Australian golf superstar Jan Stephenson has fulfilled a lifelong dream this morning, being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame at a ceremony in California.
Stephenson was inducted into the prestigious World Golf of Fame, a who’s who of golf, including compatriots Karrie Webb, Greg Norman, Peter Thompson, Kel Nagle, David Graham and Walter Travis, and legends of the game Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Annika Sorenstam and Nancy Lopez.
Also inducted at the ceremony today alongside Stephenson were South African Retief Goosen and Americans Peggy Kirk Bell, Billy Payne and Dennis Walters.
For Stephenson the honour was overwhelming, having twice been rejected the 67-year old had felt that her dream of becoming a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame would probably remain just that.
However, a telephone call from her colleague and good friend Nancy Lopez in October last year changed all that.
Lopez had been the one to deliver the bad news the past two years that Stephenson had not been selected to the Hall and when Stephenson saw Lopez’s number come up on her phone she braced herself once again for more bad news. However, this time the news was not bad, and an emotional Lopez finally blurted out the good news that Stephenson had waited what had seemed like a lifetime to hear, this time she had been voted in.
An emotional Stephenson took to the stage in Carmel and paid tribute to those who had an impact on both her career and her life.
“Looking around the room I see so many people who have helped me and supported me over the years,” Stephenson said in her World Golf Hall of Fame acceptance speech.
“It is amazing to see friends from all walks of life and from all kinds of places, be here because of the incredible game of golf. To all my friends and family, thank you for your support.
“As I look back on my career, more than the wins and the fame, what stands out most to me is the remarkable women I’ve had the opportunity to compete with, get to know and call my friends. I consider myself lucky to have played in some of the most amazing times.
“I even got to witness the birth of career women’s golf and got to play with fellow Aussie and friend Karrie Webb in her very first professional event in Australia.
“To be now counted amongst the stars as a World Golf Hall of Famer is not only an honour, but it’s so humbling. Golf has taken me on a wonderful journey, allowing me to travel around the world and make relationships that have lasted a lifetime and now it has taken me here to the World Golf Hall of Fame. It’s truly a dream come true.”
Fellow Australian and World Golf Hall of Fame Member Karrie Webb was onsite at Pebble Beach to witness her good friend’s induction and paid tribute to Stephenson’s career.
“I’m really excited for Jan to finally be recognised for her outstanding career and her contributions to golf in being inducted into the WGHOF,” said Webb.
“As an Australian woman, Jan was really the trailblazer for all Aussie girls to aspire to one day compete on the LPGA tour in the US. With her success on and off the course creating her notoriety, it inspired the generations behind her to believe that they too could be successful playing on the LPGA.
“I am glad that I could be here with Jan tonight to celebrate her induction with her.”
Australian golf legends and PGA of Australia board members Ian Baker-Finch and chairman Rodger Davis said the World Golf Hall of Fame membership is a fitting way to honour Stephenson’s career.
“It’s really great to see Jan inducted, she is an icon of her time and has been a role model for many both in Australia and around the world,” Davis said. “It was a pleasure to play in the same era as her, see her go from strength to strength throughout her career and become a legend of our game.”
“It is fantastic to see Jan join the World Golf Hall of Fame; it’s a position that she absolutely deserves,” Baker-Finch said. “The work Jan has done for golf both on and off the course has bettered our game and is a testament to who she is as a person and the love she has for our sport. She should be really proud, as we are, of her career, her achievements and her new position among elite company as a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.”
There is absolutely no doubt that Stephenson, 67, had the golf resumé to warrant her selection – 16 LPGA Tour victories, plus wins on the Ladies European Tour, LPGA of Japan and Asian Tour as well as three LPGA Major championships: the 1981 du Maurier Classic (then a Major), 1982 Women’s PGA, and 1983 US Women’s Open. She also was the 1974 LPGA Tour Rookie of the Year.
Since her playing days Stephenson has been a driving force behind the fast-growing LPGA Legends Tour and these days keeps herself busy as the owner of Tarpon Woods, a golf course in the Tampa area which she purchased in April 2017.
The club had seen better days when she purchased it, but Stephenson put her own distinct stamp on the property, making it a home for military veterans, first responders and the disabled.
Stephenson, an ambassador for blind and disabled golf through ISPS Handa, bought the club through her foundation, Jan Stephenson’s Crossroads where her mission is, “Giving to those that have given so much,” and, “Every day is Military Appreciation Day at Tarpon Woods.”
In 2017 Stephenson was awarded the prestigious Military Order of the Purple Heart for her services to the military in the US.
Stephenson also has her Jan Stephenson line of wines and a new line of flavoured rums which she is extremely passionate about.
With her new business ventures Stephenson doesn’t get to play much golf these days and almost dreads when she does compete in a tournament.
“I’m so upset because I haven’t had a chance to play or practise and it makes it even worse, and then you don’t feel like you can compete, and then you have a high score and you feel miserable,” she said. “That part never goes away.”
Stephenson thought an induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame would never come her way after being passed over so many times, but there she was at Pebble Beach today with fellow inductees Retief Goosen, Billy Payne and Dennis Walters finally receiving the accolades and the recognition she deserves.