COLUMBUS, Ohio – Gladys Palmer was a trailblazer in women’s athletics, pioneering the first national championship for all of women’s collegiate sports.
In the 1940’s, Palmer was the chairwoman of the women’s division of the Physical Education Department at OSU. She had a strong vision for women’s sports, particularly the game of golf.
Although she met resistance from many sides, she was determined to coordinate a women’s national championship for golf. With the assistance of other staff members, an outline for the formation of a national organization which would sponsor and control intercollegiate competition for women was created.
The outcome of Palmer’s efforts was the first national championship for all women’s collegiate sports: the 1941 Women’s National Golf Championship, which was held at the OSU Scarlet Course.
The national championship was held by various institutions until 1973 when the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) was formed. The AIAW conducted the National Championship through 1982. The final AIAW National Championship was hosted by Ohio State in 1982 and the first NCAA Championship was hosted that year at Stanford. The NCAA has held the annual championship since 1982.
Palmer was inducted into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1996 and each year, the Women’s Golf Coaches Association awards the Gladys Palmer Meritorious Service Award to an individual who has made a substantial contribution to the evolution and growth of women’s collegiate golf. Recipients of this prestigious award have influenced women’s golf in a manner that changed the complexion of the sport. Accordingly, the award recognizes a pioneering spirit. While all coaches have a responsibility to give back to the game, consideration for this award is only given to those services that extend beyond that basic duty.