Tournament play in the LPGA Jamie Farr Kroger Classic presented by ALLTEL starts today at Highland Meadows Golf Club, but for many folks the fun started sooner. Pro-ams ran Monday through yesterday, and all involved laughter, photos with pros, and autographs followed by food, beverages, and prizes.
The big social night was Tuesday. Nearly 2,000 people attended the Owens Corning Gala, “The 19th Hole,” at SeaGate Centre. The place was decorated with flowers and, of course, golf balls. Cocktail hour was a see-and-be-seen scene for most of the crowd.
At the same time, a private reception took place for tournament bigwigs. That's where one got the scoop: CNN anchor Leon Harris had not played golf since March because he was traveling to Africa and New York on assignment.
George Page of ALLTEL joked that Gregory Harrison, best noted for his role as Gonzo Gates in the TV series Trapper John, M.D., had the longest “drive” this morning: He arrived in Toledo at 1 a.m. after a flight that was delayed because of stormy weather. Ron Masak, best known as Sheriff Mort Metzger in Murder, She Wrote, played pretty well, according to his son, Bob Masak, who walked along at Inverness that day for the Toledo Edison/ProMedica Health System Pro-Am. Don Most, noted for his role as Ralph Malph in Happy Days, still has that wholesome yet mischievous look, with strawberry- blond hair and freckles. Like all the celebrities, basketball player Jim Jackson ran tight on time. He played in the pro-am at Inverness Club, skipped lunch, rushed back to Highland Meadows for the Dana Celebrity/LPGA Challenge, then changed for the gala.
Stephen Krull of Owens Corning welcomed everyone, as did general chairman Mike Hill of PepsiAmericas, and Jon Flora of the Kroger Co. Master of ceremonies was Chrys Peterson, pretty in hot pink, who kept things on target and had a few of her own comments, including a thanks to Judd Silverman for doing two tournaments this year - the U.S. Senior Open and the LPGA event. Tournament host Jamie Farr, who received a standing ovation, introduced the guest celebrities.
Comedian Tom Cotter warmed up the audience with continuous jokes. First he joked that Ms. Peterson's dress was made of OC insulation - pretty, but itchy. On the topic of flying, he joked, “Rich people board first, then we get to do the poverty parade past them,” and went on from there, keeping the audience in stitches with several jokes from his CD. Applause with whistles and cheers went to Cotter.
Then, what everyone was waiting for, headline entertainer Michael Bolton. He blew the audience away with his fabulous voice and passionate performance. Several songs were from his new CD, “Vintage,” to be released this fall. Bolton, a social activist who hosts an event to benefit women and children at risk, said, “We have a lot to be grateful for; thank you for supporting this [LPGA] event.” Then tears filled eyes as Bolton brought the house down when he sang the aria from Puccini's Turandot. After a standing ovation, he commented, “I'll continue to come back as much as I'm invited!” With that, a line quickly formed for celebrity autographs.
Seen in the crowd were Linda and Ed Reiter, Joe and Kathy Magliochetti, Cynthia and Pete Taylor, Chuck Krueger and Jan Skunda, Renay Conlin, Don and Mary Decker, and Pauline and Tony Shelbourn, who were with LPGA golfers Meg Mallon and Beth Daniels; the four have become friends over the years. Also seen was Tom Archambeau of the Toledo Food Bank board; the food bank is one of the tournament's charitable recipients. Dinner directors were Cathy Fynes and Jan Ruma.
The gala over, the majority went home, but partying continued in a private suite, where select guests mingled with the celebrities. Mary and Steve Saddemi were there with LPGA player Cindy Figg-Currier, who they have gotten to know over the years. Carol Kelly, who carted all the guest celebrities around, and Sharon Toth, who has been Jamie Farr's personal assistant for the past 12 years, were there, too.
Volunteers - all 1,200 - including tournament chairman Lynne Adams, make the week happen.
A FORREST of evergreen twigs along fairways marked with white yarn created the course for the Mercy Health Partners Putting Pro-Am Monday afternoon at Highland Meadows. The course was more difficult than it appeared. Each player brought a special putter, but alas, only the skilled prevailed - thank goodness for the pros who played with each foursome.
I was on Tina Tombs' team, and I knew I was in trouble when, with such finesse, she picked up her ball with the end of her putter. While we did not win, we had fun, and our team had something other teams didn't have - a caddie. The one male member of our team, Russell Hurford, who also made a hole-in-one on No. 5, joked it's because, “My occupation is making sure my wife is happy.” His wife, a member of our team, is Megan Manahan, vice president of marketing communications at MHP.
Other players having fun were Jim Albin, Larry Leyland, Imran Andrabi, Riaz Chaudry, and Carol Sizemore, who said she was just getting warmed up at the last few holes. Dee Saunders, there with her husband, Don, started out right with a hole-in-one on the second hole. Sherrie Hathaway, who is the 2002 national champion of the Fourth Flight of the Executive Women's Golf Tournament, played well, too, but joked, “I'm the best of the worst.”
Also earlier in the week, amateur players teamed with the pros for the Fifth Third Bank Pro-Am on Monday.
More coverage on the social scene at the LPGA will be in Monday's On The Town page.