Manuel became a fine golfer in his own right, finishing second in the '42 NCAAs while at Northwestern (he graduated with a degree in finance in 1944) and winning five Wisconsin Opens and five Wisconsin PGAs in addition to the Illinois Open and four Wisconsin PGA Senior tides. In 1950 he led the PGA Tour's Tucson Open for 3� rounds before coming in third, and in '51, the year he became head pro at Milwaukee Country Club, he finished second in the Lakewood ( Calif.) Park Open to Cary Middlecoff.
It's as a teacher, though, that de la Torre has made a lasting mark, by repopularizing the theories of Jones. "Everything goes back to Carol Mann," de la Torre says of his LPGA Hall of Fame pupil, who first came to him in 1962. "If she hadn't started winning, I wouldn't have the recognition I do today, and the Jones system wouldn't be as accepted as it is. For many years golf pros and organizations told me the game couldn't be taught that way, that it couldn't be that simple."
Mann read Jones's book when she was a raw 20-year-old and sought out de la Torre after learning that he taught Jones's methods. Says Mann, "I hit some balls for him, and he asked me, 'What are you trying to do?' I told him seven or eight things, and Manuel said, 'How can you do all that in the time it takes to make a swing?' It was as if the heavens parted and all the dark clouds cleared away."
That was the beginning of a relationship that lasted 15 years. De la Torre had Mann buy a piece of plywood on which to practice, so she would get used to brushing the grass on her swing rather than gouging the turf. "You're supposed to be swinging in the direction of the target, not digging graves," de la Torre says. "The divots pros take today are embarrassing."
"Learning from Manuel was like learning from the finest professor at MIT," Mann says. "He was always saying stuff like, 'If a body is in motion, it must come to a complete stop before reversing direction. Think of a pendulum in a clock.' After working with him a week, I bought a copy of Physics Without Math. He was the most gentle, caring, fun teacher, serene and calm and solid."
The night before she won the 1965 U.S. Open, Mann called de la Torre, a night owl who still keeps office hours until midnight. "I wanted to win so badly for my parents, for me, for my teacher," Mann says. "Talking to him, I remember feeling I wanted to crawl into his pocket and rest there until it was over. Then I'd be safe. He was reassuring me gently, and I finally said in this meek voice, I love you, Manuel.' It wasn't dirty or the least bit sexual. It was terribly high-plane and sweet. I think I shocked him, but I wanted to thank him for all the things he had done for me. My heart was so full, and my being was so scared."
Mann would win 38 LPGA tournaments. Her success slowly allowed de la Torre's theories to gain national recognition. In 1997 two-time Greater Milwaukee Open winner Loren Roberts came to Brown Deer Park dissatisfied with his game. After a session with de la Torre he tied for second, then won the CVS Charity Classic two weeks later.
De la Torre, who with wife Joan has a daughter, Lynn, and four grandchildren, was the first winner of the PGA of America's Teacher of the Year Award, in 1986, and has been one of Golf magazine's Top Teachers since that publication began the ranking 10 years ago. "I never felt unappreciated," says de la Torre, who can still shoot his age and has no plans to cut back on the long days. "I thought that the Jones system was unappreciated."
"People who grew up in this club developed natural, aesthetically beautiful swings that last a lifetime," says George (Skip) Simonds, a former caddie who was taught by de la Torre and succeeded him as head pro at Milwaukee Country Club. "They stay sound without a lot of practice. That says plenty about his concept of the swing."