Rhonda Glenn, the first female anchor on ESPN who became a USGA historian and tireless promoter of women's golf, died after a long illness. She was 68.
Barbara Romack, a former U.S. Women's Amateur champion, said Glenn died Thursday night in a hospital in Gainesville, Florida, near The Villages, a senior community built around golf. She had been battling cancer.
With an engaging smile and happy disposition, Glenn became the first woman to be a fulltime sportscaster for a national network when she sat behind the desk at SportsCenter in 1981 just two years after the 24-hour sports network was launched.
"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.'"
She once recalled working alongside Chris Berman, noting it was the first time she felt intimidated because of his booming voice.
"Rhonda was one of the kindest people I've ever met in or out of my business," Berman said Friday after his round at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. "She had a smile and a gentle way about her that made everybody feel at home whether they were working with her, as I did in the early days of SportsCenter, or just sitting with and maybe having a bite to eat.
"She loved golf. I think she loved people more than golf, and we know how much she loved golf," he said. "Everything she did was from the heart."
Glenn was a golf commentator for ABC Sports for 16 years, and she spent 17 years at the USGA. She was the authority on women's golf, especially USGA championships. Glenn competed in 11 USGA championships, including twice at the U.S. Women's Open and five times in the U.S. Women's Amateur.
Some her best work was as an author. The "Illustrated History of Women's Golf" won the USGA International Book Award in 1992. Glenn was a close friend with Mickey Wright, and she was played a key role in Wright donating some 200 artifacts for a permanent display at the USGA Museum in Far Hills, New Jersey.
Glenn was honored by the Golf Writers Association of America last year with its William D. Richardson Award for outstanding contributions to the game.
"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," USGA executive director Mike Davis said. "In many respects, she truly represented all that was best about our game."