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Published: Monday, 8/11/2003

There's a golfer in the house

BY VANESSA WINANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER

For a week each year, dozens of LPGA players come to Toledo for the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic tournament. One might not think anyone could forge much of a bond in such a short time, but the families who lodge the pros tell a different story.

“Paul and I both feel she's like another daughter,” says Carol Kraus, who with her husband, Paul, and children, has housed Kris Tschetter for nearly 15 years. “We all just love her.”

Ms. Tschetter wound up at the Kraus house that first year because her caddy and she came to Toledo in an RV. They needed space for the vehicle, and the Kraus property had plenty. The rookie and the family of 10 immediately hit it off.

“That first year, we just clicked,” Mrs. Kraus says. “When you have a big family, it's easy to absorb one more. She had dinner with us that first night, and the next year, there was no question she was coming back here.”

As the years passed, the bond strengthened.

“One year, she called me from a grocery store in Virginia and wanted a recipe,” Mrs. Kraus says with a laugh. “That's when I knew she was just like one of the kids.”

This year, Ms. Tschetter returns with a new family member.

“She'll be bringing her baby this time. So we're grandparents! We're very excited.”

And since Mrs. Kraus already has cribs in her home, she's willing and ready to babysit. “I hope she'll leave the baby with me occasionally!” she says.

After so many years, the relationship between the golfer and family is as comfortable as an old flannel shirt.

“I can't imagine not hosting her,” Mrs. Kraus says. “As long as she's willing to put up with us, we'd love to have her.

“It's just like one of the kids coming home,” Mrs. Kraus says. “She knows where the cereal is, and where the fruit is.”

The Kraus family's luxe treatment sparks a laugh from tournament media chairman Michelle Hills. Her husband, John, and she will host Heather Bowie for the third year. A very different scenario plays out in their house.

“We never do any of that!” she says of the meals the Krauses provide. “I'll have beer in the fridge if she wants one, and she brings her own oatmeal.”

Which is not to say that the Hills family isn't fond of Ms. Bowie.

“She just so low-key and so fun,” Ms. Hills says. “When I first met her, I liked her. She was just so genuine. We hit it off right away.”

Their three children, Kelsey, 17, Maggie, 14, and Jack, 12, enjoy having the golfer around, too.

“Maggie just adores her,” Ms. Hills says. And when Kelsey was considering what she needed to do to pursue athletics in college, Ms. Bowie had plenty of advice.

“I have two daughters who are both athletes, and I think it's great for them to have the opportunity to meet someone who has the commitment to be a professional athlete.”

Kurt and Kari Schell know what she means. They have four children, Khloe, 11, Kyra and Kylie, 8, and Kolin, 2. They've hosted three golfers in the last few years, and appreciate how it has helped their girls.

“They always leave little things for the kids,” Mr. Schell says. “It's good for our daughters to have pros in the house. It helps them visualize doing great things themselves.”

A couple of years ago, they hosted teen amateurs Aree and Naree Song Wongluekiet and their parents. The Schell twins, Kyra and Kylie, bonded with the twin golfers, then 15. “There was a big connection,” Mr. Schell says.

“Their mother took over the kitchen and made all kinds of Thai food,” Mr. Schell recalls with a grin. “It was great. We're still in touch with them.”

Their current lodger is Korean pro Minnie Yeo. Mrs. Schell is also Korean, which created instant intimacy last year when they met the golfer.

“We connected right away,” Mrs. Schell says. “We like the same kind of food, and she loved seeing the rice cooker right away when she walked in.”

The family learns the ways of the women quickly. “They become part of the family while they're here,” Mr. Schell says.

And that's one of the best parts of hosting.

“It's rewarding to help someone chase their dream,” Mr. Schell says.

And when the dream comes true, the families respond. Bob and Nancy Wells have hosted Kathryn Marshall since 1995. Their relationship may be casual and low-pressure — the couple give her a key so she can come and go as she wishes — but when she won the tournament that first year, the emotion was overwhelming.

“It was her first and only win, and it was really thrilling,” Mr. Wells recalls. “I cried like a baby.”



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