Dark skies and rain continued the second day of the 2012 Jamie Farr Toledo Classic, but once again the tournament avoided delays for hazardous conditions. Thanks to the soft, slightly muddy conditions, players used the lift-clean-and-place rules for the second straight day. The soft conditions no doubt were a mixed blessing. The greens certainly would be more receptive, but in their media center interviews, several players said they thought the course was playing longer than the yardage would indicate. The weather also was much cooler, causing So Yeon Ruy to comment that the temperatures made the ball harder for her to control.
Jennifer Rosales had a hole in one this morning on the 179 yard par three 14th, a feat accomplished with a four iron. Rosales won’t make the cut with a +5 overall, but picked up a consolation prize for her ace: a new Kia. I hope she gets one of the Optima Limited Editions they’re showing at various locations around the course. That’s a hot ride.
The 14th also is the site of the Klinger’s Klub, named after host Jamie Farr’s character in MASH. The tournament is trying to evoke the spirit of the 16th hole at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in creating an exciting, rowdy atmosphere. To fuel the situation, they’ve opened extra beer lines nearby. Local businesses have been encouraged to give employees Friday afternoon off to go to the Tournament.
Stephen Vasquez, membership development manager with the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the “goal is to kind of have it be like [Mud Hens] opening day. “We want to have as many people as we possibly can get there and make it the loudest, craziest, most fun hole on the LPGA Tour. I don’t think they have anything like that right now.”
It certainly was spirited. As in Phoenix, fans cheered tee shots that hit the green, cheered for good putts and chips and cheered for caddy racers (a pseudo contest where caddies hustle to be the first to the green). They groaned when players missed, but unlike Phoenix, I heard no boos. It’s a kinder, gentler crowd here.
Paula Creamer played to the crowd after finishing the hole, digging into a goodies bag that she had prepared for the moment and tossing the contents—hats, shirts and other trinkets—into the stands. She paused to sign several items before flinging them upward. Other players tossed the balls they used on that hole.
Creamer obviously is an enormously popular player. Everywhere I’ve seen her this week—even during practice and pro-am rounds— Creamer has had a gallery. Other players with good crowds were Michelle Wie, Morgan Pressel, Brittany Lincicome and Natalie Gulbis.
World Number Two Stacy Lewis’s gallery was in a class of its own, thanks to her local ties. Lewis, who was born in Toledo (but not raised here), has family and friends in the area who turned out in force. Many sported orange t shirts emblazoned with the words “Lew Crew.” The “club” apparently is sponsored by one of Lewis’ sponsors, Marathon Oil. It might have been a distraction for Lewis, who is currently t13. She said the fan club didn’t bother her, but did note that she felt more pressure to “play well for them.”
Once you get beyond the headliners, though, it gets lonely. Indeed, many of the groups played almost entirely unnoticed. I passed several who did not have a single spectator beyond the kid carrying the banner, the walking scorekeepers and officials. Even being in contention was no guarantee of a gallery.
Disparity in galleries isn’t just an LPGA phenomenon. At PGA and Senior Tour events I’ve attended, there’s also a pecking order. Galleries for marquee players are three, four and five people deep, often making it hard to actually see the action. Second tier players command one-deep crowds, unless they happen to be on contention. Still, I’ve never seen anyone playing alone.
To be fair, with the bad weather, attendance likely is less than expected. The weather on Saturday and Sunday is predicted to be terrific and I expect crowds to swell. At least I hope so. These top quality players deserve an audience.