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More Than A Pretty Face
Barry McDermott
January 18, 1982
For years Jan Stephenson's claim to fame was that she was the LPGA's designated pinup, but now her golf game is nearly a 10, too
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January 18, 1982

More Than A Pretty Face

For years Jan Stephenson's claim to fame was that she was the LPGA's designated pinup, but now her golf game is nearly a 10, too

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"You remind me of my uncle," the man said. "He's a diamond cutter."

"Really? Where does he work?"

" Yankee Stadium. He mows the grass."

The golfer almost fell off her chair laughing, but a short time later she married the guy anyway. It lasted only a few months.

To understand Jan Stephenson, you should know that she enjoys romantic novels, the kind in which the heroines are misunderstood and unappreciated. But Sir Galahad comes along in the final chapter to chase off the louts, to offer a shoulder to cry on, to make everything right.

"I would love very much to have a good personal relationship, because I'm getting everything else on the track," says Stephenson. "I mean I know where I'm going with my golf. I want somebody who cares about me, someone who's all mine, who's just crazy about me whether I play badly or not, who thinks I'm wonderful. That's hard enough to find in itself. Next, I'd like him to be flexible enough so that he could be on tour and share my wins with me, which means he'd have to be rich or own his own business. And, it goes without saying, he'd have to be in good shape physically." And, of course, he would be a smoothie on the greens.

With her guidelines, Stephenson realizes that she has eliminated almost every male in the world. "Sometimes I feel like I should give up waiting for Prince Charming," she says. If she had it her way, she'd get on an airplane, fall asleep on a guy's shoulder and wake up in love. But the reality is that if it happened, he'd have to go off to work and she'd have a tournament to make in Walla Walla. Besides, Stephenson doesn't like to take chances; even though she had a 10-stroke lead that Sunday in Dallas, her caddie still had to talk her into going for the pin on the last hole. "I like to be on the fairway," she says of her abhorrence of conflict and failure. So the disappointing fact is, if her dashing swain appeared, Stephenson would first check his Dun & Bradstreet rating.

On the golf course, getting a smile from her is a tough proposition. She plays each round with a grim, hangdog expression because her size means she has to beat the other players with work rather than raw strength. "I'd like to loosen up, to have the people like me, but I can't," she says. "I'm in another world on the course, and yet I love all the attention, all the people recognizing me. Like recently when I was in Key West, I felt guilty because I wasn't doing anything but sitting in the sun, so I went down to this old golf course to hit balls and this man came up and asked my name. I gave the name of a friend who was with me. Then my friend said her name was Jan Stephenson. The guy said, 'Well, if you keep practicing, do you think you can get to be as good as the Jan Stephenson?' I love it when they say that: the Jan Stephenson."

Stephenson has practice-tee hands, elegantly shaped but rough and weathered. No one works harder. She is the wee ice maiden. She pushes herself too hard and often pays for it by coming down with one ailment or another. She sits at the dinner table making lists of what she has to do the next day. The easy money's there, but she won't take it. Or, at least, much of it. The question is why?

With her looks, Stephenson could be one of the tour's Barbies, walking around under a parasol to keep the sun from withering her face and spending three days a week giving exhibitions at corporate outings. She tried it for a time, but it wasn't satisfactory. "It was hurting my golf," she says. "That's No. 1, golf. I could take the money and run, but I won't prostitute myself. I want to be No. 1. There's so much to do and so little time."

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