The year 1994 was a bummer for Jane Crafter. Her father, Brian, who taught her the game beginning at the age of 6 in Australia, passed away and Crafter was forced to undergo knee surgery.
She followed with 19 events, but not a top-10 finish, in 1995 and ended up putting the clubs away for good at the beginning of September.
“I just wasn't having any fun,” she said.
So she decided to find out if there might be a future in another pursuit.
“My dad worked for a long time as a commentator for ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) with Peter Thomson and I had worked with them a couple times on women's events,” Crafter said yesterday at Highland Meadows Golf Club. “I'd heard from some people that I did a good job.
“So I asked for some of their old tapes and put together sort of a resume tape and sent it to the networks here.”
Within a year, ESPN was using her as an on-course commentator and NBC hired her to travel to Wales and help with the telecast of the Solheim Cup competition. She has worked extensively with both networks ever since and was part of the NBC crew at last week's U.S. Women's Open.
Not bad for a player who has posted a single tournament win in two decades on the LPGA Tour. In that regard, Crafter is similar to male commentators like Gary McCord, Roger Maltbie and Gary Koch, to name a few, who are at least as well known for their TV work as for their golf careers.
“I guess it's along the same lines of the best teachers not always being the greatest players,” Crafter said. “Everybody has different talents and we all draw on different facets of our personalities.
“The best thing I bring, I think, is my intuitive knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of different players. I don't have to think about it because I know them so well. I'm also fortunate that a lot of the players trust me enough with so-called inside information.
“Plus, I've been told this Aussie twang doesn't hurt.”
Crafter has played regularly in the Farr Classic and tied for fifth in the 2000 event.
“This is one of my favorite tournaments and golf courses,” Crafter said. “The fans treat us like queens, the course is beautiful and the greens are perfect. It's a course that can yield birdies if you play good golf, but it's certainly no pushover.”
HOLIDAY DATE: Ty Votaw, commissioner of the LPGA, said it is likely the Farr Classic will return to its somewhat traditional July 4 holiday dates beginning in 2005.
He said the U.S. Women's Open, conducted by the United States Golf Association, is again likely to be staged during the week containing July 4 for the next two years.
“My understanding is they will move it back a week, to the last week in June, starting in 2005 at Cherry Hills in Colorado and I think their intention is to keep that date,” Votaw said yesterday during a visit to Highland Meadows. “If that's the case, then the Farr could go back to the July 4 date.”
Before this year, when the Women's Open moved into the first week of July, the Farr was held during the week containing Independence Day in 12 of the previous 13 years.
UP TO CHALLENGE: The team of LPGA pro Lorie Kane and actor Gregory Harrison beat Vicki Goetze-Ackerman and actor Ron Masak in a chip-off to claim yesterday's Dana Celebrity Challenge at Highland Meadows.
Eight teams, with a feature pairing of Nancy Lopez and tournament host Jamie Farr, participated in the six-hole elimination event.
PRESENTATION: Nancy Lopez, who will soon exit fulltime play on the LPGA Tour, was honored at last night's Owens Corning Celebrity Dinner and Show at SeaGate Centre.
Lopez has had a long affiliation with ALLTEL, the Farr Classic's presenting sponsor. ALLTEL commissioned an artist to do a portrait of Nancy's father, the late Domingo Lopez, and presented it to her last night.
Also, the Farr Classic presented her with a check for $5,000 as a donation for Lopez's favorite charity, AIM for the Handicapped.
PRO-AM: The team of pro Angie Ridgeway and amateur partners Bob Sawatzki, Ken Stubbs, Brent Schull and Greg Kott won low-net honors in the rain-plagued Toledo Edison/ProMedica Health System pro-am staged yesterday at Eagles Landing Golf Club. The team had a handicap-adjusted score of 49.96.
Mardi Lunn's team (Deb Lewandowski, Don Seimens, Marcia Siemens and Chuck Woodmancy) was second at 51.22 while third place went to Michelle Dobek's team (Dan Cummins, Mark Standriff, Steve Kelley and Charles Jones) at 51.28.
Low gross was won by pro Carri Wood and her team of Steve Maggio, B.J. Claus, Dale Drerup and Laurie Keifer with a score of 57.
USED SET: Highland Meadows head pro Dave Samaritoni isn't playing any golf this week, but his clubs are.
Two foreign players, Giulia Sergas and Ana Sanchez, used his sticks during practice and qualifying rounds on Sunday and Monday, respectively, because their bags did not arrive in time. Yesterday and today, Samaritoni's clubs are being played by former NFL quarterback Jim Kelly in Farr Classic celebrity events.
CLOSEST EVER: David Sharp, a Brandywine Country Club member, came closer to an ace than any player in the history of the Key Bank/Fox Toledo $1million hole-in-one contest held in conjunction with the Farr Classic. Sharp's shot at the par-3 second hole at Highland Meadows hit the stick and stopped 2 feet, 3 inches from the cup.