MILWAUKEE – One of the first things I did when I became the golf writer for The Milwaukee Journal in 1992 was to set up a meeting with legendary PGA Professional Manuel de la Torre, a man about whom I had heard so much.
We sat down in his office overlooking the first hole at Milwaukee Country Club and after exchanging pleasantries he said, "Look out the window and tell me what you see."
I described No. 1 in great detail, or so I thought – the bunkers to the left of the landing area and in the distance around the green, the subtle left-to-right dogleg, the trees lining the hole on both sides.
"Are you finished?" de la Torre, who died Sunday night at age 94, asked gently.
Quite pleased with my powers of observation, I said that I was.
"You never told me you saw the fairway," he said. "That's what you're supposed to see."
It was like getting smacked in the forehead.
Golfers tend to look for trouble and often find it, de la Torre explained. They also overcomplicate the swing and focus their attention on the ball or a certain body position instead of on properly moving the club.
A brilliant communicator who could have taught on any college campus, he explained things in a way that made perfect sense. His ideas about the swing were irrefutable, based on physics but couched in common sense.
In every subsequent meeting with de la Torre, I learned something new and revealing about the swing and went away feeling enriched for having spent time with him. He was soft-spoken but direct, quizzing you about your own swing until you fumbled over your words and then providing the answers with a clarity and economy of language that erased all doubt.
For many years, we served together on the Wisconsin Hall of Fame selection committee; he rarely spoke at the annual meetings but when he did, the room went silent. He commanded respect not by force of personality but by strength of character.
De la Torre's teaching will live on, because over the years many of his former assistant professionals at Milwaukee CC and attendees at his PGA of America seminars embraced his philosophy and are now teaching it. He also wrote an excellent instructional book, "Understanding the Golf Swing."
But there is no replacing Manuel de la Torre. He was one of a kind and his passing leaves a tremendous void in Wisconsin's golf community and beyond.
This article was written by Gary D'Amato from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.