Observations From The Jamie Farr Toledo Classic Final Round

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A crowd gathers at the ninth as Seo Yeon Ryu putts.

Four players started the afternoon tied for first. One by one, they fell back. But by the ninth hole, a crowd was gathering in anticipation of a special round from So Yeon Ryu. In the end, she shot a nine under 62 and finished twenty under par. That round included birdies on 3, 5, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 18.

Remarkable.

After the round, Ryu said that when she finally made a par at fifteen, it “felt like a bogey.”

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So Yeon Ryu tees off on the tenth. That would be the second of a string of six straight birdies.

Truth be told, it was all largely over by the time Ryu made the turn. Of the four who started the day in a tie for first at 11 under ( I.K. Kim, Jiyai Shin, Seo Yeon Ruy and Hee Kyung Seo), none made any further advance on par and finished at 11 under or worse.

Angela Stanford had the next best day. Shooting a -5, she worked her way from a t8 to solo second at -13.

As I said, it wasn’t close.

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A crowd follows So Yeon Ryu as she heads up the 18th

Ryu broke into golf in a big way with a win in the 2011 US Women’s Open, but this was her first regular LPGA win. She’s a product of the Korean Golf Association’s player development system, and having followed her for nine holes, I’m impressed by her game. Ryu, however, says that she has a long way to go with her short game to—in her words—reach the level of Stacey Lewis or Yani Tseng. To that end, she’s working with Dave Stockton. She said that a text message from Stockton prior to the round helped buoy her. Stockton’s advice: Keep smiling and enjoy the golf.

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Ryu evaluates her final putt.

While following Ryu, it occurred to me that the weekend hacker could learn a lot from these ladies. The game they play is much closer to the one we play than the PGA Tour. The ladies play from what I judge to be the middle tees and their club selection is what you might expect of a better male amateur. Ryu, for example, averages 260 off the tee. That doesn’t come close to men’s Tour players, but reliable studies show that the average amateur drives the ball just 200 yards (but THINKS he’s 30 yards longer).

What the ladies have over better amateur men is consistency. They just don’t have the misses that keep amateurs from having a good round.

Think about this: Ryu shot a nine under 62 from the men’s middle tees—with an average drive of 260. I challenge the braggarts in your weekend game to match that feat.

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Paula Creamer signs autographs after her round

Having spent a week at the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic, I’m sold on the product that the LPGA offers. It’s competitive professional golf in a family friendly atmosphere. Players seem to go out of their way to be nice to the fans, taking time after the rounds to sign autographs, pose for pictures and just generally interact with fans. Each caddy had their players’ twitter handles on their bibs, encouraging future interaction.

The facilities were nice and the entire place free of the detritus you might expect with large crowds. Beer and wine were served, but there were no bands of drunken rowdies. There were, however, lots of parents and their kids.  All the volunteers that I encountered—and bless them for their dedication—were exceedingly friendly and helpful. Not a surly one in the bunch.

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Volunteers donate their time—and money, since they have to buy their uniforms—to make the tournament work

If you needed something other than watching golf all day, there were a couple of distractions. Kia turned the entire course into a showroom floor, displaying cars at various locations. If you visited the Kia tent at the entrance, you could get a bar coded badge which you used to check in at the car displays. Spectators who completed the rotation could pick up a golf towel on the way out.

I’m infatuated with their Optima Limited. Several of the shuttle cars I rode to and from the media parking lot were Optimas. Nice cars.

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A Kia display

Near the entrance, Florida’s Natural Orange Juice, Kroger’s, Pepsi, Pure Silk, and Sunology all had tents with giveaways. Owens Corning’s Pink Panther (not Creamer; a person in a mascot suit) made appearances to get his photo taken with the spectators.

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Florida’s Natural Display Booth

Sponsor Owens-Illinois had a FourSquare game. If you “checked in” at different spots on the course, you became eligible for free drinks and other premiums. I never did find out where the premiums were located, though. I also found the game a bit curious because the official spectator regulations actually forbid cell phones. So … if cell phones are verboten, how was anyone expected to “check” in?

Finally a word about the charities this event supports: Aurora House, The Boys and Girls Club of Toledo, the Family and Child Abuse Prevention Center, Feed Lucas County Children, Kids Unlimited, Mom’s House, Ronald McDonald House, The Victory Center and the YMCA. The tournament also offers college scholarships.  Sometimes I think that in the excitement and fun of the competition, spectators can forget that virtually every professional golf event is staged as an effort to support local charities.

I’m looking forward to going back next year. Thanks LPGA for granting this blogger media credentials.

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