Carol Mann, the 1965 U.S. Women’s Open champion and an influential president of the Ladies Professional Golf Association from 1973-1976, died peacefully on Sunday, May 20 at her home in The Woodlands, Texas. She was 77.
Born in Buffalo, N.Y., Mann grew up in Towson, Md., before moving to Illinois, where her golf game took off thanks to lessons at Olympia Fields Country Club, a five-time USGA championship host site. After a strong amateur career, Mann attended the University of North Carolina-Greensboro before turning professional in 1960.
Mann’s career accelerated in 1964 when she won the first of her 38 career events: the Women’s Western Open, which was a major championship at the time. Her career-defining victory came a year later when she won the U.S. Women’s Open by two strokes over Kathy Cornelius at Atlantic City Country Club in Northfield, N.J.
She didn’t win another major championship, but Mann finished one stroke behind Sandra Spuzich in the 1966 U.S. Women’s Open at Hazeltine National Golf Club and posted another runner-up finish in 1974 at La Grange (Ill.) Country Club, falling one stroke short against Sandra Haynie.
Mann three times led the LPGA Tour in victories, including a dominant run of 10 wins in 1968, earning the Tour’s Glenna Collett Vare Trophy for lowest season scoring average with a record 72.04 mark, which remained the standard for another decade.
A striking figure at 6-foot-3, Mann made a big impact on the game off the course. She was instrumental in transforming the LPGA into the modern-day success story it has become.
Mann took over the LPGA presidency at a critical time for women’s sports: shortly after the enactment of Title IX, which sought to level the playing field for female athletes.
"The LPGA was not attracting the best women amateurs at that time," Mann recalled in a 2014 story in the Baltimore Sun. “It was a scary time. It was hard to sleep.”
That changed soon after with an influx of talented players such as Nancy Lopez, Beth Daniel, Patty Sheehan and others.
Mann also served the game as a golf analyst for ABC, ESPN and NBC and as a longtime instructor at The Woodlands Country Club. Mann retired from competitive golf when she was 40 and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1977. She is also credited with improving the Hall of Fame thanks to her efforts as a longtime consultant, working with inductees to acquire items and improve the spectator experience.
“Carol has helped make it a Hall of Fame of people,” Martin Davis, a golf historian and longtime friend, told Golfweek magazine in 2006. “She knows the game so well and has incredible connections, not only in the women’s game, but the men’s game, too. She transcends.”
Mann served as the president of the Women’s Sports Foundation from 1985-90. She was elected to the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1982.
Joey Flyntz is an associate writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.