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Remembering Local Golf Legend Manuel de la Torre

Milwaukee Magazine
Manuel de la Torre (right) at the 1942 NCAA tournament. Photo courtesy of Northwestern Athletics.

The last of golf’s major tournaments tees off next week with the PGA Championship taking place in Springfield, New Jersey. However, golf fans in our area are eager for next year’s U.S. Open, which will be held at Erin Hills in southeast Wisconsin.

There are several golfers associated with the state. The most recent, significant name is Edgerton native Steve Stricker.

But writer Doug Moe says another name ought to be committed to memory as well. "I don't like to throw the word 'legend' around lightly, but Manuel was a legend and yet a very humble man," says Moe.

The late Manuel de la Torre called Milwaukee home and taught golfers at the Milwaukee Country Club for about 60 years. “Swingman,” as he’s called in Moe’s Milwaukee Magazine article, was one of the top sought out instructors for professionals and local amateurs alike.

Credit Milwaukee Magazine
Milwaukee Magazine
Manuel de la Torre as a child in Spain. Photo courtesy of Lynn de la Torre.

Originally from Spain, de la Torre picked up his love of gold and techniques from his father. Fleeing the Spanish Civil War with his family in the 1930s, de la Torre went to Northwestern University and taught golf at a Chicago club before settling in Milwaukee.

Outside of teaching, de la Torre was known for his simple swing, or "swing the club head" technique - a teaching practice that differs from standard golf practices even today.

"It doesn't really matter, he would say, where your knees are pointing or if your elbow is close to your long as the club head came through the ball in a square position," Moe explains.

Although he was strict and methodical in his teaching, de la Torre always welcomed eager students. "He'd never charge you if you were a professional for a lesson. He charged amateurs far less than he could have charged given his reputation," says Moe.

Outside of his no-nonsense exterior, golfers and past students knew de la Torre as a special man who constantly worked for his students’, as well as his own, improvement.

"He would always be out on the range," says Moe. "(My son Quinn recalls that Manuel) was in the back of the golf shop reading a book on psychology. This was a man at 89 years-old, still trying to better himself."

Manuel de la Torre instructed and played golf as long as his health permitted, and despite being a giant in the golf instructing field, Moe says he always remained “an utmost gentleman.”

Audrey Nowakowski hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM in 2014.