One of women’s golf’s greatest advocates and a trailblazer in Australian sport, Jan Stephenson OAM, has been honoured by Golf NSW with the Women’s NSW Open Championship Trophy to be re-named the Jan Stephenson Trophy.
The recognition honours Jan’s outstanding contribution to the game and one of the State’s finest sporting talents.
“I was emotional when I was I told that the Trophy was going to be named in my name; I still am even now,” Ms Stephenson said.
“This is one of the proudest moments in my golf career. It’s a huge honour and I am grateful to Golf NSW for this recognition.”
Stephenson began her golf on the NSW Central Coast at Tuggerah Lakes Golf Club (now Shelly Beach) and at Bonnie Doon in metropolitan Sydney where, as a junior, she claimed three straight NSW Junior Girls titles and three Australian Girls Amateur Crowns.
Turning professional in 1973, Stephenson claimed the first of her Women’s Australian Open crowns the same year, and in 1974 she joined the LPGA Tour – taking the ‘Rookie of the Year’ title. Stephenson was to go on and become the face of the tour during its growth years in the mid 1970’s and 1980’s.
“In 1976 I had just won a tournament in the USA, and the new commissioner of the LPGA told me we had to change the image of women’s golf and we have to push women’s sport and sex in sport, hence I featured on the front of several magazines, the result was we added another 18 women’s tournaments
Stephenson claimed three Majors in a career that has covered almost five decades. She recorded wins on most of the world’s prestigious professional tours, including 16 on the LPGA, two on the WPGA (ALPG Tour), two on the LPGA of Japan, and one on the Ladies European Tour (LET).
In the late 1990s, Stephenson was instrumental in establishing the Women’s Senior Golf Tour (now called the Legends of the LPGA Tour) in the United States.
Stephenson has recorded four wins on the same tour, with her most recent success coming last year alongside Laura Diaz in the BJ’s Charity Championship.
Stephenson’s impact on the game extends beyond the course. She has been a tireless worker for charity for many years, including acting as the honorary chair of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in the United States. She is also an ambassador for blind and disabled golf through ISPS Handa. Through her foundation (Jan Stephenson’s Crossroads Foundation), she also provides initiatives for blind/disabled and wounded veterans and first responders.
Inducted into the Sports Australia Hall of Fame in 2005, Stephenson was also awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 2018 to recognise her contribution to the sport.
In 2019, Stephenson was admitted into the World Golf Hall of Fame alongside Retief Goosen, Peggy Kirk Bell, and Billy Payne, former chairman of Augusta National Golf Club.
Stephenson carved the pathway for many of our nation’s finest golfers, including Jane Crafter, Karen and Mardi Lunn, Racheal Heatherington, and fellow World Golf Hall-of-Famer, Karrie Webb, to follow.
Michael Medway, Chairman of Golf NSW, said the organisation was thrilled to recognise Ms Stephenson for her unwavering commitment to the sport both here in Australia and abroad.
“Ms Stephenson’s influence on the development of women’s golf in Australia and across the globe cannot be understated,” Mr Medway said. “Pioneering women like Jan helped shape the pathways that our best female golfers now take as they begin their journey in the sport.”
“Today, the likes of Minjee Lee, Hannah Green as well as our own Steph Kyriacou and Grace Kim are following in her footsteps,” Mr Medway added.
Jan Stephenson, OAM:
1981 Du Marrier Classic
1982 LPGA Championship
1983 US Women’s Open
1973/1977 Australian Ladies Open Champion
Source: David Tease, Golf NSW