Newsmakers 2013: Marathon replaces Jamie Farr as title sponsor of Toledo’s LPGA tourneyWritten by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
An announcement one year ago ushered in a new era of women’s golf in Toledo.
2013 was the first year television celebrity Jamie Farr bowed out and Marathon Petroleum stepped in as the new sponsor of the annual LPGA golf tournament held in Toledo.
Farr had provided the celebrity name that had graced the tournament’s marquee since its beginning in 1984.
A native of Toledo and a golf fan, Farr accepted the opportunity to become involved with the event when tournament director Judd Silverman was looking for a celebrity name to bring legitimacy to the tournament.
Farr became the perfect host for the event and over the years donated his time and effort to make the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic one of the LPGA Tour’s favorite stops.
On Jan. 8, 2013, LPGA Tour commissioner Michael Whan announced the change.
“This is tremendous news for the LPGA and the loyal fans of northwest Ohio. Marathon Petroleum is an extremely successful and well respected company and we are excited to welcome them into the LPGA family,” Whan said.
The economics of the times require a high-profile sporting event to partner with a Fortune 500 company to fund the million dollar purses demanded by today’s professional athletes.
For tournaments to attract the best women golfers in the world, it needs to offer large purses. The U.S. Women’s Open and the Evian Championship offered the largest purses on the LPGA Tour in 2013 with $3.25 million each and a first place check of $487,500.
In contrast by 2009, the total purse for the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic, with the help of Kroger, Owens Corning and Owens-Illinois, had increased to $1.4 million. Due to the lack of a prominent title sponsor, however, the purse shrank to $1 million for the 2010 tournament and the Toledo Classic was on the chopping block.
Getting Marathon onboard as the title sponsor for the golf tournament was the result of the successful efforts of Silverman and his team.
The Marathon Classic not only provides a big-time professional athletic event for the Toledo area, it also gives an economic boost to Northwest Ohio and the tournament has generated more than $8.1 million for local children’s charities.
The addition of Marathon as the title sponsor also allowed the Golf Channel to provide television coverage of the tournament. For four days Highland Meadows Golf Club and Toledo were given prime coverage on the fastest growing network in television.
Marathon was a natural partner for the Toledo Classic. LPGA Tour star Stacy Lewis was born in Toledo and Marathon is one of her main sponsors. Silverman’s efforts plus Lewis’ timely conversations with Marathon’s President and CEO Gary Heminger helped get the huge corporation on board.
“We are proud to be supporting children’s charities through this premier LPGA Tour event.” Heminger stated and went on to add, “We see a bright future for the tournament. Mr. Farr has left us a great legacy, and we are looking forward to partnering with the Toledo Classic, Owens Corning and Owens-Illinois to continue the tournament’s success. We are committed to keeping it a favorite among LPGA players and fans.”
On Dec. 20, it was announced the inaugural year of the Marathon Classic had raised $378,000 for 23 Northwest Ohio children’s charities and that the 2014 Marathon Classic would benefit 22 children’s charities in Northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.
In 2013, Beatriz Recari edged out Paula Creamer by a single stroke to win $195,000 from the total purse of $1.3 million. The Marathon Classic was Recari’s second win of the year. She went on to collect nine top-10 finishes and earn over $1 million, finishing No. 8 on the LPGA Tour money list.
The Marathon Classic and Highland Meadows Golf Club have a history of identifying the best women golfers on tour. Over the years major tournament winners, Se Ri Pak, Annika Sorenstam, Meg Mallon, Paula Creamer, Na Yeon Choi and So Young Ryu won the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic.
Fan participation is encouraged at the Marathon Classic and “Club 14” continued to raise the bar in fan interaction. Caddie races, prizes for the craziest outfits, singing and college-style chanting were all part of the fun at the 14th hole on Friday afternoon at Highland Meadows Golf Club.
“Club-14” gets fans and kids involved in the golf action. Players have embraced the rowdy concept and dish out swag to the thousands that fill the stands surrounding the 14th green.
Farr was recognized for his past dedication to the tournament with the naming of a scholarship after him.
“With great enthusiasm and as a reflection of everything that Jamie has meant to the tournament and the community, Toledo Classic Inc. has named our scholarship fund the Jamie Farr Scholarship Fund to preserve his legacy with the tournament,” Toledo Classic Inc. Board Chairman Richard Hylant said.
Farr’s name may be gone from the title of the Toledo Classic, but his hard work and dedication will be long remembered.