Long after she left Baltimore for Chicago as a teenager, Carol Mann loved coming back to her adopted hometown. Long after she became one of golf’s biggest stars — and personalities — Mann seemed at home in Baltimore.
Mann, who was born in Buffalo, N.Y., and died Sunday at age 77 at her longtime home in the suburbs of Houston, had a deep connection to the city and its golfing community.
It was where she learned the game at age 9, growing up in a household where her father, Rip, was a member of Baltimore Country Club and the Country Club of Maryland in Towson, where her mother, Ann, started a women’s nine-hole group.
Mann played her first competitive tournament at the Jimmy Flattery Junior Golf Tournament at Forest Park, where she was questioned about her score on a particular hole.
"There was some discrepancy, so I sat there and I told them the truth. I'm a little kid, so they gave me an award for sportsmanship," Mann said in a 2014 interview with The Baltimore Sun. “I didn't know what sportsmanship meant.”
After her professional career began in 1961, she returned often to Baltimore to play in the LPGA Baltimore Classic, first at Turf Valley and later at Pine Ridge when the tournament was here between 1962 and 1980.
Though Mann never won a tournament in Baltimore, she won 38 overall, two of them majors, including the 1965 U.S. Women’s Open. She was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1977.
Dennis Satyshur, the director of golf at Caves Valley, recalled Monday how he met Mann shortly after being hired at Baltimore Country Club in 1984. Mann would visit her father, who was still a member there.
“She felt very comfortable in Baltimore. It just fit her,” said Satyshur, who at the time had moved from a club in Vero Beach, Fla. “She was always very outgoing. She’d say, ‘Anything I can do to help you. You’ll love Baltimore. You’ll love it here.’ It didn’t take her long to connect. She made me feel very much at home.”
The last time Satyshur saw Mann was when the LPGA held the inaugural International Crown team competition at Caves Valley in 2014 and Mann was invited by LPGA commissioner Michael Whan to attend.
“It’s like a homecoming for me,” Mann said at the time.
After learning of her death, Whan said in a statement: “It is always difficult to lose a member of your family, especially one that has played such an important, leadership role. Carol has been part of the fabric of the LPGA for more than 55 years with a Hall of Fame career both on and off the golf course.
“She was a tremendous competitor, but an even more amazing person. I am lucky to have called her a friend. She will be missed by everyone who met her. She most certainly left the game and the LPGA better than she found it.”
In an interview before the 2014 event at Caves Valley, Mann reflected on her childhood growing up in Rodgers Forge and how she started as a ballet dancer who played a little tennis and swam competitively on the side.
"I made my ballet debut at the Lyric Theatre in a little-kids ballet," recalled Mann, who moved to Chicago after her freshman year at Notre Dame Prep. "That was my first experience of performing in the public. It was fun, it was great. I loved it.”
The only problem was Mann started growing, eventually reaching 6 feet 3, or as she liked to say, “5 feet 15.”
"When I was 8 years old, I outgrew the mirror in the little-kids ballet studio,” she said. “Do you know how that makes a little kid feel, when you've grown past the measuring sticks? I had to find some use for my body other than just standing around."
It turned out to be golf. Not only did Mann play at at the highest level, but she was also instrumental in the LPGA going from being a backwoods operation that did its best to stay away from big cities to a more sophisticated — and ultimately successful — corporate brand.
As president of the LPGA from 1973 through 1976, Mann was largely responsible for luring Ray Volpe, a Madison Avenue executive who worked for the NHL, to run the LPGA in the mid-1970s. After her retirement at age 40, Mann would became a golf commentator as well as president of the Women’s Sports Foundation.
After first trying to promote players such as Laura Baugh and Jan Stephenson to attract male fans, the LPGA eventually rode the the tails of more dominant players such Nancy Lopez and Annika Sorenstam.
Sorenstam, who became the most accomplished golfer in LPGA history before she retired in 2008 at age 37 to start a family, tweeted Monday that Mann was a "great ambassador" of the game and she felt "honored to have known Carol and shared stories and laughs together."
Even after she retired, Mann was a presence at tournaments, not only because she stood a head taller than most, but because she was typically followed by an entourage of corporate clients she had brought with her as president of Carol Mann Golf Services, the first female-owned and -operated course design and management firm.
“She was always promoting something when her playing days were finished,” Satyshur said. “She would be working at tournaments as a host taking people around for companies. She could not have been nicer. Very knowledgeable and respectful of the game. A first-class lady, one of the pioneers of the game.”
In her bio on the World Golf Hall of Fame website, Mann said: “I enjoy being a person and getting old and dying are fine. I never think how people will remember Carol Mann. The mark I made is an intimate satisfaction.”
One of the mementos in her locker at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine was the sportsmanship trophy she had received in the Jimmy Flattery tournament. Mann eventually left Baltimore, but Baltimore never left Mann.