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Jun. 27—What started as a request from Marathon Classic officials evolved into an annual tradition, creating an LPGA Tour devotee in the process.
The Marathon LPGA Classic presented by Dana was in need of player housing, so they asked Tricia Cullop if she would be interested in welcoming a player into her home.
Life on the fringes of the LPGA Tour isn't easy, with worldwide travel expenses adding up to large sums of money.
Host families help defray costs and give players an opportunity to feel, well, at home, socializing with their hosts instead of a lonely existence inside another drab hotel room.
"We're finding that staying with a host family is becoming more and more popular," Marathon Classic volunteer coordinator Heather Warga said. "For a lot of the ladies that are constantly traveling, it's a huge expense. So that host family really comes into play and helps with that. We get a lot of returning players year after year who have formed relationships with these host families and stay in contact with them throughout the year."
A prime location near Highland Meadows Golf Club makes Cullop's home a coveted stay, as does a refrigerator full of food, a backyard deck, and a ping pong table. The Toledo women's basketball coach was unsure about the hosting process when she began — now, multiple people in her neighborhood open their homes to players.
"I think it's such an easy thing to do," Cullop said. "They're so easy to take care of. You get way more out of it than what you give. The only thing I do is make sure that some of their favorite things to eat are in the house."
Giulia Molinaro has been Cullop's most frequent visitor. She's discussed nutrition and meditation tips with Molinaro and gifted her with UT gear. One year, Dewi Claire Schreefel wore a Toledo hat during the tournament.
If there's no early morning tee time, Cullop and Molinaro will sit on the deck and talk. Sometimes other players will come over and grill out. If they have similar TV-viewing habits, they'll watch shows together.
A ping pong tournament once broke out in Cullop's basement during a rain delay.
"I've really enjoyed it," Cullop said. "[Molinaro] is just a great person. And, obviously, I can identify with the sports angle. I enjoy going out to the course and following her and cheering her on because her family can't be here all the time. It's fun to develop a friendship with them and appreciate what goes into their sport."
Cullop played in a pro-am, which got her even more interested in the tour and its competitors. She even traveled to the LPGA event in Grand Rapids, Mich., to watch her housemates. During the Marathon Classic, she's a constant familiar face in the gallery.
In September, she'll be at Inverness for the Solheim Cup, perhaps decked out in red, white, and blue face paint.
"It's something you may never have an opportunity to go to again, so I definitely want to go," Cullop said.
If the United States takes possession of the Cup, even though Cullop has hosted Europeans, chances are there could be a rollicking victory party at her house.
"It's wonderful when any member of the community opens up their home to LPGA players and hosts them for the week," Marathon Classic tournament director Judd Silverman said. "Tricia has been a great supporter of the Marathon Classic for years. It doesn't surprise me that she was nice enough to open up her home. You couldn't have a better host in Toledo than Tricia."