LPGA golfer Stacy Lewis, from Toledo, smiles while practicing on the green during the Pro-Am Monday at Highland Meadows golf course in Sylvania.
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Stacy Lewis recounted the courtship between she and Marathon Petroleum, when the corporation was considering title sponsorship of the LPGA event in northwest Ohio.
It wasn't an easy sell.
Introduced to Marathon Petroleum CEO Gary Heminger by tournament director Judd Silverman, Lewis said Silverman gave her specific instructions -- getting a big-name, long-term tournament sponsor was vital.
“Marathon, they’re a company, they don’t like to jump into things lightly,” said Lewis, the No. 2 golfer in the world who was born in Toledo. “They really like to think about it and make sure it fits what they’re doing.”
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At a Marathon corporate event last summer, Heminger asked Lewis a question: “Why should I sponsor an LPGA tournament?”
Lewis admitted the question caught her off-guard, but she put on her game face.
“We have to sell ourselves and we have to sell our tour,” Lewis said this afternoon. “I must have given him a pretty good response, because now we’re at this point here today.”
The LPGA and the Toledo Classic, Inc. Board of Trustees announced in January that Marathon Petroleum would serve as the title partner for the tournament at Highland Meadows, and that the Golf Channel would broadcast the tournament.
“I really feel like I’m a part of Marathon being the title sponsor,” Lewis said. “I felt like I helped do that and I felt like I was a part of that. They’re so excited about it. I’ve been working with them a little over a year now. I got to know a lot of people with the company and it’s really cool to see it all come together. I’ve always said at the end of the day I want to leave this tour better than I when got here. Getting tournament sponsors and increasing purses and things like that, that’s what we’re trying to do here.”
Lewis opens the Marathon Classic at 8:30 a.m., when she tees off on the first hole with Michelle Wie and So Yeon Ryu, the defending tournament champion. Given her Toledo connection, Lewis’ image is splashed across posters and promotional materials around Highland Meadows.
“A lot of the other players have been giving me a hard time,” Lewis said of being the tournament poster child.