Marathon replaces Farr at LPGA tourney

Actor cites 'pending show business concerns'

Actor and Toledo native Jamie Farr.
Actor and Toledo native Jamie Farr.

Jamie Farr is no longer associated with the golf tournament that carried his name for almost three decades, as event organizers on Tuesday said Marathon Petroleum Corporation has become the title sponsor of the LPGA tournament in Sylvania.

The new name of the tournament will be the Marathon Classic presented by Owens Corning & O-I, a title that cuts ties between the gregarious actor and Toledo native and the event that that he has sponsored for 28 years. The split appears to be amicable, with the 78-year-old Mr. Farr saying in a statement that professional obligations could inhibit his attendance at the week-long affair.

"Because of pending show business concerns which may prevent me from hosting the tournament in the future, I have decided to pass the baton to Marathon," Mr. Farr said. "I am proud to be one of the founders of this tournament and am very proud of everything the tournament has accomplished over the past 28 years."

Mr. Farr, who is in Canada rehearsing for a stage production, did not respond to messages seeking additional comment.

Last year’s event at Highland Meadows Golf Club, which Mr. Farr attended, was called the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic presented by Kroger, Owens Corning, and O-I. Kroger is no longer a presenting sponsor under the new leadership but will remain involved in an unspecified capacity.

The removal of Mr. Farr’s likeness marks the final straw in the extinction of golf tournaments named after show business stars. Past tournaments have honored luminaries such as Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Jackie Gleason, Dinah Shore, Glenn Campbell, and Sammy Davis, Jr.

Mr. Farr will be welcomed at the tournament, which is scheduled this summer for July 15-21, but "he does not have any hosting duties," said Toledo Classic, Inc. board chairman Richard Hylant, whose committee helps organize the event. Mr. Hylant added a scholarship in Farr’s name will remain.

"We can’t thank Jamie enough for helping us get this started," Mr. Hylant said. "The work he’s done during the week of the event is a lot of work and he’s provided that time and given back to the community to help build this event. We really appreciate it."

Former Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner was disappointed when informed of the announcement, calling Mr. Farr’s impending absence a loss for the community.

"Jamie Farr is Mr. Toledo and he certainly is Mr. LPGA," Mr. Finkbeiner said. "The summer Christmas special that we enjoy as much as we enjoy the holiday in December is the week the LPGA is held here. As much as I wish Marathon and all of the individuals who pour their heart and soul into this every summer the best of luck, it is not going to be the same without Jamie Farr present on that week, present on the golf course through the practice rounds, and present through the trophy presentation on Sunday. It just isn’t going to be the same. I’m dumbfounded."

Tom Kelly, Marathon senior vice president of marketing, declined to reveal the length of the contract, offering only "it will be a multiyear commitment."

In a welcomed departure from last year, all four rounds of the tournament will be aired internationally by The Golf Channel.

The purse, which will be locked in at $1.3 million for a second straight year, will grow to $1.4 million in 2014 and $1.5 million in 2015.

Marathon, the nation’s fifth-largest refiner, has its headquarters in Findlay. The corporation, which had not previously held a major stake in the tournament, sponsors Toledo-born golfer Stacy Lewis. Ms. Lewis, the 2012 LPGA Rolex player of the year, finished tied for 11th at last year’s tournament, posting a 72-hole score of 8-under par. Rookie So Yeon Ryu captured the title, firing a 9-under 62 on Sunday to finish 20-under.

Mr. Farr presented Ms. Ryu an oversize check for $195,000, marking what could be the final time the former M*A*S*H actor is seen at Highland Meadows.

"Marathon’s commitment to become the new title sponsor of the tournament not only allows for greater exposure for northwest Ohio, but Marathon is genuinely interested in not only the charities supported by the tournament, but also the golfers, the volunteers, and the spectators who have made the tournament a success year after year ...," Mr. Farr said.

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @AutulloBlade.