Rhonda Glenn didn’t set out to make golf history. She just wanted the job.
When she died on Feb. 12 at age 68 after a long fight with cancer, the blitz of news coverage made it clear: Rhonda Glenn would be remembered for much more than her winning ways on the links. In 1981, at the age of 34, she became the first female anchor on ESPN. She also wrote the book on women’s golf: “The Illustrated History of Women’s Golf” (Taylor Trade Publishing: 1991). It won the USGA International Book Award in 1992.( http://www.amazon.com/The-Illustrated-History-Womens-Golf/dp/0878337431 )
Here’s how Rhonda saw her groundbreaking career on TV, according to ESPN:
( http://www.espnfrontrow.com/2015/02/updated-rhonda-glenn-the-first-female-sportscenter-anchor-passes-away-at-68/ )
“The fact that I was on what you would call the ‘cutting edge’ really didn’t make an impact on me,” said Glenn, who left ESPN after two years and worked in communications for the United States Golf Association (USGA) since 1996. “It wasn’t something I strived for. I never wanted to be the first, I just wanted the job.”
My most cherished memory of Rhonda goes back to the early 1990s, when I met her at a golf tournament where she was the keynote speaker. She truly captured the mood of the moment and inspired the audience. I still remember her warm and generous smile as she signed my copy of her book.
That extraordinary book came in handy when I was asked to be the master of ceremonies at an LPGA awards dinner. The committee decided that I would talk about the history of women’s golf, beginning with Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587). Oh, how the queen loved to play golf. I turned to Rhonda’s book to get inspiration for my remarks. Fast forward to the event: I’m standing at the podium. As I spoke, bagpipes began to play from a spot just outside the room. The bagpipe players walked into the room just as I completed my last line:
“The next time you are out on the golf course, look around. Maybe you, too, will hear the sound of bagpipes.”
It was a very moving moment! I felt such gratitude for all the women who had paved the way for my career in women’s golf, and especially for Rhonda Glenn, for all of her research and writing to put together the inspiring story of the history of women’s golf.
To repeat, Rhonda was the first female anchor shortly after ESPN launched. She blazed the trail for women to take the microphone and get respect as experts on sports. She went on to become a golf commentator for ABC for 16 years. After she left broadcast news, Rhonda worked for the USGA as manager of their media operations for 17 years.
Rhonda was a close friend of Mickey Wright, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, who turned 80 on Valentine’s Day. Rhonda played a major role in creating the Mickey Wright Room at the USGA Museum in Far Hills, New Jersey. As the story goes, she persuaded Mickey to part with some of her memorabilia for display in the museum.
The day after Rhonda died, Beth Ann Nichols, the senior writer for GolfWeek, sent out this tribute on Twitter (https://twitter.com/golfweeknichols ):
@GolfweekNichols – Beth Ann Nichols: "Rhonda was the best interviewer and TV newscaster because she did her homework better than anyone.” – Mickey Wright on Rhonda Glenn 5:11 PM - 13 Feb 2015
Rhonda’s final work was with golf legend Nancy Lopez as they wrote Nancy’s autobiography. Here is a glimpse from Rhonda’s interview with Nancy in December 2012 ( http://ci-disp.usga.org/articles/2012/12/catching-up-with--nancy-lopez-21474852309.html ):
“Dressed casually in a white shirt and white shorts, Lopez, 55, glides into her living room, as regal and graceful as when golf writer Gordon White of The New York Times dubbed her “the Spanish Queen” some 35 years ago.”
Rhonda competed in 12 USGA championships, a point noted by Ann Guiderson, executive director of the Colorado Women’s Golf Association, in her online tribute. At the age of 6, Rhonda began playing golf, according to a profile of her by Lisa D. Mickey published in May 2013 by The New York Times. The story’s headline, “Giving Voice to Women’s Game,” recognized Rhonda’s lasting gift to women’s golf with her love of the sport and its history. ( http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/13/sports/golf/for-rhonda-glenn-a-career-of-giving-a-voice-to-womens-golf.html?_r=0 )
“They say I’ve really been with the USGA for 49 years,” said Glenn, who has written eight books on golf. “I’ve loved the USGA since I played in the girl’s 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,” she said. “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.”
That’s a lovely lesson from Rhonda’s life: “Find something you like to do and make a career out of it … “
So many in the sports world grieved at the news of Rhonda’s passing on Feb. 12.
“Today we lost a wonderful passionate person from the game of golf. Rhonda Glenn became even a better friend after working with her for the past 2 years on my autobiography. She was one super lady. I cried many tears today, because we finished my book and she didn't get to see it in print. God bless you Rhonda. You will be missed!” – Nancy Lopez Golf Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Nancy-Lopez-Golf/175858369114420 )
I’m sad that Rhonda’s dance on earth – and her time on the links - were cut way too short. But Rhonda was such a genuine, kind and generous soul. Her amazing talent, combined with her passion for life, people and the game of golf, will live on in our memories. I will help keep Rhonda’s spirit alive in the game of golf – and the game of life – by doing my best to represent all of her outstanding qualities through my work for Golf Positive!
It’s tee time, Rhonda. Here’s to you!
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