OBJECTRichard Petty at a golf tournament? Well, yes, if you’re talking about the 2014 Marathon Classic at Highland Meadows.
That’s a first.
Michelle Wie will be there too fresh off another first.
At age 24, it seems like she has been around forever in a career that has had more downs than ups, more second-guessing, and more media and fan criticism than any young prodigy probably deserved.
But Wie is flying high now, scoring her first LPGA Tour win on U.S. soil last weekend at the Lotte Championship in Hawaii.
Mix that with three other top-10 finishes already this year and, lo and behold, look who is leading the LPGA earnings list with almost twice what she made all of last season. A new and fairly odd-looking putting stance has helped her chop more than two strokes per round off her scoring average from a year ago.
Marathon Classic director Judd Silverman said that Wie has signed on as part of a field that will also include Toledo-born tour star Stacy Lewis, former champion and fan favorite Paula Creamer, European standout Anna Nordqvist (a two-time winner already in 2014), top-ranked Korean Inbee Park, and, of course, the reigning champion, Spaniard Beatriz Recari.
Previously, it was announced that teen sensation Lexi Thompson, winner of the Kraft Nabisco major championship earlier this month, will also be playing in the local event, scheduled for July 17-20 at The Meadows.
“We couldn’t be happier with the quality of the field for this year’s tournament,” Silverman said as the depth of talent continues to grow weekly. “All of the LPGA’s top stars will be here and will put on another great show for the community.”
And The King will be on hand too. No, we’re not talking about Arnold Palmer, although that would be fun.
This is King Richard, the NASCAR legend who makes occasional appearances on behalf of Marathon Petroleum, the Findlay-based title sponsor for our LPGA event.
Petty, the most accomplished driver in stock car history and soon to turn 77, will be on hand for autographs during the first round on Thursday, July 17.
If Marathon really wanted an overflow crowd, it would arrange for Danica Patrick to show up the same day, put the two of them in souped-up golf carts, and have a demolition derby-type race from the 18th tee, over the bridge, and up the hill to the clubhouse.
Maybe next year.
Having King Richard on the grounds should be plenty of fun for one day. And a day later, the annual “Club 14” festivities on the par-3 14th hole will add the Labatt Blue Royale party deck, which sounds a lot like beer.
On a more serious note, Silverman said the tournament, which has raised $8.2 million for northwest Ohio children’s charities in its three-decade run, will bump its purse by $100,000 to $1.4 million. Also, thanks in large part to Marathon sponsorship, all four rounds will get international coverage on the Golf Channel.
Finally, Silverman said all active military personnel, police officers, and firefighters plus one guest will be given complimentary admission throughout tournament week.
Sounds like there will be plenty of kings, and queens, at Highland Meadows in July.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.