I don’t often write about golf, although I love the game. But this week The Boston Globe printed an article about a women golfer of another era.
Glenna Collett was born June 20, 1903, in New Haven, Connecticut, and died February 3, 1989, in Gulf Stream, Florida. She married Edwin H. Vare Jr. in 1931. She was enshrined in the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1975 for her lifetime career as an amateur golfer who won six US Championships.
She started playing golf at the age of 14; her parents encouraged sports, so Glenna started competition in swimming and diving. After she took up golf, at the age of 16 she competed in the 1919 Women’s Amateur Championship and won her first-round game. Two years later she was the Championship Medalist for shooting the lowest qualifying score. In the golfing period before professional competition, the U.S. Women’s Amateur was the most prodigious event in the country.
In the competition of 1922, Glenna set a new single round scoring record and went on to win the Championship that year. In 1923 she was beaten when a ball shot by Mary Browne bounced off Glenna’s ball on the green and it fell into the cup. Glenna wasn’t too upset; she went up to Canada and won the Canadian Women’s Amateur Championship. That year she won 59 matches in competition while only losing the one.
She won the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship in 1925 and three straight championships between 1928 and 1930. Between 1928 and 1931, she reeled off 16 consecutive victories. She won six North and South Women’s Amateur titles and six Women’s Eastern Amateur titles and was runner-up in 1929 and 1930 in the British Ladies Amateur Championship. She went to France and won the French Women’s Amateur title.
She married Edward Vare, and after having two children, she returned to competition in 1934 in the U.S. Women’s Amateur but lost in the semifinals to Virginia Van Wei. She won in 1935 by defeating Patty Berg, who went on to be a top professional golfer.
Glenna joined the American women’s team that won the first Curtis Cup played at Wentworth Golf Club in England in 1932. She became the player captain in 1934, 1936, 1938 and 1948.
She won 49 championships throughout the world, retiring in the 1959 Rhode Island Women’s Golf Association tournament at the age of 56.
Glenna turned to writing books and was the author of “Golf for Young Players” in 1926 and “Ladies in the Rough” in 1928.
The Bob Jones Award was presented to Glenna Collett-Vare – the United States Golf Association’s highest honor given in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf. She was among the first class inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, and at the age of 81 her handicap was 15, and she played in her sixty-first consecutive Invitational event in 1984 at the Point Judith Country Club in Rhode Island.
Glenna was the single women’s champion until Patty Berg emerged in the Women’s Professional league, and, remember, Patty lost to Glenna in 1935. Author Phyllis Hollander listed Glenna ahead of Babe Zaharias and Patty Berg in the 1977 book “One Hundred Women in Sports” and wrote that Collett-Vare’s career was unequaled in the annals of golf.” Gene Sarazen called her “the greatest women’s golfer of all time.”
(Editor’s Note: Bill Stewart, better known to Saugus Advocate readers as “The Old Sachem,” writes a weekly column about sports – and sometimes he opines on current or historical events or famous people.)