TOLEDO — With a single act Friday, Gov. Mike DeWine gave the sports world — and the Marathon LPGA Classic presented by Dana — a sigh of relief.
The governor is lifting a restriction on large gatherings in two weeks, paving the way for fans to attend the Marathon Classic at Highland Meadows Golf Club, running July 23-26.
“We checked the three most important boxes,” tournament director Judd Silverman said, “provide a great professional sporting event for the community that’s on national television while raising money for 25 northwest Ohio children’s charities. And the third box is allowing these great professional women athletes to make a living after losing about $30 million in prize money. To be able to do all three of those things, we are grateful to the governor and his staff.”
The tournament held in Sylvania will have a different look this year. There will be no grandstands, fans are recommended to wear masks, thermal scanning will be used upon entering the golf course to ensure no one has a fever, social distancing guidelines will be in effect, and hand sanitizer stations will be omnipresent.
Players and caddies will be tested for the coronavirus when they arrive on-site, and additional testing could take place following the 36-hole cut.
On March 11, Ohio became the first state in the country to ban fan attendance at sporting events. Three months later, the state could again be a model for the rest of the nation.
“It’s the social distancing,” DeWine said. “It’s all the things that they can do. There’s no reason anyone cannot do this.”
The Marathon Classic will be the first LPGA Tour event since the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open in mid-February. The Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational was originally first on the tour’s revised schedule, but the Midland, Mich., event was canceled in May.
Tournament directors from four Ohio-based professional golf tournaments — Marathon Classic, the Memorial Tournament, Senior Players Championship, and Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship — sent a detailed proposal to the governor on May 15 asking him to lift the restriction on large gatherings so fans could attend.
The Marathon Classic is operated by The Toledo Classic, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The tournament raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for children’s charities each year. Prohibiting fan attendance would have meant more than $1 million in losses, a figure too great for the tournament to withstand.
Now, it’s not a worry.
“It’s a quadruple win for the state of Ohio,” Silverman said.