Jan Stephenson, World Golf Hall of Famer. The former LPGA Tour star from Australia wasn’t sure those two groupings of words would ever be put together.
Stephenson was perhaps more famous for her marketing side, most notably the famous picture of her covered with golf balls in a bathtub, than she was for what she did as a player.
But 16 LPGA tour victories, including three majors, was finally enough to get in the Hall of Fame this year. She got the call from Nancy Lopez and was formally inducted at Pebble Beach in June.
“The thrill never goes away,” Stephenson, 67, said at the PGA Tour Superstore in Naples on Wednesday, where she sold bottles of her name-brand wine to raise money for her charity. “I remember sitting there at Pebble Beach the night before I was getting inducted. The old Hall of Famers take the new ones out to dinner. We were sitting right there at the Beach Club overlooking Pebble Beach. You look around the room and it’s Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, and the women, you’ve got Annika (Sorenstam), Betsy (King), and Joanne Carner.
“It just hit me then because you’re so wrapped up in the whole thing. Now it was time to enjoy. ‘Wow, I’m one of them.’ It never goes away.”
Stephenson also made appearances at a pair of Total Wine stores in Naples on Thursday before heading back to the Tampa, Florida, area where she lives. She is still also a member at Pelican’s Nest Golf Club in Bonita Springs.
Aside from current LPGA player Minjee Lee, who has five wins, it has been quite a while since an Australian made a splash on the LPGA. But Aussie Hannah Green, 22, won the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in June by a stroke over Sung Hyun Park, one of the top players in the world.
“That’s absolutely fantastic for Australian golf,” Stephenson said. “We had it when I did it and Greg (Norman) and Karrie (Webb). She’s young enough that that’s going to kick off a lot of young juniors wanting to do it.
“She can play. She’s proven it under pressure. She played a junior-senior event in Perth. She was very young. You could tell then that she was going to be good.”
Green has the chance, along with 59 others in the CME Group Tour Championship at Tiburon Golf Club this week, to take home the winner’s check of $1.5 million. It’s the most ever in women’s golf. The event’s total purse is $5 million.
“It’s great for women’s golf that we can say that,” Stephenson said. “We’ve always said that it’s equal. We still have so many of the same expenses (as the PGA Tour players) — the travel and the caddie and the rental car.
“Something like this, it means more because it’ll change their life. Now $1.5 (million) you can put all of that and invest it. You know your life is taken of — which is what the PGA has every week.”