Balicki: Northeast Am's Glass leaves incredible legacy
It’s been said that all good things must come to an end. Such will be the case in the leadership role this summer at the Northeast Amateur.
After two decades of running one of the world’s most respected and prestigious amateur tournaments, Denny Glass is hanging up his hat.
Glass, who has been tournament chairman for the Northeast Amateur in Rumford, R.I., since 1994, announced his retirement from that post this week. His last hurrah will be this year when the 52nd Northeast Am takes place June 19-22 at Wannamoisett Country Club.
“It will be 20 years and I think that is enough,” Glass said. “I feel I have accomplished a lot and now is the time for some new blood to come in and take over. This was strictly my decision. I just decided it’s time to move on.”
Glass is also the tournament director for the Terra Cotta Amateur, held each spring in Naples, Fla., where he and his wife Tanya also have a home. He said he would continue running that event.
Joe Sprague Jr., a longtime official with the Rhode Island Golf Association and currently executive director of the Massachusetts Golf Association, has agreed to take over for Glass as tournament chairman for the Northeast Am.
“It was very important for me to have the right person in place to continue to move the Northeast Am in the right direction and Joe is definitely that person,” Glass said. “He’s been a rules official and been involved with the tournament for many years. He knows all the people at the club, knows and respects the tournament’s goal and tradition, and certainly has a wealth of experience in running high level competitions.”
Glass is only the fourth chairman for the Northeast Amateur, following in the footsteps of Bob Kosten, Gene Voll and, in 1994, Bill Lunnie, who was most instrumental in turning the tournament into a national event.
But over the last 20 years, Glass has become the face and the voice of the Northeast Amateur. Among the list of champions under his watch are Notah Begay, Brad Elder, Jonathan Byrd, Luke Donald, Chris Nallen, Anthony Kim, Dustin Johnson and Peter Uihlein.
Included in the players Glass helped bring in to compete in the tournament: Stewart Cink, Bryce Molder, Charles Howell, Edward Loar, Bo Van Pelt, Tiger Woods, Ben Curtis, D.J. Trahan, Lucas Glover, Ricky Barnes, Webb Simpson, Chris Kirk, Kyle Stanley, Billy Horschel, Matt Kuchar, Jason Day, J.B. Holmes, Rickie Fowler and Harris English -- and that’s just touching the surface.
The first time I covered the Northeast Am was 1995 -- and haven’t missed one since. I never met Glass and talked to him maybe just twice on the telephone before showing up at Wannamoisett CC that year.
I still remember, and quite vividly, that first day I walked into the Wannamoisett clubhouse and made my way to the registration room. Glass, among a few other committee members, were there and all greeted me warmly. To this day, I still tell people that within five minutes of meeting these total strangers, I felt like I was part of the family, like we all had known each other all our lives.
Glass was especially warm, welcoming and friendly, but I just figured he was trying to impress the writer who was there to give his tournament some recognition in a national golf publication.
By the end of the week, I realized Glass was not showing me any favoritism -- he treated everyone from players, parents, club members, sponsors, fans and media large and small the same way. And he’s been that way each and every year. If you came to the Northeast Am and you met Glass, you were special, no matter what. It’s one of the reasons all the players loved him and why each year just about all of them stop off in the so-called “War Room” to thank him.
“I’ve never met a classier guy and gentleman than Denny Glass,” said two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Tim Jackson, who has played in 18 Northeast Amateurs. “For me, the combination of a great golf course and the friends I’ve made up there, especially Denny, makes the Northeast by far my favorite national amateur event.”
Mike McCoy has played in over a dozen Northeast Ams and, like most, has gotten to know Glass well.
“What Denny has done not only for the Northeast but for the amateur game is amazing,” he said. “Without a doubt, he is one of the best supporters of amateur golf of all time.”
In 1990, Todd White had just graduated from Furman University where he was one of the top players on the team. He headed to Rhode Island to play in his second Northeast Am and went on to win the tournament.
“Winning the Northeast was huge for me,” said White, who has now played in more than 15 of them. “For me, that proved I could play at the national level.”
White, currently one of the leading mid-amateurs in the running for a spot on this year’s U.S. Walker Cup team, turned pro later that year. After a not-so-successful pro career, White regained his amateur status in 2001 and has been a regular at the Northeast Am ever since.
“I enjoy going to the Northeast, not only for the golf tournament, but for the friendships I’ve made there, especially with Denny,” White said. “The way (Glass) represents that event and the game of golf makes people want to be part of it. He truly has become the face of the tournament to a lot of people.”
When a person finally decides to retire after a long career, no matter what sport or what profession, or what title is being left behind, they want to go out on top, with a great sense of pride and accomplishment.
Glass will definitely be doing just that, just as those before him have done in the building the Northeast Amateur into a skyscraper in amateur golf.
All the best to you, my good friend, and from me and I’m sure I speak for the multitude of lives you have touched -- a big thank you.
How will I always remember him? That’s easy. Denny Glass : a touch -- make that a mountain -- of class.