A tiny tribute to a renowned Wisconsin golf instructor

June 13, 2017

With Wisconsin looming large in golf this week, we pause to take the measure of the late, great Manuel de la Torre, a Badger State giant who was seen by many as the finest golf instructor of all time.

Best we can tell, he measures roughly seven inches tall.

That’s the reading we get when we hold a ruler to the bobblehead doll in de la Torre’s likeness that has made its way to the online market—a timely tribute to a man who made his mark in Wisconsin golf long before Steve Stricker, Jerry Kelly or even Andy North was so much as a twinkle in their parents’ eyes.

Designed by de la Torre’s grandson, Ryan Gill, 43, the bobblehead is bespectacled, like de la Torre, and dressed in a teal golf shirt, a nod to the man’s favorite color.

On its base are the words “Milwaukee Country Club,” where de la Torre was hired as head golf professional in 1951, and where he remained in an emeritus role until his death in April of last year.

Born in an apartment above the golf shop in Madrid, Spain where his father worked, de la Torre became a stalwart of Midwestern golf. An accomplished player, he won numerous tournaments, including the Illinois state championship while he was in high school and the Wisconsin State Open a record-matching five times.

But his greatest acclaim came as an instructor. A member of the PGA Hall of Fame and the World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame, he worked with such major names as Masters champion Tommy Aaron and U.S. Women’s Open champion Carol Mann as well as countless top-flight amateurs, though he was equally adept at teaching players of all levels. 

Known for his soft-spoken and patient approach, de la Torre also stood out in his methodology. Rather than focus on body movement (what the elbow was doing, say, at the top of the backswing), de la Torre stressed the importance of understanding how the club should travel throughout the swing.

“You don’t think about your elbow when you’re brushing your teeth,” he once said. “And yet you’re very successful at brushing your teeth.”

What he would have thought about a bobble-headed movement is hard to say. But his grandson believes he would have liked the doll.

“He was a humble man,” Gill says. “But I think he would have been honored.”

Only 300 dolls have been produced. They cost $30, plus shipping. All proceeds go to the Wisconsin PGA Junior Foundation. To order one, email [email protected]