The email would invariably come through in the wee hours, accompanied by a new version of a story that Rhonda Glenn had crafted.
“I just made a few small tweaks,” Glenn would write. “I think this version is a little better.”
Glenn, who died on Feb. 12 in Florida after a long illness at age 68, worked tirelessly at her writing – every detail, every nuance, every word. She wove award-winning stories about players from the past, such as nearly forgotten, two-time U.S. Open champion John McDermott to the present, such as USGA champions Michelle Wie and Yani Tseng, through nearly two decades as a manager of communications for the United States Golf Association.
Her role at the USGA was predated by several groundbreaking initiatives: her Illustrated History of Women’s Golf is the definitive book on the topic and won the USGA International Book Award in 1992; she was the first female anchor of ESPN’s SportsCenter, working alongside Chris Berman in 1981, shortly after the network’s launch. Glenn was a golf commentator with ABC for 16 years, and competed in 12 USGA championships, including five U.S. Women’s Amateurs and two U.S. Women’s Opens.
“In addition to her many accomplishments, what we will miss most about Rhonda is her generosity of spirit, her passion for the game and the people who play it, as well as her kindness and humility,” said Mike Davis, executive director of the USGA. “In many respects, she truly represented all that was best about our game.”
Glenn brought the same tenacity she exhibited in her storytelling to her work on several USGA initiatives, including her gathering of oral histories with dozens of important figures on behalf of the USGA-PGA African-American Golf History Archive. She also played a key role in the process that led to the establishment in 2012 of the Mickey Wright Room in the USGA Museum.
A close friend of Wright’s, Glenn was instrumental in the Museum’s effort to dedicate its first room to a female golfer. As a girl, Glenn had practiced at a par-3 course in Palm Beach, Fla., where she often watched as four-time U.S. Women’s Open champion Wright worked on her game. Glenn went on to become a two-time high school girls’ state champion and was inducted into the Palm Beach County Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.
Glenn and her close friend Barbara Romack, who defeated Wright for the 1954 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, encouraged Wright to share important facets of her legendary career with the public.
“I owe Rhonda a great deal,” Wright told The New York Times in 2013. “That room in the museum is not just a tribute to me; it’s a tribute to all the women before me. If it weren’t for her, there would be no recorded history of women’s golf.”
Glenn also wrote Breaking the Mold, the story of Judy Bell, who served as the first female president of the USGA in 1996-97, and worked as an editor for Woman Golfer magazine and a reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She had been a women’s golf analyst for ABC Sports for three years when she started with ESPN, becoming the first full-time female sportscaster for a national television network.
“The difference then was that wherever I went, I was the only woman,” Glenn told ESPN in 2013. “I just felt, ‘Well, I can do this, and I’m going to apply.’”
Glenn worked alongside ESPN mainstays Chris Berman and Bob Ley on SportsCenter.
“Chris was always so kind to me,” Glenn recalled. “And of course, ‘Boomer’ [Berman] has a very big voice. I wasn’t intimidated by anybody until I got on the air with Chris. He didn’t really need a microphone. So at first he just blew me out of the seat when he’d talk, and I felt a little intimidated, but then I got used to it.”
In 2014, Glenn was honored by the Golf Writers Association of America with the William D. Richardson Award for outstanding contributions to the game.
“Winning [this award] is a great honor, and also a surprise,” said Glenn last April. “While the award is for outstanding contributions to golf, I’m very aware that, more importantly, the game has made such outstanding contributions to my life.”
Recipients of the Richardson Award include several of the game’s great champions, including Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Louise Suggs and Nancy Lopez, as well as former USGA executive directors David Fay and Frank Hannigan and past USGA presidents Bell and Sandy Tatum.
“They say I’ve really been with the USGA for 49 years,” Glenn told ESPN in 2013. “I’ve loved the USGA since I played in the Girls’ Junior in 1963. Because of my father and mother I had a great respect for the history of the game so it was just natural. It’s like they say, find something you like to do and make a career out of it, and I’ve been very fortunate to be able to do that.”
Funeral services will be private. Donations in Glenn’s memory can be made to either: Lake Worth Dollars for Scholars, Lake Worth High School, 1701 Lake Worth Road, Lake Worth, FL 33406; or to St. Jude's Children’s Research Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105, www.stjude.org, 1-800-873-6983.
Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.