenner tweeted a photo of her new locker in the ladies locker room.

The only hitch: while Jenner took part in the re-opening ceremony, she was barred from competing in Friday's tournament... because it's for men only.

"I think it's cute that they said I couldn't play because it's an all-men's tournament. I'll go with that! They are treating me legitimately like any other woman."

Golf.com reported Jenner, 66, first played the game as a 50-year-old, yet she carries a 5.3 handicap at Sherwood.

"My name was changed in all of the, where you post your handicaps," she said, beaming. "So now it'll be in the ladies division instead of the men's. I mean they have been great from that standpoint."

And although women have established their rightful place on the links, her other athletic passion is still a rare place to find female competitors.

"I also follow auto racing. Just because I raced for so many years and still play around a little bit. My son [Burt] races. I'll follow NASCAR, Formula One. I raced professionally for 10 years, all through the ‘80s."

So what draws Jenner to auto racing?

"I like the competition. I like the machinery; I like working with a piece of machinery. It's an art form."

In fact, Jenner holds race car drivers in the highest esteem of any competitor, she told me.

"I think the hardest thing to do is to win a championship in auto racing, out of all sports. Just because there are so many variables. You're working with a sophisticated piece of machinery, starting a year in advance to get the right technology in the car. You're working in a highly competitive situation anything you think can happen, happens. You know, a guy in front of you could lose it, take you out of the race, and it's not even your fault."

While it didn't bother her to be excluded from competing with men at the country club now that they recognize her as the woman she is, Jenner told The Advocate that it's through auto racing she demonstrates that she's still the same person she was before her gender transition.

"If... I enjoy going racing a car, I will still go race a car. OK? Girls drive race cars. Of course they can! Why can't they? I can take all the fun things that ol' Bruce did, and I can still do them today."

Dawn Ennis successfully transitioned from broadcast journalism to online media following another transition that made headlines; in 2013, she became the first trans staffer in any major TV network newsroom. She was the first out transgender editor at The Advocate, and the first professional trans journalist invited to interview Caitlyn Jenner in her home. Now the native New Yorker and award-winning writer is a contributor to several publications, including Outsports.

You can follow Dawn Ennis on Twitter @lifeafterdawn.