Jan Stephenson Brought Glam to 1980s LPGA Tour

Jan Stephenson in 1993.
Simon Barnett/Getty Images

Jan Stephenson was one of the top players in women's golf in the 1970s and 1980s. She brought glamour to the game, but some believed her emphasis on sex appeal overshadowed her golf. And that golf was pretty good: Stephenson won three major championships, all during the first half of the 1980s.

  • Date of birth: Dec. 22, 1951
  • Place of birth: Sydney, Australia
  • Nickname: During her full-time tour days, was called "Nana" by some of the younger players because of her helpfulness to newcomers.

Number of Wins for Jan Stephenson

  • LPGA Tour: 16 (these wins are listed below)
  • Major Championships: 3

Stephenson's three wins in majors were the 1981 du Maurier Classic, 1982 LPGA Championship and 1983 U.S. Women's Open.

Awards and Honors

  • LPGA Tour Rookie of the Year, 1974
  • Member, Sports Australia Hall of Fame
  • Member, World Golf Hall of Fame

Jan Stephenson Biography

Jan Stephenson was the "It Girl" of professional golf in the 1980s, one of the first LPGA Tour stars to openly embrace and champion a sex-sells approach to marketing. But the focus on her blonde-pinup looks sometimes overshadowed what was a very good golf game.

While a teenager, Stephenson won five consecutive New South Wales Schoolgirl Championships in Australia, beginning in 1964, and followed that with three straight wins in the New South Wales Junior Championship. She turned pro in 1973 and won the Australian Open that year. Stephenson joined the LPGA Tour in 1974 and was named Rookie of the Year with a 28th-place finish on the money list.

Her first LPGA victory was the 1976 Sarah Coventry Naples Classic. Her most productive period was the early 1980s when she won all of her majors in consecutive years: 1981 du Maurier (then called the Peter Jackson Classic and later replaced as a major by the Women's British Open), the 1982 LPGA Championship, and the 1983 U.S. Women's Open.

Stephenson became as famous for her sex appeal as her golf during the early to mid-80s, when she posed in a bathtub - covered up only by the golf balls filling the tub (a pose she recreated in 2017 at age 65 in a photoshoot for golf.com) - and later in a pinup calendar. She had big hair, bright makeup, and eye-catching outfits, and she urged the LPGA Tour to fully embrace her approach to marketing: "Look like a woman and play like a man," she said.

There's no question Stephenson grew the audience the LPGA Tour during this time with her glamorous approach to golf, but many criticized that approach. And how much focus, if any, the LPGA, as a tour, should put on the looks of its golfers to sell the tour to male sports audiences still is a controversial subject today.

On the golf course, Stephenson won three times each in 1981, 1983 and 1987, those wins in 1987 being her final ones on the LPGA.

Stephenson continued playing LPGA events throughout the 1990s, but was hampered by an injury suffered during a mugging in Miami in 1990. Her left ring finger was broken in two places, an injury that still bothers her play in cold or wet weather. From 1990 on, she never finished higher than 30th on the LPGA money list.

Stephenson went on to win on the Women's Senior Golf Tour (now called the Legends Tour), a tour she helped found.

In 2003, she became the first woman to play on the Champions Tour, missing the cut. Shortly before that event, she caused controversy with comments bemoaning the influx of Asian golfers to the LPGA Tour.

Stephenson is among the few women in the course design business and produced an exercise video for people with arthritis. She also released a couple golf instruction VHS tapes in the 1980s and 1990s (one of which is now on YouTube). Her charitable efforts have included being an honorary chairman of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

She was voted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2018.

Jan Stephenson Trivia

  • In 12 of Stephenson's 16 career LPGA victories, the runner-up went on to earn election to the World Golf Hall of Fame.
  • Jan Stephenson recorded eight holes-in-one in LPGA competition, tied for second-most in Tour history.
  • Stephenson is generally considered the first female touring professional to get into the golf course design business.
  • In 2011, she was a contestant on the Australian TV version of Dancing With the Stars.

Quote, Unquote

  • Jan Stephenson: "We have to promote sex appeal. It's a fact of life. The people who watch are predominantly male, and they won't keep watching if the girls aren't beautiful."
  • "Golfers make better lovers because they have such great touch." - Stephenson

List of Stephenson's LPGA and Other Pro Wins

Here are the golf tournament won by Jan Stephenson on the LPGA Tour:

  • 1976 Sarah Coventry Naples Classic
  • 1976 Birmingham Classic
  • 1978 Women's International
  • 1980 Sun City Classic
  • 1981 Peter Jackson Classic (later renamed the du Maurier Classic)
  • 1981 Mary Kay Classic
  • 1981 United Virginia Bank Classic
  • 1982 LPGA Championship
  • 1982 Lady Keystone Open
  • 1983 Tucson Conquistadores LPGA Open
  • 1983 Lady Keystone Open
  • 1983 U.S. Women's Open
  • 1985 GNA Classic
  • 1987 Santa Barbara Open
  • 1987 Safeco Classic
  • 1987 Konica San Jose Classic

And her wins on other world tours:

  • 1973 Australian Ladies Open (ALPG)
  • 1977 Australian Ladies Open (ALPG)
  • 1981 World Ladies Golf Tournament (JLPGA)
  • 1985 Hennessy French Open (LET)
  • 1985 Nichirei Ladies Cup (JLPGA)