Towson and Mann make perfect twosome

School gave her some direction 31 years ago

now, she is repaying favor to its golf team

Golf

October 20, 2005|By KEVIN VAN VALKENBURG | KEVIN VAN VALKENBURG,SUN REPORTER

To hear Carol Mann tell it, the LPGA Tour might never have made it if it weren't for Towson University. All the buzz surrounding Michelle Wie, all the praise heaped on Annika Sorenstam for her win at the Samsung World Championship -- all of it owes a little bit of a debt to a meeting that took place over beers and cigarettes in Towson in 1974.

That was the year Mann, who grew up in Towson, was named president of the LPGA Tour. Her golf credentials were certainly impeccable -- she would eventually win 38 tournaments during her professional career, and would be inducted into the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame in 1977 -- but she was the first to admit that her business acumen was somewhat lacking, and the struggling tour needed a business plan. And so Mann grabbed a six-pack of beer and some cigarettes and paid a visit to her friend, Wayne Schelle, then the vice president of business administration at the school then known as Towson State.

"We sat there and talked and drank, just like the good ol' boys do," Mann said. "And after hours and hours, we hashed out everything. Right there, we came up with the master plan for the modern LPGA. I owe Towson tremendously."

That's one of the reasons Mann, who now makes her home in Houston, has been flying to Baltimore repeatedly this fall to work with the Tigers as an assistant coach for the men's golf team. Another reason is, she simply enjoys coaching. And with Towson adding a women's golf team for the first time next season, Mann, a longtime advocate for Title IX issues, is looking to help in any way she can.

"I love working with them," Mann said. "They're fabulous. And all of them have dreams of going further someday, so any additional knowledge that I can provide, I think it can be beneficial."

Mann also is hoping that some of her connections in the golf world can open a few doors for the Tigers. Equipment companies are often thrilled to get a call from such major programs as Georgia Tech, Clemson or Wake Forest, but are considerably slower in responding to requests from mid- level programs like Towson's, according to Tigers coach Brian Yaniger.

"Towson is just one of the programs they put up with so that they can work programs like Georgia Tech, Clemson and Wake," said Mann, who contacted people at PING recently and got the company to put several of Towson's golfers on a launch monitor to analyze their swings for the first time.

Mann said she wouldn't be doing this if it weren't for Yaniger, who is in his eighth season as Tigers coach. When Towson decided to go forward with plans to add a women's golf team, Yaniger tracked down Mann through the LPGA and gave her his best pitch.

"I love Brian's spirit, his doggedness and his persistence," she said. "He sold me on this, and I absolutely love the kids."

Yaniger is certainly proud of the program he has built at Towson -- he has won three Coach of the Year awards and twice guided his team to the NCAA regionals -- but he also says he knows his limitations.

"I'm not a teaching pro," Yaniger said. "I played collegially, and I'm certainly not terrible, but I try to help them with course management and things like that. Carol knows a lot more about the technical aspects of a swing than I do."

Mann certainly isn't shy about jumping in and correcting something if she thinks she can fix it. At a practice earlier this season, she grabbed elbows and tweaked players' take-aways. She told Matt Skidmore his swing reminded her of those of Craig Stadler and Hale Irwin, and worked with team captain Jeff Castle on chipping like Jose Maria Olazabal.

"She obviously knows a lot," Castle said. "She's got a lot of good things to tell us. But at the same time, she knows that everyone's swing is different, and she's not trying to make major changes. She understands how to work with what you already know."

Mann's biggest impact, however, may be in recruiting, specifically on the women's side. Though Towson won't officially field a women's team until next season, Yaniger has already signed one quality player, Morgan Reich, a former Severna Park standout who transferred to Towson after playing last year as a freshman at Winthrop. Mann, though, gets at least partial credit for getting her here.

"It was definitely a factor," Reich said when asked if Mann's presence played a role in her decision to sign with the Tigers. "In fact, that was a huge selling point. She just has so much experience, and she knows so much about the swing and about tournament play. I'm really excited about taking advantage of all her knowledge."

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