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Published: Tuesday, 8/10/2004

Farr flirted with seniors, but the LPGA will return

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

It appears almost certain that the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic will continue its relationship with the Ladies Professional Golf Association and that the tournament will return to its traditional early-July date next summer.

This time a year ago, however, the Farr's future as an LPGA event was not so sure.

The 20th edition of the Farr Classic that ended Sunday at Highland Meadows Golf Club was considered a success, artistically and financially, and the sponsors should come close to their stated goal of raising a record $500,000 for at least seven local children's charities.

Last year at this time, how-

ever, representatives of Toledo Classic Inc., the not-for-profit agency that operates the Farr Classic, met with officials of the PGA Champions Tour shortly after Toledo Classic Inc., in conjunction with Inverness Club, managed the highly successful U.S. Senior Open at Inverness.

Farr Classic founder and tournament director Judd Silverman admits those discussions took place and that Champions Tour officials were given a tour of Highland Meadows, but would not comment on whether future dates were discussed and just how far the talks progressed.

"Yes, we spoke with the Champions Tour," Silverman said. "It was basically a matter of gathering information for our board of trustees to be able to compare the price of doing business with both tours and, I guess, to compare the potential upside in relation to what we could generate for charity with both tours.

"My job is to present all viable options to our board so that we can make the best possible decisions for the future of the tournament."

Ultimately, the Farr's trustees, with Owens Corning's Sheree Bargabos on board as the top representative of the new title sponsor, felt that the event should remain aligned with the LPGA during the 20th anniversary of the tournament.

"I think the LPGA represents a lot of young people coming up through the ranks," Bargabos said. "There is a lot of international talent and a lot of diversity on this tour, which is very important to Owens Corning."

So the Farr, which could have signed a multiple-year agreement with the LPGA last year, instead agreed to a one-year extension.

"With the new title sponsor, we just took the one year so we could re-evaluate where we are after this year's tournament," Silverman said. "We wanted to make sure our title sponsor and presenting sponsor [Kroger] are happy and willing to move forward."

"Speaking for Owens Corning, we're thrilled with the way the tournament went," said Bargabos, OC's president of external systems. "The weather was gorgeous, the competition was intense, and I think we did good things to benefit the kids' charities. It's the type of quality event that our company likes to be associated with."

Silverman said the Farr will know in a few weeks if the goal of $500,000 for charities has been reached. Last year about $200,000 was donated to the charities, he said. Also, he said attendance this year was "up substantially" over last year, but he did not yet have exact figures.

It was because of the Senior Open, held in June of 2003, that the Farr requested a date change to August last year. Reportedly, Farr officials were displeased with the field that event drew and were not thrilled to have been assigned another August date this year.

"I know 2003 wasn't as good a field as they would have liked," LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw said. "But yes, I would have been surprised if any change had been made. We have 20 years here and a lot of equity and history has been built up. Plus, it's one thing to have success with a Senior Open and it's another thing to start an ongoing [Champions Tour] event from scratch."

Votaw said he was not concerned with the Farr opting for just a one-year contract renewal last year, saying the event was transitioning to a new title sponsor, "and it was an issue we were willing to respect and work through with a longtime tournament."

The Farr Classic just completed the first year of a two-tournament agreement with Owens Corning as its title sponsor. Its current contract with Highland Meadows also extends through 2005.

Silverman suggested that because of the status of both of those contracts, the Farr is likely to soon sign another one-year agreement with the LPGA.

Doing so a year ago after holding discussions with the Champions Tour may have given the Farr Classic the clout it needed to return to its traditional early-July date on the 2005 LPGA schedule.

The tour has offered July 4-10 on next year's slate and Silverman said last week that the Farr's board had verbally accepted and that a new contract would be signed in the near future.

"We had a preference for the LPGA when the discussions were being held a year ago, and we still have a preference for the LPGA," Owens Corning's Bargabos said.

Contact Dave Hackenberg at:

dhack@theblade.com

or 419-724-6398



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