A person’s legacy is not what is accumulated in life but rather what is given away, the memories of those who are touched, and the standards created that survive the creator.
When Jane Read, who passed away on Saturday, January 13 at age 80, first earned LPGA Tour Membership in 1968 after four solid finishes in what was then called Florida’s Orange Blossom Tour, she went home and told some friends, “That’s nice, but there’s no way I can play the Tour. I can’t afford it.” Without hesitation, her friend said, “You go play. We’ll cover your expenses.”
Read, who played under her maiden name, Jane Woodworth, finished second in the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year race to Sandra Post that season. But her accomplishments on the course never defined her. In the middle of that rookie year, at a player meeting, Kathy Whitworth stood up and said, “We’re going to have to shut down the teaching division because we don’t have anybody who’ll run it. Last chance, who’ll volunteer to be chairman of the LPGA Teaching division?”
“Each player on Tour had a committee to serve on to keep the Tour running,” Jane told her college alumni association in 2012. “No one wanted the responsibility of the teaching division as it required a lot of time, which took time away from practice for the tournaments.”
Fellow player Penny Zavichas was sitting next to Jane. Zavichas poked her friend in the ribs and then took Jane’s hand and helped raise it.
“I couldn’t sit in that meeting and listen to the plan to eliminate the teaching division if no one volunteered to chair it,” Jane said, remembering the gift she’d been given to be out on the LPGA Tour. “So, with some trepidation, I volunteered and was handed a cardboard box and a typewriter and was wished ‘good luck.’”
Fifty-five years later, the LPGA Professionals, the division Read saved in 1968, has 1,945 members in 27 countries. The six sections that exist today – Northeast, South, Central, Midwest, Western and International – were Jane’s original creation, as was much of the standardized teaching curriculum that continues to define and differentiate LPGA Professionals from their counterparts.
“When I took over, the testing was inconsistent at best,” Jane said. “Some applicants were tested, and some were not. I rewrote the minimum test (standards) that were in use. At the time, I put 100 questions on a written test. The practical test was a two-hour actual observance of the applicant teaching students. These tests were administered while I was on Tour from city to city.
“Then in 1969, I appointed and trained the original group of area representatives in various sections of the country. They administered the tests and sent them to me for grading and evaluation.”
A native of Ohio, Read moved to Southeast Florida and took up golf at the age of 11 when her parents bought a home on a 9-hole course. Her parents were avid golfers, and Jane was soon on the course alongside them.
“Before I knew it, I was out there, too,” Jane said. “Golf is my passion — even when I was doing other sports. The thing that’s so wonderful about golf is that it teaches you so much of today’s values. It’s an honor game.”
After winning the Florida Girls Junior Championship, Read spent a year at Rollins College, where she met her future husband, Todd, and became the first freshman in school history to letter in five varsity sports – golf, basketball, softball, swimming and volleyball.
“There were no women’s athletic scholarships at that time,” said Todd, who played on the men’s team at Rollins. “Janie’s uncle paid for her to attend one year, and she hoped to get a scholarship after that. When she didn’t, she had to drop out because she couldn’t afford it.”
After leaving Rollins, Read played a couple of years of amateur golf before turning pro in January of 1965. She taught as many as 24 half-lessons a day and had every intention of taking a coaching job in Pittsburgh before playing a series of Orange Blossom Tour events in Florida, the last of which she entered at the behest of Whitworth, who understood that a good finish would earn Read her LPGA Tour card.
“We reconnected after seven years,” Todd said. “I was working for the Coca-Cola company in Maine at the time. I had hoped to play the PGA Tour but didn’t get my application in in time, so I went back to work. Janie was playing the LPGA Tour, and my job was such that I could go out with her on the weekends.”
In 1971, the couple’s first child, Dan, was born, and Jane quit playing.
“I tell everyone that I’m the reason my mom walked away from the Tour,” Dan, himself a PGA Professional, said. “But she continued to teach and changed a lot of lives as a result.”
On Thursday, January 11, Jane played golf at her home club in Sarasota. She had another tee time scheduled for Saturday and had planned to drive to Orlando for the PGA Merchandise Show on Thursday, January 25. But on Friday, January 12, she suffered a massive stroke. One day later, she passed away peacefully in a hospital near her home.
She is survived by her husband, Todd, son Dan, daughter Julie, four grandsons who are accomplished golfers and 1,945 LPGA Professionals who owe their careers to her giving spirit.
“Jane's passing is such a loss for our organization,” said Marvol Bernard, national president of the LPGA Professionals. “She was that bridge between what came before and the strides the LPGA Professionals have made in recent years. Jane raised her hand back in 1968, and her leadership breathed new life into a fledgling, struggling division.
“Jane remained very passionate and engaged right to the end, serving on our Hall-of-Fame committee as a most valued voice and advisor. She will be so missed.”