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Published: Friday, 7/12/2013

Notebook: TV coverage to include all rounds on Golf Channel

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The Marathon Classic will receive its most extensive television coverage in tournament history later this week with all four rounds being shown live on the Golf Channel.

The tournament will be aired in high definition in the United States and 160 foreign countries through an LPGA Tour-Golf Channel production.

The time slot will be 2-4 p.m., Thursday through Sunday, and that will signal an early finish to play, weather permitting, on both Saturday and Sunday. The third and fourth rounds are scheduled to end in conjunction with the television coverage.

Marathon Petroleum's title sponsorship was designed, in part, to enhance the event's TV coverage and to take advantage of the exposure.

"We felt that one of the keys to partnering with the event was that we could get it back on television," Craig Weigand, Marathon's advertising manager, said recently at the tournament's media day. "We do consumer-based marketing and it makes a lot of sense for this to be a part of our advertising strategy."

Marathon Classic director Judd Silverman said that for LPGA Tour events, unlike many other sports, "television is an expense, not a revenue generator. In past years, for whatever reasons, TV hasn't been a great or an essential fit for our sponsors. Now, it's a great fit. I know the branding is very important to Marathon."

With constant references to the sponsors and the community, the TV production is like an eight-hour worldwide infomercial.

"We compete globally for investments in our community and we've got a lot to sell," Richard Hylant, chairman of the tournament's board of trustees, said recently. "Toledo and northwest Ohio is a good story and this kind of TV deal gives us an opportunity to tell it."

Doing the telling will be the Golf Channel on-air crew of Tom Abbott (host), Kay Cockerill (analyst), Rich Beem (hole announcer), and walkers Jerry Foltz and Val Skinner.

CLUB 14: A year ago, the tournament marketed Friday at the Farr in conjunction with a group of young business professionals. This year the Marathon Classic event will be called Club 14, as the action again takes place on the par-3 14th hole.

"We definitely hope to build on that," Silverman said. "It was sort of our spoof on the 16th hole, the stadium hole, at the Phoenix Open. We'll have a large bleacher contingent and we've sold a skybox, too, so we're expecting the crowd to grow.

"The golfers really embraced what we did. They threw golf balls and hats and gloves into the crowd and the caddie races from the tee to the green were pretty entertaining. It's a neat environment for a group of young adult fans. And it will lead right into an after-play party."

The Club 14 event will again be held during Friday's second round.

The after-play party, sponsored by Huntington Bank, will feature the Aaron Stark Band.

VENERABLE COURSE: Highland Meadows Golf Club is now the longest-running tournament site among regular LPGA Tour events.

The former Jamie Farr Toledo Classic conducted its first four events at the old Glengarry Country Club before moving to the Meadows in 1989. This week's Marathon Classic will mark the 24th LPGA tournament at Highland Meadows.

Locust Hill Country Club has hosted the Wegman's tournament in Rochester every year since its inception in 1977. Since 2010, though, that site has served the Wegman's-sponsored LPGA Championship, a major championship.

MONDAY QUALIFIER: As always, the final two spots in the Marathon Classic's 144-player field will be determined by a qualifying tournament held Monday at Sylvania Country Club.

The LPGA allows the local tournament to invite two amateurs to participate in the qualifier that otherwise includes both member and non-LPGA member professionals.

This year, the two amateur invitees are Kate Hoops, a senior-to-be member of the University of Toledo golf team, and Zoe-Beth Brake, a New Zealand native who just concluded her freshman season at Ohio State University.

Hoops was second team All-MAC this past season, posting a 77.3 stroke average that ranks as fifth best in UT history.

UT golfers have been invited to play in the qualifier 10 times. Tammy Clelland qualified for the then-Jamie Farr Toledo Classic in 2006 with a 2-under-par 70 in the qualifier.

SPONSOR INVITES: As previously announced, the Marathon Classic sponsor exemptions will be amateur Lydia Ko, the golfing prodigy who won an LPGA Tour event last summer at the age of 15, and northwest Ohio product Caroline Powers.

Ko, born in South Korea but raised in New Zealand, is currently the top-ranked women's amateur golfer in the world.

Powers, a Bowling Green High School and Michigan State University star, recently turned professional and is competing on the Symetra Tour. She also qualified for the U.S. Women's Open at Sebonack Golf Club on Long Island in New York.

A year ago, Ko won the U.S. Women's Amateur championship at The Country Club in Cleveland before becoming the youngest player and just the fifth amateur to win an LPGA tournament at the CN Canadian Women's Open.

TEEN QUEENS: Lydia Ko will be the youngest player, but perhaps not the only teenager competing in the Marathon Classic. Lexi Thompson, 18, is expected to make her first appearance in the Toledo tournament.

Thompson, who became the youngest player ever to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open at the age of 12 in 2007, was also the youngest to win an LPGA event before Ko came along. In 2011, she won the Navistar LPGA Classic at the age of 16 after which the LPGA, which normally requires members to be age 18 or older, granted her petition for membership.

In December of 2011, she added a victory in the Dubai Ladies Masters, a Ladies European Tour event.

TUESDAY CHALLENGE: The Image Group celebrity-pro challenge, a six-hole, two-person team competition, will be staged Tuesday afternoon at 3 at Highland Meadows.

None of the LPGA participants had been finalized as of press time, but Marathon Classic director Judd Silverman said he hoped former UT quarterbacks Chuck Ealey and Bruce Gradkowski, UT basketball coaches Tod Kowalczyk and Tricia Cullop, and representatives of the Toledo Walleye would be able to play as celebrity amateurs.



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