THE BLADE Enlarge | Buy This Photo
Meg Mallon said hello to the LPGA Tour at the inaugural Jamie Farr Toledo Classic in 1984. Her final victory came here 20 years later. She figured it was only appropriate to say good-bye at the same tournament. But we never got the chance to say the same to one of the Farr's favorite players and champions.
Mallon retired from competitive tour play after the 2010 Farr Classic, but didn't even tell family members in attendance until they went out to dinner after her final round.
"I thought I'd better wait because I knew we'd all turn into mushballs," she said.
And it wasn't until a couple weeks later, when she withdrew from the U.S. Open, that Mallon made an official announcement ending her career.
The Farr was on hiatus in 2011 because of the U.S. Senior Open being played at Inverness Club and all things LPGA sort of drifted from our thoughts.
But the Farr returns for its 27th edition this week at Highland Meadows and this will be only the second time in all those years that Mallon has not been in the field.
It does not mean, however, that she will not be in attendance.
Mallon has been named U.S. captain for the 2013 Solheim Cup -- the ladies' version of the Ryder Cup -- and the Michigander will take advantage of proximity to scout the American troops.
"I'm coming in for the weekend," she said. "I'm living in northern Michigan now, about 30 minutes west of Traverse City, so I'll definitely be coming down to Toledo for a couple days to look at the players."
Mallon played in eight Solheim Cups -- only Juli Inkster has scored more points for the U.S. in that competition than Mallon, who owned a 13-9-7 match record, including 5-2-1 in singles -- and was an assistant captain in another.
"It's my favorite event and, now, seeing it through the young players' eyes is so much fun," Mallon said.
A four-time major champion, including two U.S. Opens, Mallon posted 18 career victories and earned more than $9 million on the LPGA Tour.
Majors aside, her favorite win might well have come at the 2004 Farr if only because of a couple bizarre close calls in previous years.
In 1996, the last year the Farr was contested as a 54-hole event, Mallon fired a 6-under-par 65 in the first round and was the sole leader. Her round included a 15-foot birdie putt at the par-5 17th hole at Highland Meadows that dangled on the lip for as many as 18 seconds before finally succumbing to gravity. She soon signed a scorecard that included a '4' on that hole.
THE BLADE Enlarge | Buy This Photo
Mallon said she knew the 10-second rule regarding putts, but felt the ball was rocking on the lip and that the moving-ball rule applied. In fact, at one point she was prepared to tap the ball in when a playing partner advised her that the ball was still moving.
After telling the story to some players on the range and at dinner that evening, Mallon had second thoughts about which rule applied. So she called the on-site tour office the next morning, rules officials reviewed the TV tape and counted seconds, and determined she should have been assessed a two-shot penalty. Since Meg had signed an incorrect scorecard she was disqualified. It is believed to be the only time in LPGA history a tournament leader has been DQ'd.
"It was really weird because I went out to the course and was standing near the range when I looked over toward [No.] 18 and saw them take my name off the leaderboard," Mallon said.
She was pretty high on the same board five years later with her ball in a green-side bunker during a weekend round. Sensing her sand wedge was stuck in the bag between other clubs, she gave it an extra yank only to see if fly from her hand and have the grip end brush the sand as it landed. Technically, she had grounded her club in a hazard and absorbed a two-stroke penalty that knocked her out of contention.
So when a 10-foot putt at No. 18 gave Mallon a third birdie in four holes and a one-shot victory over Se Ri Pak and Karen Stupples in 2004, it was accompanied by what tournament director Judd Silverman called "the loudest roar I've ever heard out here."
Said Mallon: "I can't tell you how much that win meant because Judd gave me my first professional golf experience with a sponsor exemption in '84. Cheryl Stacy and I were teammates at Ohio State. I'd won the Michigan Amateur in '83 and I think Cheryl won the Ohio Am. So we were both invited to play in the Farr as amateurs that year. It was my first LPGA event and I was hooked. I went back to Ohio State and knew for sure I wanted to be a professional golfer.
"It all started at that tournament and I owe a lot to the Farr Classic. I always wanted to win there so badly. I had a couple bad breaks along the way and it took 20 years, but when it finally happened it was wonderful."
During a five-week period in '04, Mallon won her second U.S. Open, the Canadian Open and the Farr Classic. There was no warning at the time -- in fact it would have seemed ludicrous under those circumstances -- that Meg would never win again on the LPGA Tour.
But family health issues began weighing on a player who said her greatest joy in competition was performing in her family's presence, especially in places like Toledo, and for their enjoyment.
In 2005, Meg's sister Tricia was diagnosed with abdominal cancer and several months later their father, John, died of a heart attack. Mallon's mom, Marian, suffered a brain hemorrhage in 2001 and had need for constant care until her passing earlier this summer.
Meg took part of the '06 season off and played something of an abbreviated schedule in subsequent years, spending as much time as possible with Tricia and her family before Tricia's death in March, 2010.
"They were a big part of why I played golf and it became very difficult for me to play," Mallon said. "It wasn't the same."
In late June of 2010 Mallon returned for the LPGA Championship, where she was paired during the first two rounds with Karrie Webb and Angela Stanford. It didn't take her long to realize something was missing.
"They were getting mad over shots and I was getting mad that I wasn't getting mad," Meg said. "I was standing on a green in the middle of a round and I said to myself, 'This is it.'
"A week later we were in Toledo and that was the perfect place for me to end it. The Farr was my first tournament, my last win, and I decided it should be my last tournament. It had become a very special event for me."
Mallon will be back next weekend as something of a spectator. So if you see one of the Farr's all-time favorite champions walking the grounds at Highland Meadows, feel free to say hello … and a belated good-bye.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: email@example.com or 419-724-6398.