The Illinois Valley, Illinois State University, Florida, the golf world and society lost a legend Monday.
After suffering from a stroke in November in Davie, Fla., golf legend Mary Dagraedt, 88, came back to the Illinois Valley to rehabilitate surrounded by her family. Although Dagraedt’s health had improved, she suffered another stroke on June 28 and passed away Monday.
“My aunt was good at everything,” said Peggy Shinnick, 63, of Ottawa, who is Dagraedt’s niece. “We always knew how good she was. When we were growing up we really didn’t know all of the details. In these past eight months, my sister (Kathy Rossi, 61, of Oglesby), my brother (Mark Dagraedt, 56, of Cherry) and I have been in Florida trying to clean up her affairs down there and get her condo ready to sell.
“We have went through scrap books, memorabilia, news clippings, trophies, plaques and all of the awards she has received. The news clippings will tell you about how she was a fantastic softball player. In one game she struck out 20 batters and hit four home runs. She was asked to sign with the Chicago Bluebirds (of the National Girls Baseball League, 1944-54) to play softball, but she would rather pursue golf.
“We’re just amazed with everything she was involved in.”
Dagraedt has the resume to back up Shinnick’s claims.
The Peru native was born in 1931, graduated from La Salle-Peru and then attended Illinois State University, where she graduated in 1952 with a bachelor’s degree and later got her masters for physical education.
While at ISU, Dagraedt was on five Redbird teams as she played badminton, field hockey, volleyball, women’s basketball and women’s tennis in 1949-51.
However, golf became the sport she stuck with after a golf lesson to prepare her to teach the sport in class led to a newfound love.
“My house is a tribute to Aunt Mary right now,” said Rossi, who along with Peggy and Mark are the children of Gilbert Dagraedt who is the only living of his three siblings. “We cleaned out her condo and brought all of her plaques, articles and trophies back from Florida. She’s quite the legend in golf.
“She was generous to a fault. I get her mail here now. She donated to every non-profit organization in America, I think. She believed in helping everyone. She is truly a wonderful woman. We’re all going to miss her. She didn’t just belong to us, she belonged to the world. There is a piece of her everywhere. We’re getting so many people writing to us from the LPGA and all of the people she golfed with in Florida and all over the world.”
Dagraedt was a physical education professor and a golf coach at Miami-Dade Community College- North Campus and a golf coach at Florida International University.
She started the golf program at Miami-Dade and led it to 18 straight Florida Collegiate Golf State championships, three national championships and one second place. In 1975, Golf World Magazine ranked Miami-Dade as the No. 1 junior and senior collegiate teams in the country.
Often called the women’s golf pioneer, Dagraedt was the LPGA National Chairperson (1973-75), won the LPGA National Teacher of the Year (1974), LPGA National Coach of the Year (1981) and the LPGA National Professional of they Year (1984).
She wrote articles in golf magazines and co-authored a book “Golf-Allyn and Bacon Series in Basic Concepts of Physical Activity” with Bruce Fossum in 1969. The book is still available on Amazon.
If the resume wasn’t impressive enough, Dagraedt was inducted into five golf hall of fames — LPGA Teaching and Club Professional Hall of Fame, National Golf Coaches Hall of Fame, Illinois State University Athletics Percy Family Hall of Fame, Florida Community College Activities Association Hall of Fame and Sports Society Hall of Fame.
Although she lived in Florida and extended her golf genius, Dagraedt returned to the Illinois Valley every summer as she co-founded the Illinois Valley Women’s Golf Invitational in 1958 and was the golf pro for numerous local golf courses.
“I was actively involved with her for 30 years with the Illinois Valley invitational for the guidelines she provided each and every course and every club pro,” said Kathy Potthoff, who is the IV Women’s Golf Invitational secretary. “She was invaluable. She made sure this invitational was being conducted like all of the other ones she has officiated. If there was a question, Mary had the correct answer. She had the correct guidance.
“She was a special lady. What she meant to the women and men in the Illinois Valley was invaluable — priceless, actually.”
Potthoff knew Dagraedt loved the rules of golf and was the one to go to if there was a question.
In fact, Dagraedt was the one who wrote up certification training for PGA and LPGA officials so there was uniform guidelines and procedures for all of the rules.
“We think Aunt Mary took all of the athletic ability in the family and that’s why we don’t have any,” Rossi said. “Mark plays golf and Peggy’s children are athletic. Maybe, Peggy and I got the love of clothing from her instead of the athletics.
“She had a love for clothing. She would bring us our clothing for the whole year. She clothed us our entire lives. We all have way too many clothes now. She won the Best Dressed Golfer from a golf magazine. When she flew in to receive the award, she lost her luggage and she didn’t get to wear what she wanted to wear.”
Beyond the sports and clothes, she had just as much compassion for life and the people around her.
There wasn’t anything Dagraedt wouldn’t do for someone no matter where she met you.
“If you came into your life, she made sure she was involved,” Shinnick said. “For her teams, she would buy them uniforms and find them places to live if they were coming from far away. She used her own money to get them into the right tournaments with proper competition. Aunt Mary was pretty passionate about dressing properly and made sure they were clothed correctly. She did so much for so many people. We know, she was our aunt, but she belonged to such a bigger thing.
“We were trying to come up with a quote for the urn her ashes are going to be in. We came up with something we’ve fallen in love with, ‘In golf and in life, play by the rules and always follow through.’”
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.