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Published: Sunday, 8/5/2012

'Friday at the Farr'

Phoenix hole inspires party idea at Highland Meadows

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
The 16th green of the PGA's Phoenix Open at the Tournament Players Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., is engulfed by skyboxes and bleachers and can hold up to 20,000 fans. The 16th green of the PGA's Phoenix Open at the Tournament Players Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., is engulfed by skyboxes and bleachers and can hold up to 20,000 fans.
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Fans looking for a little extra bang from their entertainment buck at this year's Jamie Farr Toledo Classic may find it during the second round near the 14th green at Highland Meadows.

That is where women's professional golf will merge with the atmosphere of a Mud Hens opening day at Fifth Third Field, or even an old Rally by the River along the Maumee from past years.

Stephen Vasquez, a membership development manager with the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Franz Gilis, an employee of P & J Sales, are co-chairmen of a steering committee that is organizing the first "Friday at the Farr" gathering Aug. 10 at the tournament.

The event will be held around the perimeter of the green on hole No. 14, where extra bleacher seating for up to 400 spectators will be erected, primarily for a group to be known as "Klinger's Club."

The objective is to create a special Friday night party atmosphere, and the 14th green area will have an extra beer sales line separate from the primary concession stand there.

READ MORE: 27th Annual Jamie Farr Toledo Classic Fan Guide

"It's called Klinger's Club, in in honor of Jamie Farr's character on TV's M*A*S*H," Vasquez said. "We're going to have white T-shirts with the Klinger's Club logo on it, and our goal is to kind of have it be like [Mud Hens] opening day.

"We want to have as many people as we possibly can get there and make it the loudest, craziest, most fun hole on the LPGA Tour. I don't think they have anything like that right now."

It is the hope of Vasquez that members of the Toledo area business community will be granted time off on Friday afternoon to gather, socialize, share business ideas, watch the LPGA players, and basically just have a good time.

"We're working with a group of young business professionals who had this idea to create this atmosphere out there," said Farr Classic director Judd Silverman. "They want to make it an annual thing where the whole town shuts down on that Friday afternoon.

"Businesses shut down, and they send all their employees out to the 14th hole for Friday at the Farr -- just a big, networking, social, fun atmosphere. And, at the same time, cheering on the players."

The concept is modeled after the 16th hole at the Waste Management Phoenix Open at the Tournament Players Club of Scottsdale, Arizona, which is typically the best attended event on the PGA Tour each year at over 500,000 spectators during the week, and a one-day record of 173,210.

No. 16 at the Phoenix Open is a par-3 hole which is completely surrounded by 150 skyboxes and bleachers, which create an amphitheater setting and, occasionally, a raucous environment for PGA competitors from tee to green.

"It's a pretty crazy hole they've got," Vasquez said of the Phoenix Open. "At this point they've got bleachers built all the way around the hole. It's a par-3 and it's a pretty crazy party atmosphere there.

"When we originally came up with the idea, Judd met with myself and a group of guys. He was looking at ways to get some new people [attending] who maybe have never been to the Farr. Or, some people who haven't been there for a couple years, and then just try to spice it up for the people who are there."

Poorly struck shots at the Phoenix Open are often booed loudly by the fans, many of them students from nearby Arizona State University. Conversely, great shots are greeted with thunderous applause, such as a Tiger Woods hole-in-one in 1997.

"We're going to start off with just Friday and, if it takes off and we get a good turnout, maybe in the next few years down the road we'll do it as a weekend thing," Vasquez said. "They've been doing it for about 20-25 years Phoenix, and they do it for the whole tournament. But, we're just starting off."

"Like an opening day for the Mud Hens, we just want it to become an annual event to go to the Jamie Farr on Friday," Silverman said. "Hopefully, that will spill over into the weekend."

The first 400 members of the unofficial Klinger's Club will be given free white T-shirts with a Klinger's Club logo, and all 14th-hole spectators on that Friday will be asked to wear some form of white shirts if they do not obtain one of the freebies.

Vasquez said that a shuttle service will be arranged, picking up people in the parking lot in front of Shawn's Irish Tavern on Heatherdowns Boulevard between noon and 1 p.m. on Aug. 10, transporting them to the main entrance at Highland Meadows, and returning them to the lot at approximately 9 or 9:30 p.m., following a post-tournament concert at the course's public pavilion area.

Performing that night will be a local band, Nine Lives, beginning after second-round play is completed (around 7 or 7:30 p.m.).

"Hopefully, this will attract some people who otherwise wouldn't have gone," Vasquez said. "Some people may not want to drive out there. So, they can park their cars, get on the bus, and go."

Contact Steve Junga at: sjunga@theblade.com 419-724-6461, or on Twitter @JungaBlade.



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