LPGA History: A Look Back With Carol Mann

LPGA and World Golf Hall of Fame member Carol Mann won an impressive 38 LPGA titles including two major championships. She captured her two major championships at the 1964 Western Open and the 1965 U.S. Women’s Open. Mann had her best years, however, in 1968 and 1969. She claimed 10 events in 1968 and grabbed the Vare Trophy in the same year with a scoring average of 72.04, a record which lasted for 10 years. She backed up those ten wins with another eight the following year when she also led the LPGA official money list. Mann was inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame in 1977 and made her final professional appearance at the Rail Charity Classic in 1981.

Q: What kind of player were you in your prime?
Carol Mann: I learned to set realistic, achievable process and scoring goals, made a lot of birdies, set up by having learned a variety of shots into greens/flags and by learning to be a pretty good putter. My physical, mental and emotional immersion into each shot was extraordinary and quite pleasant. 

Q: What were your strengths, weaknesses?
Carol Mann: My strengths were visible and invisible. I loved playing shots into greens so became a pretty good iron shot player, especially with the wedges. I was quite curious and loved to learn, needing stimulations to hold my attention. My weaknesses were also visible and not so. My downswing would often be too narrow so wasn’t able to compress it consistently. Distance control was a problem then. Finally, I could also become bored, under-challenged, and would have to create problems to become stimulated again. Surely I was an undiagnosed ADHD person.

Q: What player(s) brought out the best in your game?
Carol Mann: Mickey Wright and Kathy Whitworth – and for different reasons. Mickey set the bar for ball striking but as hard as I tried I would never become that good. Kathy was the best at playing the game, the right shots, and inventing scoring skills from no-where. Kathy was also a fabulous putter. They were models for all facets of the game.

Q: What was your most memorable win?
Carol Mann: It was the 1965 US Open at Atlantic City CC. It was memorable because I was so sick with a cold, taking meds at night to be able to sleep. I shot 78 in the first round, thinking then I had no chance. Next I managed 70, then another to launch a strong comeback to be in or near the lead. Made an amazing par on the 70th hole, which I had dreamed would be my undoing during a near sleepless night. I birdied the last to win by two. It was so hard to hold my emotions in check during the final round. I crumpled and cried after I signed my scorecard, thinking this was the hardest thing I have ever done. What a relief! My parents and three brothers were there to help celebrate.

Q: You won 27 tournaments in a stretch of five years from 1965-1969. What were the keys to that string of success?
Carol Mann: During this time Mickey was retiring, Kathy was winning a lot and Sandra Haynie took her share. And the new LPGA Hall of Fame requirements had been established. Not that I actually ever thought I would make it, at least we all knew the numbers to try to meet. So I kept doing the same goal setting for scoring and enforcing the same process I used to immerse into each and every shot. My routine became familiar and comfortable. My self-trust and confidence became quite strong. And I hit it pretty well too!

Q: What was the best part of playing the tour?
Carol Mann: When you love to play golf and become pretty good at it, the Tour is the only place to be. It is the ultimate laboratory to learn more about the game, yourself, and performing under intense pressure. On the social side, it is possible to make life-long friends with players and others who love golf. I am grateful for all of those friendships, especially as I grow older.

Q:  What did players of your era do the best as far as moving the tour forward?
Carol Mann: The pioneers I watched and tried to model were Patty Berg, Betsy Rawls, and Mickey. They were true professionals. They taught me that the LPGA was bigger than any one of us and that golf was bigger than the LPGA. As long as we kept the health and well being of the game, all association decisions would be acceptable. We had different styles – but always the same objective.

Q:  Was the transition away from competitive golf difficult?
Carol Mann: Yes and no – sorry! That was my experience of the separation. I missed the players, the travel, the ever-changing stimulations, the opportunities and so on. I did not miss playing amid so much failure. I stayed way beyond my true desire to be there. I wanted to experience much more of golf and did that with stints as a television reporter, having a series of women-only golf schools, writing golf articles and one book so far, a long relationship to provide corporate hospitality on the PGA Tour, and now as a special Ambassador for the World Golf Hall of Fame. I have also served the women’s sports community and its future as president of the Women’s Sports Foundation, still raise money for charities through golf events, and teach golf to motivated people. I continue to learn.

Q: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment since retiring from competitive golf?
Carol Mann: Being part of the team currently responsible for gathering and preserving the history of the members of the World Golf Hall of Fame is my best secular accomplishment since leaving the Tour. However, the best accomplishment for my life has been receiving the gifts of grace, peace, forgiveness, love and comfort from God. Now I serve Him.

Topics: Mann, Carol, Player Spotlight

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