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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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Stephenson's guy, off and on for the last eight years, had been Eddie Vossler, but now, according to her, the romance is definitely off. Her relationship with Vossler reveals a lot about Stephenson. He's a big fellow, handsome in a rough-hewn sort of way, who is the son of Ernie Vossler, a former touring pro who has made a bundle in land development. Eddie was going to try the pro circuit, but he couldn't get through qualifying school. When he wasn't with Stephenson, he was off flying his airplane and working in the...oil business. You needed a scorecard to keep track of whether they were together or not at any given moment. There was a time a few years ago when Vossler came home and Stephenson had on a new white dress, the kind one might wear walking down the aisle. This is it, she said, we're getting married.

Vossler looked at her. "We're not getting married," he said. "We're never getting married." Stephenson threw the dress away, and the next week, when the tour was in Georgia, she met Steve Bartkowski, the quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons, and the two began dating.

It seemed perfect. Bartkowski is a striking, matinee-idol type, with curly hair, and he then had a playboy reputation. Peachtree Bart, the writers called him. He and Stephenson laughed a lot. But he wanted to wear jeans to the country club. And then he went off to training camp and a monk's isolation. You can probably guess the rest. There was a tournament in Japan where Stephenson won $2,000 for making a hole in one. She called Vossler. Then she called Bartkowski. Then she called Vossler back. Her phone bill was $1,800, and afterward she was right back where she started, back with Eddie.

Stephenson sounded like a child of the '60s when she explained the often chaotic relationship. "He lets me do my thing, and I let him do his thing," she would say. Vossler was also her financial adviser, and he handled any unpleasantness that arose, such as knocking down the price of a caddie or saying no to a tournament sponsor—the type of conflict Stephenson hates.

Stephenson has been offered $50,000 by a magazine, just to take off her golf shirt in front of a camera, but she says she wouldn't care to do anything her father wouldn't be proud of. Burch Riber, the general chairman of the LPGA Championship tournament, says that a Cincinnati attorney would give him $50,000 if Riber could get Jan to marry the lawyer. And guys regularly show up in Stephenson's gallery, offering everything from flowers to the keys to a Mercedes-Benz to the secret of putting.

"I guess faithfulness is more important to me than anything," says Stephenson, "because I'm out on the road all the time, and everybody is taking a shot at me, one way or the other. I just want one thing that will really be all mine, that nobody can touch, one steadying influence in my life.

"I've considered giving up golf for a man," she says. "But golf's part of my life, so I have to compromise. I compromise my whole life for golf. I'd always be miserable if I didn't give it everything I had, after I've gotten to this point now, where I actually can be No. 1."

Last year Stephenson and Vossler went so far as to get a marriage license and take their blood tests, but this time Stephenson withdrew at the last second. Says Vossler, "What she's trying to prove to herself is that she's done the best she can. If she quits short of her goal, she'll be unhappy." Just like the girl who gets married at 20 instead of embarking on a career, Stephenson would always wonder if she had made the right decision.

Actually, she was married once, in the early '70s, though very few people know it. She had tried everything to get to the U.S., even writing colleges for a scholarship. She had won the Australian Junior three times and the New South Wales Amateur twice, but the other girls from Fort Street were now in medical school, and she couldn't get out of Sydney. "It was the end of the world," Stephenson says.

So there was this fellow with a lot of money and they had been dating a bit. He wanted Stephenson to marry him. They talked about his sponsoring her on the tour, so in the end she said yes. Now she claims to have forgotten how long they were married, somewhere close to four months. "I don't like to make mistakes, and I made a mistake," she says. "It happened 10 years ago; why should I still be punished? I don't even like it mentioned."

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