A giant of the game passes – remembering World Golf Hall of Famer Carol Mann

By Bob Denney
Published on
A giant of the game passes – remembering World Golf Hall of Famer Carol Mann

Legendary Patty Berg, the 1995 PGA Distinguished Service Award winner and regarded a “tough general” in guiding a golf clinic, once gave Carol Mann "a PhD. in golf – in professional behavior, professional ethics and just professional preparedness."

It was a badge of honor that Mann never forgot and always valued. The tallest player in women’s golf, at 6-foot-3, Mann cast an imposing shadow over a game and an industry she loved. Mann died Sunday at her home in The Woodlands, Texas. She was 77.

Mann was born Feb. 3, 1941, in Buffalo, New York, and later moved with her family to Towson, Maryland. She began playing golf at age 9, but other competitive sports took over. She never developed a golf swing until age 13 when her family settled in Chicago.

Manuel de la Torre, the 1986 PGA Teacher of the Year from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was Mann's first swing coach. "He opened the heavens for me," she once said.

Mann went on to win 38 LPGA Tour events, including two majors, which propelled her berth into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Her last competitive round was 1981. She also balanced her playing career with serving as president of the LPGA (1973-76). Her term came at a critical time in that association’s history and helped recruit its first commissioner. Mann was elected to PGA Membership in 2002.

She became an advocate for the Title IX amendment that boosted women's rights in sports, and spent more than three decades as one of the most respected golf instructors in the country.

Mann also would serve as a broadcaster and businesswoman. When she retired at age 40, she was made a trustee of the Women’s Sports Foundation, and served as president from 1985-1990. She also formed Carol Mann Golf Services, the first woman-owned and operated course design and management firm. Based in Houston, she started teaching at The Woodlands Country Club and took an active role in facilitating the relationship between the World Hall of Fame and its members.

In 2006, Mann took teaching to the outer limits. She partnered with PGA Master Professional Rick Martino to give golf lessons to Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin. In November of that year, Tyurin hit the drive from a spring-like tee outside the international space station, 220 miles over the northwest Pacific Ocean.

The shot, which veered a little to the right, became the longest in the history of the universe.

What made Mann unique among her contemporaries was an unquenchable desire to learn as much about the game and how she could translate that to her students.

"I didn't learn to compete. I hated beating other people,” she said in 2008. “But I loved learning to master myself, my game and the shots in the environment where I was playing. That's what motivated me as a player, not beating people."
When Mann accepted the 2008 PGA First Lady of Golf Award in Rochester New York, she recalled a "kaleidoscope” life in a sport where she left a massive impact both on and off the course.

"And, that's what golf has meant to me. It is a kaleidoscope. It's three, four, five- and six-dimensional,” she said. “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.”

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."

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Following Payne 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.

Mann's spiritual reckoning prompted her to close her acceptance speech in Rochester, by referring to her favorite Bible verse -- Philippians 4:8 – and applying it to the game of golf.

"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."

Carol Mann won 38 times on the LPGA TourGolf’s Family Remembers Carol Mann

“All of us at the PGA of America were saddened to learn of the passing of PGA and LPGA Member Carol Mann. In addition to being a prolific winner on the LPGA Tour and major champion, she will be remembered for her passionate drive to expand the reach of the game through her unmatched style and grace. A World Golf Hall of Fame Member, Carol was honored as the PGA First Lady of Golf in 2008. A gifted instructor, her innovative approach in teaching the game shaped her legacy, and will continue to leave a lasting impact in the years to come. She worked alongside and earned the respect of some of the most legendary instructors and players of her time. The PGA of America will deeply miss Carol Mann and the many immeasurable contributions she made during a trailblazing lifetime committed to the game of golf.”

Paul K. Levy, PGA
PGA of America President

“I am saddened to the core at the news of my dear friend Carol's passing. She was not only a fine golfer, staunch fighter for the LPGA in particular and golf in general, but a joy to those of us who loved her. God bless you Carol. We will miss you terribly.”

Mickey Wright, LPGA
World Golf Hall of Fame, 1964
PGA Hall of Fame, 2017

“In 1964, Carol Mann asked me to join her in putting on a Women’s Day Clinic near Baltimore. We were each on contract with Wilson Sporting Goods at the time, and I was a youngster on tour. I was touched that she would tap me on the shoulder. Carol was so passionate about growing the game, so passionate about the game; and was such a leader within golf. She did cast a huge shadow on the game. She did not back down from a challenge. If you had a tough question, you’d go to Carol. She never shirked away from any question."

Renee Powell, PGA/LPGA
PGA Hall of Fame, 2017

"The golf world and all of sports have lost a valued member. Carol was a great player, a great leader, a forward thinker; an acknowledged PGA golf instructor and a friend to all she knew. The Carol I knew was a person who loved golf and challenges. She was a creative idea person who originated and developed many of the displays at the World Golf Hall of Fame. Her favorite were the lockers; and she worked with all to get interesting memorabilia from each honoree. We worked together in 2006 to instruct the Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin, who hit the first golf shot in space. Carol also served on the PGA Teaching & Coaching Summit Committee, and was instrumental in many teaching and inclusion advances.”

Rick Martino, PGA Master Professional
1997 PGA Teacher of the Year