Story by Travis Puterbaugh, Curator at the World Golf Hall of Fame
Seen on WomensGolf.com
At 6 feet 3 inches tall, World Golf Hall of Fame Member Carol Mann always had a way of towering over the competition. Once she hit her stride professionally, Mann reached heights which would eventually lead her to golf’s highest honor – being inducted into the Hall of Fame.
In 1969, Carol Mann enjoyed the kind of season any golfer would envy. She won her first tournament in April – the Dallas Civitan Open – and won seven more times that year, culminating in October with a playoff victory over Kathy Whitworth at the Corpus Christi Civitan Open. Following a 1968 campaign in which she won 10 tournaments, including the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average, Mann capped a two-year run with 18 wins and finished at the top of the LPGA Tour money list.
“I had been growing all along in my ability to play better and win tournaments,” Mann said. “I won four times in 1966, four times in 1967, so I was getting used to winning and got better and better. I liked winning and wanted to do it more. You put a horse in front of food and he’s going to eat. I was filling myself up with the food of success.”
Her success earned recognition from long-time Boston Globe cartoonist Phil Bissell.
Bissell, who averaged five cartoons per week on local and national subjects, gained notoriety in the Northeast as the designer of the “Pat Patriot,” the logo used by the New England Patriots from 1961-1992. He first met Mann during an LPGA Championship at Pleasant Valley Country Club in Sutton, Massachusetts, where she was paired with Dolores Hope, who served as the tournament’s honorary chairman.
“[Carol] was a doll,” Bissell said. “I really got a kick out of her. I had one-on-one time with people like Carol that money just couldn’t buy.”
The cartoon, which can currently be seen in Mann’s locker at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Florida, is a social commentary on the time that is now more relevant than ever, nearly a half-century since its publication. In Bissell’s cartoon, Mann is celebrated for her victories in back-to-back weeks at the Southgate Ladies Open and the Tournament of Champs, and for surpassing Kathy Whitworth on the LPGA Tour money list with earnings of $35,547 through August of that season.
A men’s professional golfer named Tom Shaw is referenced at the bottom of the cartoon as well. The same weekend Mann won the Tournament of Champs, Shaw captured $30,000 for winning the AVCO Golf Classic in Bissell’s backyard at the Pleasant Valley Country Club. In one tournament, Shaw nearly eclipsed Mann’s entire earnings for the season.
Bissell says that although his cartoons were meant to focus just on sports, he intended to make an editorial point – albeit a light-hearted take – about the inherent financial unfairness women faced in those days. Case-in-point golfer Frank Beard, who topped the PGA TOUR money list in 1969 with $175,223 after only winning two tournaments that year: the Minnesota Golf Classic and the Westchester Classic. Mann took notice of this discrepancy and did not like what she saw.
“I compared my money winnings to the men’s tour and I was still way behind,” Mann said. “I didn’t like that and thought it was grossly unfair.”
Frustrated with the direction of the LPGA Tour, Mann looked toward taking an active role in the future development of the tour and took over as its president in 1973, serving in that capacity until 1976.
“We needed to have a whole new business model to make marketing more important than the golf,” Mann said. “As players, we knew plenty about golf, but we didn’t know about marketing.”
One of the most important decisions in the evolution of the tour, Mann said, came in 1975 when for the first time the LPGA Tour installed a four-person board of directors and hired its first commissioner, Ray Volpe, who had been the vice president and marketing director for the National Hockey League. In addition, the LPGA Tour moved its headquarters from Atlanta to New York City so that Volpe could be near his contacts in the world of business and advertising.
Within a few years, the changes were dramatic. According to Mann, by 1980 the LPGA Tour had an increase in prize money of more than 800% and a new generation of stars such as Nancy Lopez, Beth Daniel, Betsy King and Patty Sheehan ready to capitalize on the game’s growth.
“We were preparing for an influx of Title IX players from college golf programs, counting on it, and had to set the stage for it,” Mann said. “We knew there would be this wave of emerging talent among young women golfers and there had to be incentive for them to join the tour.”
For all her achievements on the golf course – two Major Championships, 38 professional wins, and memberships in the LPGA and World Golf Hall of Fame – her service as LPGA President and influence in helping change the business of women’s professional golf is what truly elevates Mann among the titans of the game.