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Dagraedt Never Guessed Golf Would Take Her to LPGA T&CP Hall of Fame
- By Lisa D. Mickey
Learning how to play golf was at the bottom of Mary Dagraedt’s list while she was a college student. In fact, the only reason she made an effort to learn the game was because she was afraid she would be assigned to teach golf as a physical education teacher and wouldn’t know anything about it.
The irony was, once she learned how to play golf at Illinois State University, there was no looking back -- and she was no longer interested in any other sports.
What she also didn’t know back then was how she would make her career in golf and how she would ultimately win just about every honor available to her. Her latest honor is being inducted into the LPGA Teaching and Club Professionals Hall of Fame.
“I’m very grateful to everybody who helped me along the way,” said Dagraedt, who will be inducted into the 2013 Hall alongside Nell Frewin-Hays and Nancy Quarcelino. “This is definitely one of the highest honors I’ve been given.”
Dagraedt worked as a college coach for 34 years, starting a women’s golf team at Miami Dade Community College in 1963. Her team rose to the No. 1 national ranking in 1975 of all junior and four-year colleges. Over an 18-year span, her teams were undefeated in the Florida Collegiate Golf State Championships, and they captured three national championships and finished as runner-up at a fourth national championship.
She also started the women’s golf team at Florida International University, leading that squad to a No. 3 national ranking with a young college player named Pat Bradley on the team. Bradley would go on to a Hall of Fame career on the LPGA Tour.
But while she was grooming the games of young college players, Dagraedt was also highly involved in the LPGA T&CP. She served as the T&CP National Chairperson for three years (1973-1975). When she started that role in 1973, there were only 103 women teaching professionals. By 1976, there were 206 members.
More importantly, Dagraedt recalls seeing opportunities for women professionals beginning to change.
“In those early years, there were very few women involved in head positions at golf clubs,” she said. “Now, many clubs recognize the need to have LPGA professionals, and women have reached heights that we never believed possible.”
The same is true, she said, of women’s roles at educational institutions. As women professionals stepped up to lead collegiate programs across the nation, their guidance has led to the development of solid college programs serving as the springboard for many women to play golf professionally.
“There was a time where we just couldn’t envision today’s opportunities for women golf professionals,” she added.
Early in her career, Dagraedt became an area consultant with the National Golf Foundation and taught alongside such teaching pioneers as Ellen Griffin, Peggy Kirk Bell and Bob Toski.
“They were more than outstanding and the opportunity to teach with them was rewarding,” she said.
Dagraedt was always interested in the rules of sports and was shocked to discover that, prior to 1975, there were no certified golf rules officials anywhere in the world. Master PGA professional Gary Wiren knew Dagraedt was interested in the rules of golf, so he designed a three-day workshop in which individuals could take a test to become certified as rules officials. The United States Golf Association took over and has since offered rules classes, training and testing.
Dagraedt took her rules training to the collegiate level, where she chaired rules committees and presented the game’s rules to all teams, players and coaches.
Always a student of the game, Dagraedt claims one of the highlights of her career was taking a one-year sabbatical as a professor at Miami Dade to study golf from the best instructors in the game. She received permission to attend every Golf Digest School as an observer, watching the techniques of many master teachers.
She also wrote to such teaching legends as Harvey Penick, now a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, seeking permission to come watch him teach. In addition, she rode in golf carts with rules officials on the LPGA and PGA Tours, as well as with USGA rules officials.
For 38 years, Dagraedt also served as the professional at Spring Creek Golf Course in Spring Valley, Ill. She taught at six other golf clubs in Illinois in addition to her tenure at Spring Creek.
Among her top honors was being named as the LPGA’s National Teacher of the Year in 1974, the LPGA’s Coach of the Year in 1981 (her last year of college coaching), and as the LPGA’s Professional of the Year in 1984.
She is a member of the Illinois State University Athletic Hall of Fame; a charter member of the National Golf Coaches Hall of Fame; a member of the Florida Community College Activities Association Hall of Fame, and was given a Lifetime of Giving Award by the Miami Sports Society.
But if you ask Dagraedt what part of her golf career makes her most proud, she is quick to point to the young people she has taught and coached who took their games to a higher level.
“I have worked with more than 80 young women who have made a career out of golf on the LPGA, Futures Tour, Ladies European Tour or as golf teachers,” she said. “Many of them have become directors of golf.”
And like Dagraedt, many of them never could have guessed where golf would take them.