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Published: Tuesday, 5/12/2009

Economy down but Farr field full of stars

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

In the midst of a difficult economic climate, the 25th year of the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic has been the most challenging one for Judd Silverman and his staff.

Silverman said the fan experience at the LPGA tournament at Highland Meadows Golf Club July 2-5 will not change as a result of cutbacks. But Farr officials don't know if they can raise as much money for charity as in years past. The tournament has donated $6.2 million to more than 110 charities in its history.

"I don't know what the outcome is going to be," said Silverman, Farr tournament director. "Last year we gave $350,000. If we could give that now, I'd give my right arm. It's stressful for everybody.

"We're doing everything we can to drive dollars to our charities. We've never seen a climate like this."

One factor in the Farr's favor this year is the presence of one of the strongest fields in tournament history. Top-ranked Lorena Ochoa will play, as well as defending champion Paula Creamer, Brittany Lincicome, Natalie Gulbis, Morgan Pressel and Michelle Wie.

"There will be so many great players," Silverman said. "I'm happy for the community that they get to see the best. We haven't had Lorena when she has been No. 1."

Silverman welcomed back Creamer to Highland Meadows yesterday for a media day. He shared how pleased he was that the 22-year-old California native won last year because, "The Pink Panther has to win the Pink Panther's golf tournament. That's destiny there."

Creamer, with eight LPGA victories to her name, said she would have competed in the Farr Classic until she won because of the connection to her nickname to the Owens Corning mascot. She only needed four tries, and had two top-five finishes before winning by two strokes over Nicole Castrale.

"[Highland Meadows] just really sets up well for my game," Creamer said. "I feel strong there. It's a golf course I wish I could play every week."

In the opening round last year, Creamer wowed the crowd with a career-best and tournament-best 60.

"I could have shot 58 that day, easily," Creamer said. "There were shots I left out there."

Before lunch with the media, Creamer visited with students at Queen of Apostles school. She came to Toledo the day after returning from Tokyo, where she placed second in a Japanese major tournament.

Creamer hopes to defend her title when she returns to northwest Ohio in early July. She gave a scouting report on Ochoa, who will play in the tourney for the first time since 2004

"She's long, and when she gets hot with her putter it seems like everything's going in," Creamer said.

"She's a player with confidence."

Contact Maureen Fulton at:

mfulton@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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