Altvater: Marathon Classic makes Toledo debutWritten by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
Toledo is once again poised to become the center of the golf world as the Golf Channel broadcasts the Marathon Classic, presented by Owens Corning and Owens-Illinois (O-I), to 165 countries worldwide next week.
It will be the 28th time the LPGA has visited Toledo for a golf tournament, but the first time for a tournament called the Marathon Classic. The newly named tournament will be held at Sylvania’s Highland Meadows Golf Club on July 18-21.
Marathon signed on to be the title sponsor of the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic in January. Golf tournaments with celebrity names such as the Bob Hope Classic, Bing Crosby Clambake and the Andy Williams San Diego Open Invitational have disappeared from the PGA Tour over the years.
Toledo’s LPGA tournament needed a lead sponsor to provide the necessary funds to keep the event solvent and remain a viable tournament on the LPGA Tour. Over the years Kroger, O-I and Owens Corning have done a wonderful job keeping an LPGA event in Toledo, but $1.3 million purses and $200,000 winner’s checks don’t grow on trees.
Even with more than 1,200 volunteers to help direct traffic, aid with crowd control, provide individual hole marshals and drive shuttle vehicles, it takes a lot of money to run a top-notch golf tournament.
Marathon was a natural fit. It is based in Northwest Ohio and sponsors professional golfer Stacy Lewis, who was born in Toledo before moving to Houston, Texas.
Marathon is a household name in Ohio and southern Michigan. It was originally formed in 1887 in Findlay and has gone through many corporate changes over the years. Today it has more than 5,100 independently owned and operated franchise gas stations throughout the United States and is one of the nation’s largest oil refiners and pipeline transport companies.
Lewis has played in the Jamie Farr on several occasions and was given sponsor’s exemptions while still an amateur. She has been one of the most consistent players on the LPGA Tour over the past few years.
She won six tournaments in 2012 and was named the LPGA Tour Player of the Year. She ascended to the No. 1 spot on the Rolex rankings early in 2013, but was overtaken by Inbee Park of South Korea, who has won the first three major championships of the year and three other LPGA tournaments as well.
Toledo native Farr, who portrayed Cpl. Max Klinger on the hit TV show “M*A*S*H,” lent his name to the tournament for 27 years. Farr was introduced to golf when Dinah Shore dragged him to a golf course in the early 1980s. He immediately became a fan.
When Judd Silverman decided to bring an LPGA tournament to Toledo in 1983, he asked Farr to lend his time and celebrity to the event. Silverman needed a big name to draw fans and gain credibility with the LPGA brass to convince them to grant a tournament to mid-market Toledo.
When Silverman approached Farr through a childhood friend, he readily accepted. With Farr’s help, the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic has generated more than $7.7 million for 110 local charities.
Whenever the longtime tournament director is asked about the Marathon Classic, Silverman is proud to elaborate on the millions of dollars the local tournament has been able to generate for local children’s charities over the years.
With the addition of new title sponsor Marathon, Silverman believes charitable funds available for distribution will increase in future years.
Toledo’s tournament has a long history of attracting the top female golfers in the world.
Former winners include Laura Davies, Patty Sheehan, Meg Mallon, Annika Sörenstam and Paula Creamer.
Highland Meadows Golf Club seems to be a predictor of which LPGA player may do well at a U.S. Women’s Open. Many winners have been former tournament winners or go on to win the U.S. Women’s Open.
Solheim Cup captain Mallon won two U.S. Women’s Opens in her career. Her first came in 1991 and her second came in July 2004, just one month prior to winning the last LPGA title of her career at the Jamie Farr Classic in August 2004. She defeated another player that knew something about winning major championships, Se Ri Pak of South Korea.
Pak was especially fond of Highland Meadows, winning the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic on five different occasions from 1998-2007. She also won the 1998 U.S. Women’s Open.
Na Yeon Choi of South Korea won the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open after winning the 2010 Jamie Farr.
So Yeon Ryu of South Korea won the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open and blew away the field at last year’s Jamie Farr Toledo Classic, firing a final round of 62 to win by seven strokes.
In addition to her win in Toledo last year she had 16 top-10 finishes and won more than $1.2 million. She has not won yet this year, but recently finished runner-up to Park at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship and was third at the 2013 U.S. Women’s Open.
During a visit to Toledo in June, Ryu said she has fond memories of Highland Meadows.
Park has won six events on the 2013 LPGA Tour including the U.S. Women’s Open. She is the No. 1 ranked woman in the world and has a chance to win her fourth women’s major title of the year when the ladies travel to St Andrews for the Ricoh Women’s British Open.
Park would be the only woman ever to win four major championships in one year. Only two other golfers have won four consecutive major championships. Bobby Jones won all four majors in 1930 and Tiger Woods won four consecutive majors over two seasons in 2000-2001.
She will try to keep her streak going before making the trip to Scotland to attempt to make history and win the Women’s British Open.
Silverman and his staff do an excellent job annually of organizing and bringing such a fine sporting event to the Toledo area.
However, the ultimate winners are the Toledo area children’s charities that benefit from the millions of dollars raised by the tournament.
The Jamie Farr Toledo Classic brought the best women golfers to Toledo every year. With the new sponsorship agreement, the Marathon Classic can continue that tradition for many years to come.
Fred Altvater offers golf tips and videos at www.toledoohiogolflessons.com. Email him at BackNine@toledofree press.com or follow him on Twitter