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Pink Panther ready to prowl at Marathon Classic

07/17/2014, 12:14am EDT
By DONALD EMMONS BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Paula Creamer hopes to overcome disappointing British Open

Pink Panther ready to prowl

Paula Creamer finished tied for 21st at the Women’s British Open last week. She is not ranked among the top 10 and has only won once this season and has placed in the top 10 just three times. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Paula Creamer likes coming back to Toledo.

Plenty of good things have come her way because of ties to the area.

That includes winning at Highland Meadows Golf Club in 2008 during her third season on the LPGA Tour.

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The victory, which resulted in her collecting $195,000 after shooting 16-under 268 — including an opening round of 60 — still resonates fond thoughts about northwest Ohio.

“I love this golf course,” she said. “I shot 60 here, and I have really good memories of here. It [the course] just fits my game. The people are great. It’s a Wednesday and there are a bunch of people out there watching [practice rounds]. It's a tournament that’s run through the community.

“It is great to come out and have a lot of fans. I had ties with Owens Corning for quite a while. Just coming back to the Pink-Panther-kind-of-area is just great.”

If not for Beatriz Recari playing steady over the four days of last year's Marathon Classic presented by Owens Corning and O-I, Creamer might be teeing off today as a two-time winner and defending champion of the event. Recari finished 17-under 267 with Creamer finishing one stroke back on the par-71 course that measures 6,512 yards.

Creamer has been one of the Tour's top players for the last decade, and her career earnings are near $11 million. Yet this year Creamer arguably has not played up to her own standards.

She has won only once on this season and has placed in the top 10 just three times. She is not ranked among the top 10 players and has taken home only $536,367 this season.

After placing tied for 21st at the Women’s British Open on Sunday, Creamer has an opportunity to make a quick recovery on a course she’s familiar with and has had success on in the past.

“I feel comfortable. I feel very confident out here,” Creamer said. “I’ve shot some low numbers and being in contention always helps, too.”

She also knows her way around the pristine course that is playing host to a top-heavy field that includes top-ranked Stacy Lewis and No. 2 ranked Michelle Wie.

“I like that you have to hit the ball in the fairway,” Creamer said. “You get your putter rolling out here you can make a lot of birdies. The greens are pretty specific of where you need to be. You have to take advantage of some of those par 5s. Par 3s you can hit some good irons to them [the holes].”

Creamer’s career took off even before she accepted her high school diploma, winning an LPGA Tour event a week before she graduated from high school in 2005. She went on to earn $1 million that year, becoming the youngest and fastest golfer in women’s golf history to earn $1 million. Her success led to her earning $2 million, $3 million, $4 million, and $5 million faster than any female golfer.

With her success has come fame and plenty of fans. Creamer has her share of young Toledo fans, partly because of her previous business ties with Toledo-based Owens Corning and its association with the Pink Panther character. She became known as the golfer on the Tour dressed in pink attire.

“I have people who have come out here, especially in the last five years, and now they’re not so little any more,” she said. “Now they're 13 or 14 years old, and it’s really neat to see.

“Every day we have a lot of people who come out and this is a great golf course for spectators, too. We’re all pretty much bunched around together, and it’s a good course to walk.

“As players we’ve always looked forward to this event. It’s been around for so long, and there’s no reason why you’d skip it. It’s a great tournament. It’s a great venue, and a lot of fun things happen on the golf course.”

Like raising up the tournament championship trophy on Sunday, for example.

Good conditions expected means a good gallery

Marathon Classic director Judd Silverman, like many others on Wednesday, wore a light jacket while out on the course as players practiced on the driving range. Plenty of jackets, pullovers, and sweaters were being put to use.

Not typical for mid-July when temperature readings can hover near or at triple digits in the Toledo area. However, partly cloudy skies and winds from the north had temperatures in the 60s. The forecast for the four days of the tournament are expected to be actually quite pleasant, ranging from 70s to 80s.

Silverman, who is hoping to see approximately 60,000 fans come out for the week, thinks the cooler-than-normal temperatures and no rain in the forecast could produce a good turnout of fans.

“It makes a huge difference from the standpoint of attendance,” he said. “People are walking and following the golfers, so you don’t want the high humidity and high temperatures because it's not all that healthy.”

The spectators are not the only ones who figure to benefit from cooler readings than in past years of the tournament when the heat and humidity were quite high.

“The 100-degree days are not fun for us,” Toledo native and the LPGA’s top-ranked golfer Stacy Lewis said. “You get more fans and you get more people out here. I think it’s going to be a good week.”

Lewis also thinks the weather conditions will have an affect on how the golfers play.

“The golf course is drier than it’s been in past years,” she said. “It’s definitely playing a little longer, as Paula [Creamer] said. I think that’s just because it’s cooler. The ball is not quite flying as far.”

Contact Donald Emmons at: demmons@theblade.com, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade.

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