As the 27th Jamie Farr Toledo Classic tees off this morning, a two-year gap in this summer staple at Highland Meadows Golf Club has presumably created more anticipation than usual for the LPGA event.
For the first time since 1986, the Farr Classic was skipped last year as Toledo turned its attentions to the more prestigious U.S. Senior Open, a men's senior major at Inverness Club in late June, 2011.
Judd Silverman, the tournament director of the Farr Classic since its inception in 1984, also served in that capacity with the U.S. Senior Open.
After careful thought, it was determined that staging two professional golf events in the same summer, particularly during a downward turn in the economy, might hinder the potential of each event locally.
Thus, the Farr Classic was put on hold for a year, and lost its usual early-July slot on the LPGA tour.
When it returns for first-round play today, an above-average field will make its way around the Meadows for Farr No. 27.
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Eight of the players who rank among the top 10 on the LPGA's 2012 money list will tee it up. Fifteen of the top 20, and 23 of the top 30 will contend for a total purse of $1.3 million in the 72-hole event, which concludes Sunday.
Atop that list is Toledo native Stacy Lewis, who ranks No. 1 on the tour with 2012 earnings of $1,200,169 through 15 events. Lewis, who moved to Texas as a young girl with her family, has won two tournaments this year, tied for second three times, and posted five other top-10 finishes. The former University of Arkansas player and 2009 LPGA rookie is playing in her first LPGA event in two weeks after tying for second with a 15-under-par 273 at the Evian Masters.
Other numbers tell the story for Lewis, who ranks first on the tour this year in birdies and eagles, and third in both scoring average (70.42) and greens in regulation.
Lewis, who now resides in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., will have plenty of family watching her bid for the Farr Classic's first-place prize money of $195,000.
Joining Lewis from the current LPGA top 10 will be No. 2 Ai Miyazato, No. 3 Yani Tseng, No. 5 Na Yeon Choi, No. 6 Azahara Munoz, No. 7 Inbee Park, No. 9 Amy Yang, and No. 10 Mika Miyazato, all foreign players.
In fact, after Lewis, just three other players among those 15 top-20 tour players here are American.
The others are No. 15 Brittany Lang, No. 19 Paula Creamer, and No. 20 Angela Stanford.
The 26-year-old Creamer will likely be another crowd favorite at Highland Meadows this week, and not only because of her commercial affiliation with Owens Corning, derived from her nickname, the Pink Panther.
Creamer, the 2008 Farr Classic champion here, has three top-five finishes in her six stops at Highland Meadows since her rookie year of 2005.
"Every time I've played in this event it brings back so many wonderful memories," said Creamer, whose team shot a 16-under 55 in Wednesday's Fathead Celebrity Pro-Am here. "This is such a fun golf course. Anything can happen out there, and we've seen that in the past.
"To have won, and the whole Pink Panther/Owens Corning [connection], has just been interesting. We've gone through weather issues here and whatnot. But the fans here are what make this golf tournament. They love sports. They love women's golf, and it shows in how many years this tournament has been here. We're back and it's great."
Creamer's most memorable trek around the Sylvania course came during the opening round of 2008, when she scorched the Meadows for an event-record 11-under-par 60.
"That was my lowest round ever," Creamer said. "At the time I didn't even realize that I shot 60. I just remember looking at my scorecard. It was about the 15th hole and I remember thinking, 'Man, there are a lot of circles [birdie scores] on this card,' and I just kept on going.
"I birdied [Nos.] 8 and 9, which was my 17th and 18th hole, and the putt on 9 it was about seven and a half feet of break, left to right, and it just went on in. Those are the kind of putts where you're either going to have five feet coming back or you're going to make it.
"Adding it up in the scoring tent I'm looking at my caddie thinking, 'Is this right?' He was looking at me and said, 'Yeah, it's right.' "
Creamer closed the 2008 Farr Classic with scores of 65, 70, and 73 for a 14-under 268 to best runner-up Nicole Castrale by two strokes to pick up $195,000.
"To end up winning the tournament was special too," Creamer said. "I shot 65 the next day and it felt like I shot 100. That was the hardest thing -- coming back the next day to go out to play."
Creamer has nine total LPGA victories, and has career earnings of $9,158,272.
This season, Creamer has yet to take a victory, but has come closer of late with four top-10 finishes in her last six LPGA events. She has won $379,467 this season.
"I've been working real hard this year," Creamer said. "I've had my ups and downs, that's for sure, as anybody does.
"My putting's coming around, and I'm just trying to get a little more consistent with my four days. If I can get four days of good golf together, I think I can pretty much be in contention on Sunday, no matter what. I haven't had that.
"You have to make birdies here," she said. "If you're not making birdies, you're not going to be in the mix of things. Going into it, you know going into an afternoon round you might be eight shots out of it and you haven't even hit you're first ball off the tee. You've got to start off strong, that's for sure."
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com 419-724-6461, or on Twitter @JungaBlade