When the Jamie Farr Classic transitioned to the Marathon Classic last year, it was a break from a proud association between one of Toledo’s favorite sons and the LPGA tournament stop that bore his name for 27 years at Highland Meadows Golf Club.
One year later, the new title sponsor has settled in and is preparing to add some new wrinkles to the annual midsummer event in Sylvania.
The Findlay-based Marathon Petroleum Co. has not only brought financial support to the table, but also a design to fine-tune the tournament and hopefully help it grow.
Craig Weigand, Marathon’s manager of advertising and credit card marketing, said the success of the 2013 Classic actually exceeded his company’s expectations.
“We were thrilled with the welcome and enthusiasm that our partners and other companies in the area had for our sponsorship,” Weigand said. “We were thrilled with how the tournament went last year. All the plans that we had made were executed perfectly. Aside for the hot temperatures, everything was great.
“The competitiveness of the tournament was fantastic, and with [2013 champion] Beatriz Recari being the special kind of woman that she is, it was just great to see her win the first Marathon Classic.”
Marathon has worked with tournament director Judd Silverman and his staff to make some improvements and additions.
“After the tournament we sat down with the [tournament] committee and reviewed the entire event from start to finish — every detail,” Weigand said. “We came up with a list of best practices or things we learned from each of those. We have addressed numerous things.
“We want the whole experience for the attendees to be consistent from the minute they get here until the minute they leave. While the attendance was great on Sunday, it was not as predictable on the other days. One thing we wanted to do this year was add elements to make it more of a must-see destination.”
Most notably, the tournament’s sponsors have increased the overall purse of the Marathon Classic $100,000 up to $1.4 million.
Beyond that, Marathon’s objective is to increase attendance and generate more revenue for the tournament’s charities, and to ensure the best possible experience for the spectators.
“Having Marathon Petroleum become the title sponsor was like having a dream come true,” Silverman said. “You couldn’t have a better title sponsor.
“They’re engaged, they care about the charities, and they’re a northwest Ohio company, so they really take a lot of pride in the tournament.
”They want it to be the best one on the tour from a number of perspectives. One being the dollars we generate, and another one being the attendance.”
Weigand said that Marathon wants to give the tournament more of a regional scope instead of just being a Toledo-area happening. The company has pitched in with three company-related attendance boosters.
NASCAR legend Richard Petty will appear on Thursday. Saturday will be Marathon employees day, and Marathon’s annual corporate golf outing was set for the Monday after the tournament so that those guests could attend Sunday’s final round.