Glenna Collet Vare “What’s the Vare trophy?”
There’s so much going on in golf, and words like “the Vare Trophy” go by quickly when you’re trying to follow the score, or get that ham sandwich fixed before Stacy Lewis reaches the next tee. I, however, finally stopped and fessed up – “What’s the Vare trophy?” The answer is, a trophy given to the LPGA player with the lowest scoring average for that year. As expected, some of the names will sound familiar – Park (two of them), Tseng, Choi, Ochoa, Sorenstam, Webb, and back into a similarly glorious history of the women’s game.
All right, I was satisfied. Now I knew all about the Vare Trophy – but wait a minute, where did that name come from? I’d never heard of a Vare in the history of golf. As it turns out, I should have, and so should anyone who is interested in how this modern game came to be, and wants to know who the true greats of the women’s game were – I mean before the mothers of the LPGA…the grandmothers.
Yes, way back when being an amateur was the thing to be, before the Babe, Berg, Wright and the others, there was Glenna Collet Vare, called “The Queen of American Golf,” and by many “the female Bobby Jones.”
Spare me all of the comparison stuff between the eras. Glenna Collet Vare only got to play in her own, just like everyone else. She won everything in it so many times that you’d think she was playing by herself, but no…there’s always great competition, and she had her share of it.
Vare loved match play like she loved nothing else, and was very specific about the qualities required to win them in bulk – “love of combat, serenity of mind, and fearlessness.” She was so ferocious in the format that many of them were won before she walked on to the first tee, and yet she stood (and still does) as an emblem of good sportsmanship and collegiality – see? It can be done (you know who you are). At any rate, the philosophy worked – In 1924, Ware won 59 of her 60 matches.
Vare won the U.S. Women’s Amateur in ’22, ’25, ’28, ’29, ’30 and ’35, coming in as runner-up twice. In the last one, she defeated a 17 year-old Patty Berg. She was one of the first golfers of any group to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame after Curtis Cup appearances in ’32, ’34, ’36 and ’38. Add two Canadian Amateur Championships, one French Amateur Championship, both the North and South Championships six times (VERY prestigious in their day), and the Eastern Championship seven times. Somewhere during that stretch, she penned two books, “Golf for Young Players,” and the cleverly titled, “Ladies in the Rough.”
For the standards of the day, considering the swing types and technology available, Vare’s distance off the tee was astonishing, far beyond the average drives of her colleagues. More than that, however, it was Vare who cast off the niceties of the women’s game, where simply reaching the green in some appropriate form was the mainstream intent. She went for the pin almost exclusively, no matter how tucked away it might be.
Every era boasts greatness, but some of it is so masterful that it must be remembered after the fact, in perpetuity. Greatness in history is never irrelevant. Just as modern medicine got here by way of 16th through 19th century medicine, modern golf arrived on the shoulders of yesterday’s stars and visionaries – and it’s never too late to applaud them. In fact, it may be that the LPGA owes its existence as much to players such as Glenna Collet Vare as it does to those women who followed her example.