Taking in the opening round of the Marathon Classic in Toledo

We have made this trip before, my buddies and I. Highland Meadows Golf Club hosts the best the LPGA has to offer in a tournament that used to be known as The Jamie Farr Classic. Cpl. Klinger may no longer be associated with the event, but watching the top female golfers in the world is always a treat.

After viewing the field and waiting patiently for the pairings to be announced, we made our plans. There were a number of golfers we wanted to see in action, including the world’s top-ranked Stacy Lewis, who was born in Toledo. We also wanted to see reigning U.S. Open champion Michelle Wie and last week’s British Open champion Mo Martin. Cristie Kerr, Lydia Ko and last year’s winner Beatriz Recari were on our radar.

The glamor pairing, however, consisted of Paula Creamer, Lexi Thompson and Angela Stanford. A few years back we followed Creamer for most of her round as she shot a course record 60. Only a lipped out birdie putt on her next to last hole prevented her from shooting the magical score of 59. This was the group we would follow for most of the morning.

Turns out we got to see them play all of four holes, their final ones of the round. There were two reasons this happened. The first was breakfast. We always stop and have breakfast before we get to the course, you know, the growing boy thing. We decided we didn’t have to be there for their tee time of 8:10 a.m. We could always catch up with them after a couple of holes.

So we stopped at Scrambler Marie’s near Levis Commons. Did you know they have an omelet called The Gravy Train? Well they do and it’s pretty darned good. The stop however, meant not getting to the 10th tee – the glamor pairing started on the back nine – until nearly 9 a.m. As we approached the tee three golfers were about to tee off.

We waited for them to hit their tee shots and decided to follow them down the fairway where we would pass them and try to catch up with the Creamer, Thompson, Stanford trio.

By the time we got to where they had hit their drives our game plan varied a little. We would watch them hit their approach shots before hurrying on. Same thing happened at the green. We’ll just watch the putts and then go on ahead.

That’s when the second thing happened that took our minds off the glamor group. Her name is Laura Diaz. She sunk a birdie putt “forcing” us to watch another hole. When she birdied the second hole, we decided we could not leave her until the birdie streak stopped, just in case we were the good luck charm. That is when things got really wild.

Diaz birdied the third hole and then the fourth. By the time she reached the par-3 14th, many of us in the gallery were thinking the same thing. We referred to a baseball game and the superstitions involving a no-hitter. It was determined that we could not leave this group until the streak was over.

Diaz’s tee shot on the par 3 did hit the green, but she was faced with a 30-some foot putt with a break. She knocked it dead center and we are cheering wildly. The streak came to an end on the next hole as she missed a short birdie putt. She then had another par on 16 before a birdie on the 17th got her to 6 under par.

At this point the glamor group is halfway done with the front nine and we are near the sixth green. So we took a seat and waited. Stacy Lewis soon came to the sixth tee and stuck her shot within 3 feet for an easy birdie. Paula Creamer, Lexi Thompson and Angela Stanford were next up. Creamer was on, about 20 feet away and Thompson was within 6 feet. Creamer made her birdie, but Thompson did not. Lexi was not happy.

One of the things we frequently say while watching these professionals play at such a high level is this: “that was just like one of our shots – only different.” Lexi Thompson hit her tee shot on the last hole into a lateral hazard. As she approached the ball you could see that she was visibly upset. My buddy noted that and I responded with “of course she’s ticked off, she’s only shooting even par.”

He said, “geez she IS just like us.” He then amended that by saying “the ticked off part, not the even par thing.”

Our next stop was the clubhouse where I had a personal thrill. I knew the man was in attendance, but I did not expect to see him. I did however have the chance to shake the hand and chat briefly with Richard Petty. For this NASCAR fan, that was perhaps the highlight of the day.

Now it was time to watch Mo Martin and Michelle Wie tee off. Martin is only 5 foot, 2 inches tall and does not hit the ball very far. She can play, though, and she ended up shooting 4 under on the day. Wie is very tall and does hit the ball a long way. Her putting stance is a little weird though. She bends over so far that I believe it would hurt my back or worse, I might just tumble on over. Hey, if it works for her

These two were followed by Cristie Kerr and Lydia Ko. We spent the next hour or so alternating watching these two groups. Ko is the precocious 17-year-old newcomer to the LPGA tour (she had much success as an amateur on the tour) who keeps her tees in her hair. It’s true, right above her ponytail. She also will record a 4-under-par 67.

As the day grew longer and our puppies started barking, we talked about how much longer we wanted to stay. We were watching Kerr and Ko putt out on the fifth hole. We considered going to the sixth tee to watch them hit to the par 3, but decided instead to head for home. We had not gone far when we heard the roar. It was an unmistakable sound. One of the golfers had aced the sixth and we just missed it. I saw Cristie Kerr’s ace on TV later that day.

Laura Diaz shot a 62 on this day. We got to see birdies from Ko, Lewis, Creamer, Thompson and five straight from Diaz. It was a memorable day.

One of the most lasting memories for me was a conversation I had with an elderly gentleman in the gallery. I remarked how the women all seemed to swing so smoothly and effortlessly. I suggested that perhaps there was a lesson to be learned for the men in attendance.

His reply, “You would think so, but we’re too stupid!” He then chuckled and ambled off to watch more great golf.

Al Stephenson is The A-T’s golf colunist.

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