By Matthew Rudy
A select few teachers have been a part of every Golf Digest 50 Best Teachers ranking since the list's inception in 1999.
Of that group, even fewer dedicated themselves to giving lessons to average players, beginners and juniors right along with active and aspiring professionals.
Manuel de la Torre accomplished all of those things -- and vastly more -- in his nearly 90 years in the game. The legendary instructor passed away Sunday in Mequon, Wis., at the age of 94.
Born in Spain to that country's first teaching professional, de la Torre was a standout college golfer at Northwestern before joining his father as an assistant at Lake Shore Country Club outside Chicago. He began teaching at Milwaukee Country Club in 1948, and would go on to mentor thousands of players -- amateur and professional -- along with dozens of teachers. He retired from the club pro job in 1996, but kept an active teaching schedule in both Wisconsin and Florida, driving back and and forth each spring and fall.
"He was a true gentleman and a legend in teaching, " said Golf Digest 50 Best Teacher Randy Smith. "If you had a question, he not only was happy to answer it, but he gave it serious thought. His only goals were to help people and to grow the game."
LPGA Hall-of-Famer Carol Mann was probably de la Torre's most famous student, but the soft-spoken Wisconsin teacher's greatest impact probably came from populating the Midwest with thousands of avid club players, who flourished from his non-technical, athletic approach. He famously charged juniors just $3 per lesson years after every other teacher had increased rates to more than 20 times as much. He told Sports Illustrated's E.M. Swift "I'd rather make $1,000 teaching 50 people than $1,000 teaching 10."