EAST LAKE — Former LPGA star Jan Stephenson, who now owns a golf course in Palm Harbor, was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame during a ceremony in California that took place during the week of the 119th U.S. Open, at the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Stephenson, a native Australian who won 41 tournaments worldwide, including three majors, was known as much for her brash personality and marketability off the course as she was for her accomplishments on the links during her heyday. But those who played with and against her never forgot her greatness on the course.
“Jan was really a star in so many different ways, but I think people overlooked how really great a golfer she was,” fellow Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez said via a video that played during the induction ceremony, held at the Sunset Center, in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, June 10 and televised on the Golf Channel.
After returning to Florida, Stephenson spoke about receiving the highest honor in her sport.
“I get goosebumps every time I think about it,” she said from her course, Tarpon Woods Golf Club. “Everyone in the industry was there, and more hall of famers than they’ve ever had before,” Stephenson said, citing a line-up of golfing greats that included the Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus. “It really was a thrill.”
As her intro video noted, Stephenson, who now lives in Pasco County, stayed busy after her days of playing on the regular tour ended.
In addition to helping found as well as play and win on the Women’s Senior Golf Tour, Stephenson: was the first woman to play on the men’s Champion’s Tour; became a worldwide ambassador for blind and disabled golfers; was elected to the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985 and received the Order of Australia Medal in 2018; founded a signature wine and spirits business; and started the Jan Stephenson Crossroads Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to giving back to disabled military veterans and first responders through her golf club.
“What I’ve always admired most about Jan is her incredible work ethic,” actress and model Jane Seymour, a longtime friend, said on the clip. “She now has transformed the dedication she has for golf to her wine and spirits business. But it is her work with charity, however, that’s truly inspiring.”
Indeed, immediately upon returning to Florida Stephenson was giving tips to members of the Air Force golf team, in town for the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games and practicing at Tarpon Woods. Between the impromptu lessons, she said the trip to California was an experience she’ll never forget.
“I think about all the hall of famers I got to see again, Jack and Gary (Player) and Lee (Trevino), and to see Jane again. It was pretty amazing,” Stephenson said while recalling the most special moment of the night.
“Before we came back from commercial when it was my turn to go on stage, I was standing there with five other hall of famers, and Jack was right behind me, and I was like, ‘Wow. Now you’re one of them.’ It was surreal. It really topped it all off.”