Visiting The LPGA Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic

Your friendly neighborhood Golf Blogger made his way from GolfBlogger World Headquarters down to Toledo this past Wednesday to see the Pro-Am at the Jamie Far Owens Corning Classic, a longtime LPGA stop. In general, it was a fun and friendly experience, but a little different from other professional golf events I have attended (the Senior Ford Championship, the Buick Open, and the PGA Championship). A few random notes:

In general, I was surprised at how much “smaller” an event it was than the Buick and Senior Ford Championship. I know that the LPGA is a “smaller” tour, but I wasn’t expecting that much difference.

Attendance on the day of the Wednesday Pro-Am was about the same as I saw for practice rounds at the Buick and Ford Senior Championship.  Each group had ten or so people following it. A group of perhaps twenty was following Michelle Wie. It’s not fair to compare it to the PGA Championship, which is after all a “Major.”

In this age of enhanced security, I was a little disturbed to see that I was able to walk in with a backpack full of hardware (camera, cell phone, laptop, etc.) and no one asked to look inside. At the PGA Championship, people were being scanned with a metal detecting wand.

For that matter, I could have walked in without paying. The “ticket booth” was a small tent manned by two teen-aged girls making change out of a garage sale style black cash box. The price was right, though. A one day ticket was $15. A weekly pass was just $50. Given the high level of talent on display, I think it’s one of the best bargains in sports.

The volunteers were unbelievably friendly. Before I had gone twenty yards, I was twice asked if I had a pairings list. They were all chatty, and eager to point out players, good places to watch, and talk about tournaments past. This is the twenty-fifth year of the Jamie Farr, and two volunteers I met were in their eighteenth year of working the event.

Just beyond the entrance were six small “yard party” tents. Perhaps 12×12, they were occupied by local businesses. I honestly don’t recall seeing any of those at the Buick. They may have been there, but I didn’t notice them. Perhaps, though, that’s the LPGA version of the large corporate tents along the fairways that I’ve seen at the men’s tournaments. Those large corporate tents were noticeably absent at the Jamie Farr. Given the economy and the frowns directed by the Obama Administration at corporations sponsoring sporting events, I suppose it was expected.

The Pro-Am was a “scramble” and the amateurs seemed to be having a lot of fun. I noted that a good many of them were truly awful golfers. At one point, I watched four groups tee off before one of the amateurs hit a fairway. A couple, I think, had not played much golf before. One of the guys in Lorena Ochoa’s group hit a short iron off the tee on a par five that required a carry over a ravine and creek. He didn’t clear the creek.

In their defense, though, I think there must be a great deal of unfamiliar pressure involved with playing in front of a (small) crowd with a professional.

The pros for the most part were either actually enjoying the Pro-Am, or doing a great job of faking it. Every one that I saw was chatting it up, giving high fives to their “team” on good shots, and offering encouragement. In general, they were more amenable than the men at the Buick.

Se Ri Pak—a Hall of Fame who surely long ago paid her dues—was really working hard for her group. She was lining up putts, pointing out target lines, and giving demonstrations. The amateurs were good at following her directions. In person, Se Ri is beautiful and has a very impressive presence and demeanor.

Michelle Wie, for all that her life has been a whirlwind, also was working very hard for her group. She showed what I thought was a maturity beyond her years.

There also seemed to be some good camaraderie between the pros. At several points where greens and tees were close, the ladies where shouting across the way and yanking each other’s chains.

Each of the ladies spent a great deal of time signing autographs. Most of the signature seekers were young women and girls—as you might expect. It’s obviously something they’re practiced at doing. Most seemed to have a Sharpie in their pocket. Morgan Pressel’s caddy had hers, and I watched them play catch-a-sharpie at two holes.

Again, a contrast to the Buick, where the players might sign one or two on the fly as they brushed past. The ladies would voluntarily go to the ropes and seek out the fans. To be fair, the Seniors at the Ford Championship were just as accommodating.

I noticed several older people getting the players to autograph 5×7 photographs. As it turns out, they had taken digital photos of the players on Tuesday, processed them at one of those one hour photo spots, and then returned on Wednesday to get the autographs. My suspicion is that they were autograph dealers, but it’s a nice idea nonetheless.

The merchandise tent at the Jamie Farr was a single 20×20 open tent, with a meager selection of logo golf shirts, some Ohio State merchandise, and a few trinkets. The logo products all had the Owens Corning Pink Panther. Cute stuff. I bought a $2 ball marker.

Compared to the Ford Championship and the Buick, the LPGA Merchandise tent was non-existent. I wonder now if there was a larger tent of stuff for the weekend. I doubt it, though. I just think that the LPGA does not do as good a job of merchandising as the PGA Tour. If it were me, I’d have had a ton of shirts in kids and women’s sizes. There were an awful lot of those there at the course.

Highland Meadows golf course is a very nice, classic track. Built in 1925, it has tree lined fairways, and short distances from green to the next tee. At its longest for club members, it’s 6,300 yards. For the Championship, it measures 6,890. The opening hole is very tough, requiring a blind tee shot over the crest of a hill to fall short of a creek. From there, it’s uphill to the green. The creek comes into play on several holes. Highland Meadows is a course I’d very much like to play sometime in the future.

I’m going to try to get back to the tournament for the final round on Sunday.

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1 thought on “Visiting The LPGA Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic”

  1. Thanks for the report. Too bad the LPGA didn’t see fit to scrap their no-bloggers policy. They’ve got the ingredients for success and a large potential audience – they just need to get creative.

    Reply

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