Journalism, Rhonda Glenn always said, was her passion, but golf was the music behind it. Especially women’s golf.
The 2016 posthumous Memorial Golf Journalism award winner, Glenn literally wrote the book on women’s golf. It took her 10 years and some of her own money, but when The Illustrated History of Women’s Golf was released in 1991, it was the definitive look at the women’s game. After that, Glenn was the go-to historian—think a smiling human Google—at every women’s golf event she attended.
“She told me lot of things about myself that I didn’t remember," Lopez chuckled. “I think so many times women in golf or so many sports have kind of been thrown to the side a little bit, and I think she always felt that. So when she wrote about it with that passion in her heart, she thought, ‘Darn, they need to have better than this. They need to get more recognition.’ That empowered her to talk about it.”
And write those stories.
For Glenn, it was always about the stories. Whether she was reporting for a local radio station as a teenager, anchoring ESPN’s “SportsCenter” in the early ’80s or writing a U.S. Women’s Open game story, Glenn, who passed away in 2015 at the age of 68, was all about making her subject come alive and capturing those moments for posterity.
She started out as quite a story herself, winning a pair of Florida state high school golf titles. But fascinated by the great players of the day, their passion and their stories, Glenn, who played in 11 USGA events, soon stepped outside the ropes where she had instant credibility and a knack for drawing out the greats of the game—Wright, Louise Suggs and Arnold Palmer—with her soft-spoken way of talking to players.
Glenn cut her teeth in radio and newspapers, but by 1978 she was working for ABC as a golf commentator. Three years later, she became the first female anchor on “SportsCenter” on the midnight and 3 a.m. shows.
But being the first never mattered to Glenn, although she did open a door. Doing the job was her focus, and she always found that one thread that led straight to the heart of her subject and never failed to touch her audience.
“Some people tell you stories and they make you think about what you’re having for dinner," Lopez said. “She totally captivated you, and she spoke about things that interested you. She would be able to take you to another place instead of where you were at that moment."
When Glenn left ESPN and ABC, she transitioned to spokeswoman and historian for the USGA, where she worked for 17 years. There, she not only watched over the women’s game, but she also worked on the oral histories for the USGA’s African-American Golf Archive and helped create the Mickey Wright Room at Golf House. In 2014, the Golf Writers Association of America honored her with the William D. Richardson Award for her contributions to the game.
Glenn was the face of U.S. Women’s Open press rooms, dispensing tales and facts, moderating press conferences and detailing special moments in her stories.
And, like every writer, she had her own unique process, one that frustrated Pete Kowalski, the director of communications for the USGA, at times.
“She’d be in charge of a championship for us and play would be over and Rhonda wouldn’t be in the media center," Kowalski said, “I’d be asking ‘Where’s Rhonda?’ and someone would say, ‘Oh, she’s outside having a cigarette.’ I’m thinking, ‘What’s she having a cigarette for?’ "
One day he went outside and found her staring into the distance, cigarette in hand.
“I said, ‘Rhonda, let’s go. We need to get the story written,’ ” Kowalski said. “She said, ‘I’m writing it right now. I’m just getting it all in my head. If I have a cigarette while I’m looking at the golf course, I can get it all sorted out and formulated in my head. So leave me alone.’ ”
He did and, as always, she delivered.
“All of the backspacing and deletions you do when you first sit down, well, that had all been done already when Rhonda sat down," he said. “She had the story written."
Glenn spoke from the heart and wrote from it. She had a passion for the game and for people and put her soul into every detail. Whether it was the definitive book on women’s golf, Judy Bell’s autobiography, Breaking the Mold, or working to put the finishing touches on a book with Lopez, which has yet to be published, Glenn didn’t settle for anything. She kept working until she got it right.
“There’s nobody I’ve met in my time in golf who had the desire to be around the game and had such passion for it," Kowalski said. “Passion isn’t a cliché when you talk about Rhonda because she lived it.
“All of her friends were people who she met from golf. She had the perfect personality for someone in golf—you play golf with people you like, people you trust, people who are fun. That was Rhonda."
Melanie Hauser is an award-winning golf writer and secretary/treasurer of the Golf Writers Association of America.