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Peru native Mary Dagraedt (right) hugs Carol Balconi after Balconi won last Sunday’s IV Women’s Golf Invitational. Dagraedt will be inducted into the LPGA Teaching and Club Professionals Hall of Fame this weekend during a ceremony at the Solheim Cup.
Peru native Mary Dagraedt wanted a crash course in golf in order to prepare herself for a student-teaching job in physical education during her junior year of college at Illinois State University in 1951.
It turns out Dagraedt’s introduction to golf would fuel a six-decade and running love affair with the sport.
During those years, Dagraedt, who know calls Lake Placid, Florida, home for nine months of the year, has helped spread her love of golf to thousands of students. During her career, she worked for 38 years as head professional at Spring Creek Golf Course in Spring Valley and also formed and led women’s golf teams at Miama Dade North Community College and Florida International University.
Now Dagraedt, already a member of four halls of fame for her legendary teaching and coaching career, is earning what she calls the “most important honor of her life” — as she will be one of three new inductees to The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Teaching and Club Professionals Hall of Fame during a ceremony this weekend at the LPGA’s Solheim Cup.
“(Golf) was the only sport I didn’t know how to do, and I was going to be a physical education teacher. I thought that I might be assigned to student teaching in golf — it was one of the classes we were supposed to take,” Dagraedt said of her introduction to the sport. “So I decided I had best learn — and learn fast.” It didn’t take long for the athletic Dagraedt to get hooked on golf.
“In a couple of years, I was playing in the state tournament. Even though I played all sports, golf became my life. I honestly didn’t care if I played any of the other ones.”
Dagraedt, who helped with lessons at six Illinois courses, has had a guiding hand in women’s golf in the Illinois Valley, from helping run the Illinois Valley Women’s Invitational to running the IV Junior Golf league for the past 10 years and organizing the IV Junior Golf Championship.
Her impact on area golf is immeasurable said one of her area students — former three-time NewsTribune Golfer of the Year Carrie (Riordan) Davis, who went on from her successful career at Hall High School to win the Ohio Valley Conference Championship while golfing at Eastern Illinois University and later teed up for the LPGA Future’s Tour.
“I think she’s had a huge impact on area women’s golf,” Davis said, “just because she’s so knowledgeable.”
“She’s helped with a lot of groups, just to get women out there, together, having a good time. She’s started a lot of that. She’s the connection between a lot of clubs, holding that together.”
Davis is just one of more than 80 future professionals Dagraedt has helped coach through the ranks. The list includes the top two career money-winners on the LPGA tour in Pat Bradly and Mary Beth Zimmerman.
While at Dade North, Dagraedt coached her team to 18-straight state championships and led the team to the first ever awarded national title in 1978 and won subsequently in 1980 and 1981. She coached at Dade North and FIU simultaneously, and was in charge of 30 girls from all around the world — including Zimbabwe.
The highlight of her lifelong involvement in golf came in 1973 when Dagraedt was granted a one year sabbatical from her teaching to study “all phases of golf.” The time and opportunities to study with golf’s sanctioning bodies proved invaluable for her teaching.
“I was able to go observe the teaching legends, like with the officials of the PGA at their tournaments,” Dagraedt said. “There was so much that I was able to do in that year — teach at the PGA business school, teach at national clinics. I was invited to do all this during that one year.
“1973 was just a real banner year for me.”
Dagraedt, the only person to receive all three of the LPGA Teaching and Club Professionals top honors — which included National Teacher of the Year in 1974, National Coach of the Year in 1981 and National Professional of the Year in 1984 — said her passion for golf hasn’t faded through the decades.
“Even to this day, I’ve been playing three to four times a week, even though I’ve retired from teaching. In Florida, I formed a group where I’m conducting tournaments for these better players every single week while I’m there. I play of course every single week at the same time.”
Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6995 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.
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