After taking 2011 off because of a conflict in Toledo with the US Senior Open at Inverness, the Jamie Farr Classic returns to Toledo this week. Because the tournament is just 40 mintues from GolfBlogger HQ in Ann Arbor, I decided to take in the week as a member of the media (thanks, LPGA!).
With a total purse increase to 1.3 million, the Jamie Farr has attracted a top field, including 18 of the top 20 in the world. World Number 2 and tops on the LPGA money list Stacey Lewis is the headliner along with defending champ Na Yeon Choi, who won the 2012 US Women’s Open. Choi currently is #3 in the world.
Just for perspective, the original purse in 1986 was $175,000.
The tournament has come a long way, but still looks as though it is struggling compared to a PGA Tour event. For example, the Farr is not on television this week because the sponsors chose not to pay for tv coverage. I find it startling that if the LPGA tournaments want television, they need to pay the networks, rather than the other way around.
It’s a shame really, that the LPGA is given such short shrift. The talent level is tremendous. Forget about the braggarts at your local club. Any of these gals would cash in quickly playing them for money. They’re not as long as PGA Tour players, but with 92 of the top 100 players averaging 250 yards or more, they’re plenty long. For perspective, in spite of what your playing partners think, the average amateur driving distance is 200 yards. That doesn’t mean that players don’t occasionally uncork a 275 yarder, but those are leavened by the 190 yard pop ups, skulls and other amateur errors. Having watched PGA Tour and Senior Tour practice rounds, I observed that the ladies practice just as hard, using the same methods as the men’s tour players.
Even better:the players are incredibly friendly. As I was walking the course today, a lot of the players smiled and waved hello as they passed. Their caddies have their players’ twitter handles on their bibs. In fact, if I were going to introduce a kid or a newbie to professional golf, I’d go out of my way to get them to an LPGA tournament.
If you’re in Southeastern Michigan or Northern Ohio this weekend, I recommend taking a family outing to the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic.