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Mann recalls 'kaleidoscope life' as '08 PGA First Lady of Golf
Mann, 67, was honored Wednesday night before an audience of 500 at the Kilbourn Hall in the Eastman School of Music, with guests that included Champions Tour professionals Jerry Pate and Loren Roberts; LPGA Deputy Commissioner Libba Galloway and World Golf Hall of Fame Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jack Peter.
Mann's career in golf, which covers 38 victories that propelled her to the World Golf Hall of Fame, continued with gusto after her last competitive round in 1981. She became president of the LPGA at a critical time in its history and helped recruit its first commissioner.
She was an advocate for the Title IX amendment that boosted women's rights in sports, and has spent more than three decades as one of the most respected golf instructors in the country.
The award ceremony was preceded by a dance program featuring Edyta Sliwinska, the star performer the past six seasons on ABC's hit "Dancing With the Stars."
Sliwinska was joined by her husband, Alec Mazo, as one of two couples dazzling the audience. Mary Murphy, a judge for FOX Network's "So You Think You Can Dance" served as host and challenged golfers to enter the national dance programs some day.
The dance theme carried into a stirring video tribute, opening with Mann's training in ballet as a youngster and closing with Mann's expressing how her personal faith blossomed following the death of Payne Stewart in 1999.
Mann said that she quickly outgrew the length of her ballet training mirror as a youngster, and would gradually move into competitive sports.
"That ballet mirror ... I don't know if you can know what I felt like to outgrow a mirror," said Mann. "It was so visual; it was so permanent and it was two-dimensional for me. Then I learned that there are other things besides mirrors, things like kaleidoscopes.
"And, that's what golf has meant to me. It is a kaleidoscope. It's three, four, five- and six-dimensional. You learn how to operate yourself in such a way that you blend your body and mind with the earth. So, you create the harmony of one person giving a performance of excellence. That is most of what I learned as a player.
"I didn't learn to compete. I hated beating other people. But I loved learning to master myself, my game and the shots in the environment that where I was playing. That's what motivated me as a player, not beating people." Mann gave thanks to those who elevated her career -- electing to separate them by decades:
Legendary Patty Berg, the 1995 PGA Distinguished Service Award winner, gave Mann "a PhD. in golf -- in professional behavior, professional ethics and just professional preparedness."
Manuel de la Torre, the 1986 PGA Teacher of the Year from Milwaukee, Wis., was Mann's first swing coach. "He opened the heavens for me," she said.
In the 1970s, Ray Volpe, the first commissioner of the LPGA, "gave us room to improve, challenge and opportunity. By his leadership, a whole cadre of players would work to make things better for those who would follow."
In the 1980s, Mann's business career was advanced through the influence of Jim Merrigan, a retired AT&T executive, whom Mann said "helped me in communicating with people."
Several of Mann's students from the 1990s were in the audience, including Jason Tamayo of Houston, who is graduating this month from Cornell University.
The '90s also featured the late Payne Stewart, whom Mann watched in person win the 1989 PGA Championship.
Following Stewart's death in 1999, Mann watched the funeral and was moved to seek help in improving her Christian faith. She studied the Bible, following the suggestion of her former husband, 2007 PGA Teacher of the Year Jim Hardy.
Since 2000, Mann credited her alliance with the World Golf Hall of Fame, where she has been a consultant and an ally of Peter, whom she said "has built a great team."
Mann closed by referring to her favorite Bible verse -- Philippians 4:8 -- in which Saint Paul wrote while in captivity and sentenced to death.
"He worried about spiritual stability," said Mann. "And, I worry today about the spiritual stability of the whole world, not just the Philippians. Golf is a great grounding in spiritual stability. That's why 4:8 means so much to me.
"And, 4:8 allows us with some poetic license, if you allow me.
"Golf is true. Golf is noble. Golf is right, Golf is pure. Golf is lovely. Golf is admirable. And, it's excellent, and it's the right place for me. And, I think it's a great idea if we spend more time thinking about golf."