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Published: Sunday, 6/28/2009

Jamie Farr Classic: It takes a city to raise a tourney

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

It has been evident for some time now that the 25th Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic won't be the most prosperous in terms of giving to charities. The recession has caused some corporate sponsors to rein in monetary support this year.

One thing a bad economy can't take away is the tournament's longevity and reputation, though. The milestone offers a lot to celebrate.

Kicking off in 1984, the LPGA tournament in northwest Ohio has raised more than $6.2 million for charities. Several groups of people deserve credit for the tourney becoming a mainstay on the LPGA Tour.

As a 27-year-old, tournament director Judd Silverman came up with the idea for what was then the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic in late 1983. He knew what he was trying to do was a major undertaking.

Nancy Lopez, a four-time Farr Classic runner-up, doesn't play anymore but still comes back to be a part of the event because Toledo is one of her favorite places.
<br>
<img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/assets/jpg/TO66067417.JPG> <b><font color=red>VIEW: </b></font color=red> <a href="/assets/pdf/TO67505628.PDF" target="_blank "><b>2009 Jamie Farr Classic fan guide</b></a> Nancy Lopez, a four-time Farr Classic runner-up, doesn't play anymore but still comes back to be a part of the event because Toledo is one of her favorite places. <br> <img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/assets/jpg/TO66067417.JPG> <b><font color=red>VIEW: </b></font color=red> <a href="/assets/pdf/TO67505628.PDF" target="_blank "><b>2009 Jamie Farr Classic fan guide</b></a>
LUKE BLACK / BLADE Enlarge

"I knew it was going to take the help of many, many companies and hundreds of volunteers," Silverman said. "We're fortunate people liked the product. They liked watching the gals play, and playing in the pro-am. It just grew. The first year we had one pro-am and didn't have a title sponsor. Now we have four pro-ams, and Owens Corning and Kroger as title sponsors."

Silverman feels the tourney received a big boost when Jamie Farr, known for his role on TV's M*A*S*H, agreed to have his name on the tournament. The Toledo native has traveled from his home in California every year, putting on a show on the Tuesday night of tourney week and doing whatever else is asked of him.

"He took the risk by lending his name to this event," Silverman said. "It provided us with instant credibility. That made a difference to sponsors that Jamie was willing to put his name on this."

Last year the Farr Classic donated $350,000 to 15 children's charities in the area. Silverman said it remains unlikely they will be able to match that amount this year but that things are looking better every day.

Judd Silverman started the Farr Classic, but credits the community for its success and longevity. Judd Silverman started the Farr Classic, but credits the community for its success and longevity.
ZAPOTOSKY / BLADE Enlarge

"It's been a very challenging year," Silverman said. "I am very optimistic about what we're going to be able to give to charity at the end of the day. It may not be as much as last year, but we're not giving nothing. It's the toughest climate we've faced in 25 years."

Each year the Farr needs more then 1,200 volunteers to make sure everything throughout the week runs smoothly. As many as 75 percent of the voulunteers are repeats from the year before. Then there's Roy Rozell, an 81-year-old from Montpelier who has volunteered at the Farr each year of its existence.

"I belong to Rotary and back in 1984, a representative back came out and spoke at our Monday luncheon," Rozell said. "A friend of mine and I decided it would be something interesting. We signed up and tried it, liked it and stayed with it. It was something new for the area, entirely new."

Rozell worked for several years as a hole captain and is now an area captain, in charge of the first six holes.

"It was not easy. There were very few of us at first," Rozell said. "It's grown tremendously. The Toledo area really responded as far as

having people show up."

Having some of the same volunteers year after year is vital to the success of the tournament, Silverman said.

Having some of the same volunteers year after year is vital to the success of the tournament, Silverman said.

"Our volunteer leadership is definitely very experienced in organizing and executing this tournament," Silverman said.

A handful of LPGA golfers has played in nearly every Farr Classic. 2004 champion Meg Mallon is one, receiving a sponsor's exemption in 1984 as an amateur.

Nancy Lopez, the most popular women's golfer in the country, is another. She has never won the Farr, but it's not as if she hasn't come close.

Lopez has finished runner-up at the Farr four times, including the first two years of the tournament in 1984 and 1985. She'll never forget one of those runner-up finishes, in 1988 when she finished second to Laura Davies.

"On the back nine, I was right down the fairway and she was in the trees," Lopez said. "She was 300 yards away, she was way out there. She chipped in from off the green to win it.

"I've always loved Laura Davies. It was a fun competition head-to-head with her. But that was one of the times I remember finishing second when I felt like I should have won."

Even though Lopez couldn't add the Farr to her list of nearly 50 LPGA victories, she still holds northwest Ohio in high regard. She doesn't feel her game is ready right now to compete in the tourney, but she is coming to play in the six-hole celebrity event on Tuesday and attend the gala dinner.

"Toledo's one of my favorite places," Lopez said. "I have a few favorite places on tour that I enjoy going to. It's because of the support of the community, the job that they've done with that tournament. The volunteers have pride in the event and how they put it together. They're there year after year. It's nice to have that."

Silverman believes the anniversary of the first Farr Classic should be celebrated by everyone who attends the event this week.

"It's a big accomplishment for the community," Silverman said. "We should all be proud of it because so many people and so many businesses have contributed to the success. This tournament belongs to the community. The community has taken it this far."

Contact Maureen Fulton at:

mfulton@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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