World Golf Hall of Fame Profile: Glenna Collett Vare
Glenna Collett Vare was known as the female Bobby Jones. She was the greatest female golfer of her day, but equally important as the number of times she won was the way she won. As Jones once wrote, "Aside from her skill with her clubs, Miss Collett typified all that the word 'sportsmanship' stands for." Renowned as the "Queen of American Golf," Vare won a record six U.S. Women's Amateur Championships, two Canadian Women's Amateurs and a French Women's Amateur in an era when there was no Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour. She did it with style and dignity, raising the awareness of women's golf in this country that didn't know the sport existed. "Glenna was the first woman," said former USGA President Richard Tufts, "to attack the hole rather than just to play to the green."
In 1924, Collett won 59 out of 60 matches, losing only on the 19th hole of the semifinal of the Women's Amateur when Mary K. Browne's ball caromed off hers and into the cup. Joyce Wethered of Great Britain was Collett Vare's only equal, and even she admitted that when Glenna was on her game, nobody could touch her. "If she is finding her true form, then there is little hope, except by miracle, of surviving," Wethered wrote in her book, Golfing Memories and Methods. It was Wethered, however, who handed Collett her most disappointing loss, coming back from five down after 11 holes to win the 1929 Ladies' British Amateur Championship. "Her charm to my mind as a golfer and a companion lies in a freedom of spirit which does not make her feel that success is everything in the world," said Wethered.
What made Collett Vare such a dominant player was the prodigious length she hit the ball. One of her drives was measured at 307 yards, and she used this strength to overpower the competition. She won and qualified with scores that were 10 strokes lower than women had been scoring previous to World War I. Enid Wilson, who played against Collett Vare in the Curtis Cup, marveled how Glenna could hit the ball harder than any woman in America had done before. "Her vigorous game set up an entirely fresh standard for her countrywomen, and the young up-and-coming golfers in the 1930s were inspired by her example," said Wilson.
Born in New Haven, Conn., June 20, 1903, and raised in Providence, R.I., Collett didn't start playing golf until she was 14. Taught by former British Open champion Alex Smith at the Metacomet Club, she won the Amateur for the first time at age 19. Her final U.S. Women's Amateur victory came as Mrs. Edwin H. Vare Jr., when she was a 32-year-old mother of two against 17-year-old Patty Berg. Although the LPGA gives its Vare Trophy to the player with the low stroke average on its tour, most of Vare's victories came in match play. She won the North and South six times, the Eastern Amateur seven times and was 4-2-1 as a player and player-captain in the Curtis Cup, an event she helped originate.
"To make oneself a successful match-player, there are certain qualities to be sought after, certain ideas must be kept in mind, and certain phases of one's attitude towards the game that come in for special notice," Collett Vare once said. "The three I have taken are these: love of combat, serenity of mind and fearlessness."