Directed by Jessica Wolfson
Branded was on of my least favorite of the feature length installments of this series. This film plays as an extension of that film, but specifically covering former LPGA golfer Jan Stephenson. Stephenson was coined the Olivia of the links, referring to her fellow countrywoman Olivia Newton-John. Stephenson was a young, talented, and yes beautiful golfer when she joined the LPGA tour in 1974. With a new commissioner of the tour, the LPGA decided to add sex to the equation to increase attention to the tour and prize money. With that in mind, they selected Jan Stephenson to be the face of the tour, to which she gratefully accepted the honor. She did not, however, play her career without great controversy.
Some of her fellow golfers took offense to her racy photoshoots that appeared in various publications, including Fairway magazine. Notably Nancy Lopez-Melton objected. However, other embraced Stephenson’s approach and ability to bring fans to the course, increase the number of events being played, and the amount of money being paid. My favorite line comes from an archival interview with renown female golfer JoAnne Carner, who said Stephenson’s photoshoots prove that a woman can be feminine and also a great athlete. How very true, and there is nothing saying anyone can ever not be both. As a male, I think this type of marketing can toe the line between appropriate and inappropriate many times, but given the mindset put forth by Carner, I think certain tasteful things can bring a real benefit to the persona of the female athlete and the status of the game. Not everyone will agree with me I’m sure. For this reason, the specific story of Jan Stephenson proves more effective than the multiple examples Branded chooses to explore. This film shows the topic in a much more precise and concise manner.