Stacy Lewis, the Toledo-born LPGA Tour star, played in last week’s official Marathon Classic pro-am tournament with Marathon Petroleum CEO Gary Heminger, who had some questions.
“How can we make this better?” he asked her. “What do we need to do better for future years?”
Granted, he didn’t ask me. But, as usual, I have an answer.
Mine costs money, lots of it. I’ve found such answers are always easier when it involves someone else’s money, although I feel slightly invested after buying gas by the gallon for the past 45 years.
A golf tournament is somewhat landlocked by its schedule. Wednesday is pro-am day; Thursday through Sunday involves 72 holes of stroke play. It’s hard to do anything better on those days.
Early in the week is a different story, although the Marathon Classic, and before it the Jamie Farr Classic, has always led the golf world in pro-am tournaments.
Attendance figures are not announced, so it is strictly my educated guess that the crowds on Monday and Tuesday of last week numbered 19 and 31 people, respectively. (Note to aspiring writers: Always use odd numbers when you’re making stuff up. It’s funnier.)
The Tuesday crowd was “swelled” by a sponsored event called the Celebrity/Pro Challenge. I’m not sure how to define celebrity, although three UT coaches doesn’t quite cut it, and I’m not sure how to define challenge other than this six-hole, alternate-shot event being a challenge to watch.
Whatever, it’s stale, nobody cares, nobody comes and if you’re looking to create something better there’s the slot for Mr. Heminger to focus on.
Did you know the LPGA has a senior tour? Neither did I. But it exists. They will play 11 tournaments this year, many of them single-day, 18-hole events. None is conducted in conjunction with an LPGA Tour event.
How about the “Marathon Legends of the LPGA” event on a Tuesday afternoon at Highland Meadows? You already have the ropes up, you have marshals, the shuttle buses are running, the beer is iced, and the Golf Channel is on the premises. You might as well give folks in the ticket booth something to do.
Send out 20 invitations. Shoot for the stars. Invite Nancy Lopez, Annika Sorenstam, and Big Mama, JoAnne Carner. Ask Betsy King and Pat Bradley and Amy Alcott. Try Kathy Whitworth, Patty Sheehan and Beth Daniel. How about Laura Baugh, Jan Stephenson, Meg Mallon, Dottie Pepper and two-time Farr champ Kelly Robbins? Why not every ex-Toledo champion who’s no longer active on the regular tour? They’re our legends.
I imagine more than 31 people would want to watch them play an 18-hole tournament format. It would be safe to suggest 5,000 fans might show up, maybe double that. If a dozen players accept, that’s four threesomes. If more, well, the merrier.
Pay their expenses, get a local hotel (presenting sponsor) to fork over some otherwise empty rooms, and put up a nice purse.
When it’s over, usher them into a couple limos and whisk them downtown as guests of honor at the annual gala dinner at the SeaGate Centre. Sprinkle their seats throughout the crowd. Who wouldn’t want to break bread with Nancy or Meg or Big Mama?
But the 2015 Marathon Classic will be the tournament’s 30th anniversary. What better time or way to thank the legends who helped forge the event’s success and the fans who have long supported it?
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.