Friday at The FarrWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | email@example.com
As an annual fundraising event evolves into a tradition, it comes to resemble a great white shark — always hungry, predatory by nature and doomed to die if it loses momentum and stops moving forward.
There are a number of regional fundraisers that people still patronize, through belief in the charity and out of social habit; it would be boorish to name one, but I have no doubt that the local people in charge of corporate philanthropy will have at least three examples in their thoughts before they finish reading this sentence.
I do not know what inspired Judd Silverman, executive director of the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic, to broach the idea of Friday at The Farr, but he will look back in five or 10 years and recognize the idea as one that added dimension and excitement to the tournament he has operated since 1984.
At the PGA’s Phoenix Open, the 16th hole serves as a break from the dry decorum that simultaneously makes golf attractive to enthusiasts and as boring to everyone else. At the 16th hole, bleachers form an amphitheater filled with beer-drinking fans who cheer, boo, try to endear themselves to players and generally act like Larry, Curly and Moe at a high-society dinner. It is, in other words, loose and fun, words that rarely apply to golf spectatorship.
Silverman pitched the Phoenix concept to a group of young men that included entrepreneurs Stephen Vasquez and Franz Gilis. Vasquez and Gilis recognized the idea’s potential in Toledo, and stepped up to turn the concept into a reality. When they approached Toledo Free Press about being a media sponsor, Publisher Tom Pounds and I were immediately interested and enthusiastic. Firstly, we recognized the long-term possibilities the event offered to the growth of the tournament and our region. Secondly, we love injecting new, irreverent ideas into long-standing, old-school Toledo traditions and institutions, with an attitude mixing James Dean rebellion and Rodney Dangerfield maladroitness.
After some initial conversations, miscommunications and reinterpretations of purpose, the informal partnership was forged and we were off and running. I met with Vasquez and Gilis to pledge ad and editorial support and contribute the idea of a “Miss Klinger’s Club,” a public face for the event to appear in the ads and make TV and radio appearances. We needed someone eloquent, media savvy and cover-girl attractive, and since Vasquez, Gilis and I can collectively only offer two of those three features, we enlisted Toledo Free Press Star fashion columnist Lauren O’Neill, one of those rare women who could inspire a Prince song and a Dennis Miller monologue.
On Aug. 10, I accompanied a scholarly, stately group of friends to the par 3 14th hole at Highland Meadows. We all wore our Klinger’s Club T-shirts (high-quality gear produced by Image Group), crossed the course (the 14th hole was chosen because it was as far from my parked car as it could be and still technically be in North America — on many of the hills my companions could hear me huffing and puffing, “I think I can, I think I can”) and climbed to our seats in the bleachers. After 179 consecutive days of sizzling 200-degree weather, Friday at The Farr was launched on an overcast, drizzly day more suited for Rocket football than golf.
We greeted Vasquez, Gilis and O’Neill and settled in. The event could probably use an official presence to coach the cheering and keep the energy flowing, but the lack of such a presence created an atmosphere of spontaneity and edginess that veered from stretches of silence to wild group laughter. Farr officials later said 400 people filled the bleachers, with scores more hanging around the nearby beer tent — no other hole we observed Aug. 10 attracted as many spectators.
The Klinger’s Club crowd cheered great shots and good-naturedly booed poor shots (until an official admonished Vasquez to make the crowd substitute “ahhhhs” for “boos” — this caused a momentary panic when Vasquez announced “No more boos!” and some in the stands thought he said “booze”).
Jamie Farr made an appearance, looking up at bleachers dotted with T-shirts bearing his face and leading some cheers. A highlight was when the crowd started chanting “Caddy race! Caddy race!” and some caddies raced down the fairway; not every caddy took the bait, but the ones who did earned great applause. Most of the LPGA golfers smiled at crowd references to their college alma maters, laughed at the pledges of love and lust (“Call me, maybe!” was a popular one) and played along with the spirit of the 14th hole, tossing autographed hats, gloves, club covers and balls to the crowd. One golfer tossed signed boxes of cookies. My favorite moment was when the crowd, watching a golfer searching for a ball that had landed in the rough, began calling out, “warmer … warmer … warmer.”
Michelle Wie threw a ball into the stands, which I, a lineman with fingers like buttered sausages, deftly caught and pocketed. Wie later said she really liked the energy of the 14th hole, and while I doubt every golfer shared her enthusiasm, I hope the majority did.
Friday at The Farr is a smart, fun idea. Toledo Free Press is committed to helping the event grow and congratulates Silverman, Vasquez and Gilis for their vision and the effort they contributed to make it a success.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tags: Dennis Miller, Franz Gilis, Friday at the Farr, Highland Meadows, Image Group, Jamie Farr, Jamie Farr Toledo Classic, Judd Silverman, Lauren O’Neill, Lighting The Fuse, Michael S. Miller, Michelle Wie, Phoenix Open, Prince, Rodney Dangerfield, Steven Vasquez