Altvater: Actor Jamie Farr has never lost his Toledo rootsWritten by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
Jamie Farr, who portrayed Cpl. Max Klinger on the popular television series “M*A*S*H,” agreed to lend his name and celebrity to the original Jamie Farr Toledo Classic tournament in 1984.
His willingness to help promote the event during the past 28 years has allowed the annual Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tournament to succeed where many others have not been so lucky.
Toledo Free Press recently had a chance to ask Farr how he came to be associated with the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic, presented by Kroger, Owens Corning and O-I.
In 1983, “M*A*S*H” was just going out of production and Farr was not sure what direction his life would take. He had always enjoyed watching golf and now, with some free time on his hands, decided to start playing the game. He bought a set of clubs, joined a club and hit the driving range to set about learning to hit the little white ball.
Singer and actress Dinah Shore learned of Jamie’s new hobby and invited him to play in her LPGA tournament — now an LPGA Major — the Kraft Nabisco Championship in Palm Springs, Calif., where Farr was paired with LPGA legends Beth Daniel and Nancy Lopez.
This was about the same time Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) professional Craig Stadler’s caddie and eventual Jamie Farr founder and tournament director Judd Silverman was seeking a celebrity who would help promote an LPGA golf tournament in Toledo.
Silverman felt Farr would be the perfect match as a celebrity host. He was a likeable television star and hometown Toledo boy done good. And Silverman needed a big name to get the LPGA to take his bid to start an event in Toledo seriously.
Silverman was originally able to contact Farr through Farr’s childhood friend, Don Michel. Michel was a local McDonald’s franchise owner and was involved with the Ronald McDonald House in Toledo, which was to be the first beneficiary of the proceeds from the new golf tournament.
The LPGA commissioner at the time, John Laupheimer, approved the idea and the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic was born. Without the involvement of Farr from the outset, the tournament might never have gotten off the ground. Now, 28 years later, the tournament is still growing.
In an email to Toledo Free Press, Farr said he thoroughly enjoys his association with the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic and looks forward to the annual tournament. He said he is very proud of the millions of dollars that have been donated to the many deserving Toledo-area charities.
Asked about the current state of his golf game, the 73-year-old Farr said he still loves the game, but doesn’t play as often as he used to. His best handicap throughout the years was an 18 and he currently plays to a 23 handicap.
He went on to add that his game is somewhat unpredictable, but then retracted: “I take that back. My game is very predictable. … It stinks.”
Farr does golf and plays in charity events and tournaments sponsored by former NFL quarterback Jim Kelly and singer Michael Bolton as well as the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Farr said the game is great fun although it brings with it great frustrations for amateurs and pros alike. He said he appreciates the complexity of the game and its appeal to golfers everywhere.
“No one has ever owned the game. Not Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer nor Bobby Jones,” Farr said. “It is just on loan to those who have excelled. I have often said that the clubs in an amateur’s hands is called equipment, but in the hands of professionals is called instruments.”
Farr wanted to express his appreciation to everyone connected to the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic who have helped make it a first-class event.
He mentioned the efforts of Silverman, his staff and the more than 1,200 volunteers and sponsors who donate time and money to make the event a success.
Farr also wanted to thank the Toledo area business community, all the tournament chairmen over the years, the mayors of Sylvania and Toledo and the various governmental agencies that provide the services needed to carry out an event of this size.
Farr also wanted to recognize Highland Meadows Golf Club and Inverness Club for providing such wonderful facilities for the pro-ams and events that surround the tournament.
“I give a rousing, thunderous, standing ovation [to all],” Farr said.
Although he is not able to get back to the Toledo area as often as he would like, Farr said the tournament gives him a perfect reason to return every year and spend time with family and friends. Farr has never lost his Toledo roots and continues to give back to the area. He also donates time to promote the Toledo Symphony Orchestra and Toledo-Lucas County Public Library. In 2011, he recorded the holiday poem “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas” for a Toledo Free Press CD that benefited the Northwest Ohio Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“I try to give back as much as I can when I can,” Farr said.