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Jan Stephenson

As the best women golfers compete for the Olympic Gold Medal, I thought of Jan Stephenson. Jan could really play, but she could also attract a TV audience.

Her 1977 Sport Magazine cover made her famous. The first LPGA player to openly embrace “Sex Sells” marketing! Jan did for the LPGA what Arnold Palmer did for the PGA. In 1970 the LPGA held 21 events for a total of $435,000. By 1989 the total was over $14 million – thanks to Jan!

Having lunch with an old friend in Florida last month I heard a great Jan Stephenson story. But before I share his juice details, I will share my personal Jan Stephenson story. 

In the early 70’s, I became infatuated with the Australian bombshell, Jan Stephenson. Though not a winner yet, Jan had made LPGA fans out of horny men all over America. Each week it seemed that Jan, who could model for “Blond Jokes,” was a headline on sports pages around the world. Each week this beauty, with the big hair, would find a way to remain in contention so the TV cameras could focus on her. “Jan Stephenson, the prettiest girl to have a lot of golf talent, is a walking soap opera,” one LPGA Tour player told the New York Times. In some “Blond Fashion” the Marilyn Monroe copycat, would lose her focus and find a way to lose the tournament. Creating even more publicity.

After watching her wince in pain as another tournament slipped away, I wrote Jan a really flattering fan letter. 

A few weeks later I received a hand written letter from the Australian Queen herself, thanking me for being a fan. I remember that her handwriting looked like a 3rd grader, but it came from her. She stated that she attempted to write a thank you note for each piece of fan mail she received. I kept the letter in my golf bag for a few years.

Back to my Florida story: My friend, Dick, who was a member of Hazeltine, had volunteered to be a driver for the players in the 1977 Women’s Open. Guess which player Dick drew?? The Australian Queen herself!!!! Dick, who was single at the time worked for a huge IT company and spent his leisure time chasing the beauties who haunted the 494 strip. He got to know the easy to talk to Stephenson pretty well on their twice daily trips to and from the golf course, and around town to other functions. Finally on the last day of the tournament, he asked Miss Stephenson if she would join him for dinner after the final round.

Stephenson, he recalled, was quite gracious in her decline, stating that she had a special event promotionscheduled the next day and had to fly out immediately after the tournament. She did give him hope, telling Dick that if their paths were to cross at some later time she would be happy to have dinner.

The next year Dick was transferred to Denver with a nice promotion. His new boss was a huge golf fan and had scheduled a small party for some of company royalty as his home during Denver’s LPGA event. Dick, who was invited, told his boss that he was a good friend of Jan Stephenson and felt sure that he could get her to come to the tournament party.

Dick pulled a few tricks and finally got Jan on the phone. She did remember him. Yea! But again must decline his invitation.

The heartbroken Dick showed up at his boss’ party, which had grown to a large event featuring a very special guest – Jan Stephenson, alone! To use Dick’s own words, “It took about 8 beers before I could come clean. Jan is not coming.”

Today the LPGA is a featured event on Golf Channel and the beautiful and very talented young women who compete play for big money. Thanks in a large part to Jan Stephenson.

For those of you who want more detail on Jan Stephenson go to the following link: http://ftw.usatoday.com/2015/07/the-story-of-the-woman-who-brought-sex-to-the-lpga-tour

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