By the time they were teenagers, both Jan Stephenson and Marc Leishman were attracting attention. Now the pair face off for a place in the quarter-finals in our continuing search for Australia’s Greatest Golfer.
Stephenson advanced to the second round with a convincing decision over Randall Vines while Leishman’s spot in Round 2 was secured when he accounted for Nick O’Hern in their first-round clash.
Born in Newcastle, Stephenson first displayed her prodigious ability with victory at the 1964 New South Wales Schoolgirl championships at just 12 years of age. She would successfully defend that title in each of the next four years.
The son of seven-time Warrnambool club champion Paul Leishman, Marc showed that he had been paying close attention to his old man and possessed natural ability all of his own when he too added his name to the honour board at just 13 years of age.
The game is littered with junior phenoms who found it difficult to transition to the professional ranks but both Stephenson and Leishman continued on their upward trajectories as they advanced beyond the amateur ranks.
Stephenson turned professional in 1973 and won the Wills Australian Open as a 21-year-old, joining the LPGA Tour a year later as her rapid ascension gained a global following.
Her breakthrough win in the US came in February 1976 at the Sarah Coventry Naples Classic yet her lasting legacy to Australian golf was becoming the first Aussie female to win a major at the Peter Jackson Classic in 1981.
It would be the first of three major triumphs for Stephenson among her total of 16 LPGA Tour wins to go with two Australian Open titles, a Ladies European Tour victory and two wins in Japan.
Elevated to the World Golf Hall of Fame last year, off the golf course Stephenson has been a long-time ambassador for blind and disabled golf through her association with ISPS HANDA and in 2018 was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for her service to golf and to not-for-profit organisations.
Leishman too has contributed significantly to charitable organisations through his Begin Again Foundation established in 2015 and is building a resume on the golf course that puts him among our very best.
Renowned for his ability to go super-low in his early days as a professional, Leishman won locally and in Korea before taking his game to the United States, advancing to the PGA TOUR in 2009 and promptly claiming the Rookie of the Year award.
The most recent of his five PGA TOUR wins came at the Farmers Insurance Open in January but despite a number of close calls the 36-year-old is yet to land that tournament win that cements his place in history.
Runner-up in a three-man playoff at The Open Championship in 2015, Leishman was tied for fourth when Adam Scott triumphed at the 2013 Masters and has two further top-six finishes at The Open.
Back home he finished runner-up behind good friend Cameron Smith at the 2018 Australian PGA Championship and is only top 10 finish at the Australian Open came last year at The Australian Golf Club.
Time is on his side and as that teenager showed at home in Warrnambool, he is not afraid of taking on the big boys.
Career wins: 26
Major wins: 3 (1981 Peter Jackson Classic, 1982 LPGA Championship, 1983 US Women’s Open)
LPGA Tour wins: 16
Women’s Australian Open: Won (1973, 1977)
Legends Tour wins: 3
Career wins: 12
PGA TOUR wins: 5
Australasian Tour wins: 4 (Von Nida Tour)
Australian Open: T10 (2019)
Australian PGA: 2nd (2018)