Still Stephenson's fans seem intent on comparing her to Derek, as, for instance, happened last August, when Stephenson was on her way to setting an LPGA tournament scoring record with an incredible 18-under-par performance at the Mary Kay Classic in Dallas. As she marched up to the 18th green on Sunday, her face grim as it almost always is on the course, she saw that the scoreboard boys had spelled out a message that also reflected her lead at the time: JAN'S A 10.
Last year, Stephenson's fifth on the tour, had started with no great expectations; after all, she had slipped from 15th on the money list in 1979 to 34th in 1980. Then, as the season got under way, controversy erupted about her. Fairway came out with a picture of her reclining on an ornate bed, looking seductive, with her dress hiked high (page 33). In early February fellow pro Jane Blalock wondered in a guest column in
The Miami Herald
whether the LPGA was selling golf or sex, said the Fairway pictures smacked of exploitation and called them "quasi-pornography," a phrase Stephenson still has trouble pronouncing.
Thus, every week, when the tour hit a new town, the writers descended upon Stephenson, showering another couple of tons of newsprint on her. She figured the controversy might not be such a bad thing when, right after Blalock's column appeared, a gray-haired lady ran up, hugged her and said, "Baby, flaunt it while you can, because you won't have it forever." Considering that the size of her galleries tripled, corporations began beating a path to her door and a lot of other good things started happening, Stephenson bears Blalock no malice. "What I ought to do is send her a bottle of champagne," she says.
Astonishingly, in the middle of all this, Stephenson's game came together and she began to win. Ed Oldfield, a teaching pro who divides his time between clubs in Phoenix and Chicago, had helped to improve her game, but more important, she stayed healthy. Physical therapy, swimming and stretching cured the muscular ailment in her upper back, and whenever she felt her body start to collapse under the rigors of the tour, she took a week off. "Basically I'm weak physically," she says. "I'm a real weakling. My brain and ambition don't really fit with my body."
The LPGA can tell a good thing when it sees it, which is why Stephenson was in Los Angeles last October for the photo session, this time with her skirt up a few more notches. The LPGA's notion was to pose her and several other players in shots reminiscent of famous movieland pinups. And Stephenson, showing a sure eye for a good thing, landed the plum role of Marilyn Monroe in the famous shot of MM's skirt fighting a losing battle with the draft coming up through a subway grating during the filming of The Seven Year Itch.
Jan as Marilyn! What could be more appropriate? Throughout her career, Monroe strove to be taken seriously as an actress, while even now Stephenson would probably trade her looks for another 15 yards off the tee. As for punctuality, Monroe was terrified of crowds, which is why she usually showed up about three weeks late, after everybody had left. Stephenson? Well, she gets there when she gets there. Nowadays, most people don't seem to mind waiting.
And, like Monroe, Stephenson's life isn't all that terrific. "It's all screwed up," she says half seriously about every 15 minutes. Sex symbol? All you need to know is that Stephenson says she has never danced with a man.
One of the tricky problems all athletes have, particularly those who travel extensively, is juggling their public and private lives, and in golf it's even worse because the sport demands physical and mental maturity. You don't see many teen-agers on the TPA or LPGA circuit. Thus, on one hand, the players get better with age, but on the other, when the women golfers are in their late 20s or early 30s and may be starting to play their best, they find themselves without husbands or families and with the time for acquiring them running out. One male observer of the LPGA scene recalls being asked by a tour player in just this sort of fix to sit next to her latest boyfriend at dinner. She was scouting matrimonial material and wanted an outside opinion. As the night progressed, the man asked the suitor, "What do you do?"
"Well, I'm in marketing, promotions, public relations and the oil business," the fellow said confidently.
The other man looked dubious. The beau wasn't a day over 23.