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Stephenson: Criticism of LPGA cost me HOF votes

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A 16-time winner on the LPGA, Jan Stephenson has never been shy to share her opinions about the state of the women's game globally, or the LPGA specifically. Now 30 years after hoisting the U.S. Women's Open trophy, the Aussie claims those opinions may be keeping her from one of the game's highest honors.

'Sometimes in criticizing the LPGA tour I've gotten in a lot of trouble and it's probably cost me votes for the Hall of Fame,' explained Stephenson, 61, during a recent interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal. '(Hall of Fame entry) is important because it's kind of a milestone that people recognize you from.'

In addition to the 1983 U.S. Women's Open, Stephenson also won the 1982 LPGA Championship and the 1981 du Maurier Classic when it was considered a major. Named LPGA Rookie of the Year in 1974, she views the Hall of Fame as a glaring omission on her otherwise world-class credentials.

'I know I've worked really hard to make the tour work, and I always thought that it would be enough. Now they keep saying, 'You're not in the Hall of Fame,'' she noted. 'It's kind of like (winning) a major ... if you're not in the Hall of Fame, then you're not recognized.'

According to Stephenson, the effort she made off the course for the LPGA affected her ability to perform on it during her career.

'If I hadn't done as much P.R. and things to help the tour, I would have won more tournaments,' she explained. 'I was tired when I got to tournaments; I wasn't just focused on golf. I put the LPGA ahead of my career sometimes.'

Though she feels sharing her opinions may be detrimental to her eventual enshrinement in St. Augustine, Stephenson did not hesitate to expand on her current views of the women's game. Often credited as one of the first golfers to embrace sex appeal as a marketing tool, the Aussie feels today's LPGA players have a solid grasp on how to market themselves.

'When I first came on tour, it was new. To sell with sex, a lot of players and people didn't think it was appropriate,' said Stephenson. 'Now, they get it. The Natalie Gulbises, the Paula Creamers, they get what it takes.

'You have to sell that way,' she added. 'Because everything is sold that way.'

While she praised the LPGA's marketing savvy, Stephenson also took time to point out areas of improvement.

'I don't think they educate the players ... on what it takes to make the tour work,' she said of the LPGA. 'When I first came on tour, it was, 'This is what we want you to do to help the tour.' Play with the sponsors to get them to sign contracts, do the photo stuff, do the media. Now, (the players) are not educated and they really don't care.'