LPGA benefits from Meserves’ passion for women’s sports


SYLVANIA — Lee and Marge Meserve are well known for their love of women’s athletics — after all, the Bowling Green State University softball field is named for them.

Even with all the time and money they have invested into BGSU athletics, their love for women’s sports extends well beyond the amateur level to the professional level.

For 35 years, Lee Meserve has been a volunteer at the annual LPGA tournament held at Highland Meadows Golf Course in Sylvania, and Marge has spent 34 years volunteering.

Again, it’s a fascination with the athletes’ prowess that fascinates them, like the effortless swing off the tee that leads to a drive far longer than most men can hit.

“It’s fun. It really is. The tournament is just amazing,” Lee, now a walking scorekeeper, said. “I always liked to watch women’s golf just because they do what they do without any testosterone.

“A lot of them are muscular now, but three years ago I was walking scorer for a group with Sei Young Kim in it, and she won the tournament that year.”

Kim is 5-foot-4, but to make his point about what this now 30-year-old woman can do, Lee exaggerates a bit.

“She’s a little-bitty woman, maybe 4 feet and a half, weighs 100 pounds if she’s carrying 50 pounds or something,” Lee said.

“On the first hole, where they measure driving distance, she hit her drive 337 yards. I said, ‘I could do that if they let me hit it three times.’ She slacked off on the second shot — she only hit it 310. You know, it’s just amazing what they can do.”

There are other reasons why the Meserves participate.

Since 1984, the tournament has donated millions of dollars to local children’s charities. Through the teamwork of over 1,500 volunteers and 400 local businesses, the tournament is making a difference for children in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan.

Lee and Marge, whose donations have helped renovate BGSU’s softball field and other athletic facilities, believe women’s athletics deserves a shot in the arm wherever it exists.

“We support BGSU athletics, especially women’s athletics, because we know there are enough football people, hockey people and men’s basketball people to keep them going,” said Lee, who retired after teaching biology at BGSU for 44 years.

“We’ve been going to women’s gymnastics meets since 1977. Those women work their butts off, both figuratively and literally,” Lee continued.

“So, we follow them, and about 15 years ago (2008) the (BGSU athletic director) AD du jour named the softball field for Marjorie and me.

“We typically had gone on a spring break trip with them, south or west, on our own dime, and he said, ‘You guys are real good supporters, and we want to recognize that.’

There is yet another reason the Meserves have been supporting women’s athletics at BGSU. It started when Lee was appointed faculty athletics representative, a position he held for 20 years. That woke him up to the time and effort that female athletes give to their sport, to their academics and to their university.

“When I was faculty athletics rep, I told them (athletes) I felt like if I expected them to do well academically, and that’s what I had to make sure that they were all academically eligible before they competed, they should be able to expect me to be out there watching them do that part of their life.

“They are doing something related to college every hour of the day. So, we started going to every home contest and a few other ones and we still do, even though I’ve been retired for six years,” Lee continued.

“Especially the women because they are not going to go on in any other sport like a male athlete to any degree, so we financially put a little love in the bucket for every women’s sports budget, especially gymnastics and softball.”

Autographs and memorabilia

At this year’s Dana Open, you will find Lee keeping score digitally as he walks with a morning flight, and then an afternoon flight.

His score feeds into the electronic scoreboards on the course and into the score you see on the television broadcast, so he knows he cannot make a mistake, even though the player will sign the real scorecard when she concludes play.

Marge will have to arrive at Hole No. 7 at 7 a.m. each morning to serve as hole marshal.

You can assume correctly that during three decades-plus of being inside the ropes at the Jamie Farr Open, then the Marathon Open, and now the Dana Open, they have collected their fair share of stories and memorabilia.

Sitting in front of their living room couch is a vase filled with golf balls autographed by some of the most famous women’s professional golfers to ever walk the course at Highland Meadows or at Glengarry (now Stone Oak), where the tournament was first held.

Among Lee’s favorite autographed balls are those signed by Paula Creamer and Se Ri Pak. Then, there is the interaction between the volunteers and the golfers. Pak has won the tournament five times.

“She was so down to earth and a regular human being,” Lee said. “Her mom walked around with her and she did not have a whole lot of English, but she was busy walking with her daughter who was having a great career.”

Marge has a Nancy Lopez autograph on a Marathon hat from the Solheim Cup, which they did not volunteer at but diligently attended.

Lee, who has served in multiple roles as a volunteer, loves to tell the story from when he was volunteer chairman of the tournament.

The women are required to walk the course while competing. But, because of the conditions that day, Lee drove Laura Davies on his cart through high water, creating spray like a Laurel and Hardy movie scene.

“That was the year of the great flood,” Lee said. “It rained a lot and the creek that goes through there was over the bridges they had to cross at least four times during a round of golf.

“Marge volunteers at the green at the second hole, which is a par 3 — the tee is up here, the green is down there, and the creek is in the middle.

“So, when we were going across there with the golf carts as the creek when it was at its highest, the creek was 6 feet deep into the bottom of the golf cart.

“I’m on top of the hill and Laura Davies got into my cart, and we started to pitch up over the hill and she said, ‘Oh my, it’s like Cedar Point, isn’t it?’ She’s got a great sense of humor.”

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