John Deere Classic ready for more success

Tournament makes huge impact on QCA

SILVIS, Ill. - The John Deere Classic is a heritage name in the Quad Cities, and it's impact is huge throughout the entire area.

The JDC was recognized by PGA as 2016's Tournament of the Year, which tournament director Clair Peterson says is a huge honor. It is also motivation for improvement. 

"That was our first staff meeting of the year," said Peterson. "Let's feel good about what we accomplished, but what are we going to do to improve."

The tournament has been in the Quad Cities since 1971, and at it's current home at TPC Deere Run since 2000. Part of what sets it apart is it's charity work, especially through it's Birdies For Charity program. 

"The charities get 100 cents of every dollar pledged and collected, and we collect 99 percent of what's pledged," said Peterson. "And then we put on the tournament."

Almost 500 regional charities feel the effect of this effort. Since it's inception, over $80 million has been raised. John Deere, the event's title sponsor, pays for the administrative costs of the program so that all of the money raised can go to the charities.

"That's one reason we got tournament of the year," said Peterson. "Those charity numbers blow people away."

In 2016 the tournament raised $10.5 million, which was $1.8 million more than 2015. 

There is also a bonus program. The bonus check is given to charities later in the year. The last four years, the program has been able to give 10% of the money raised back in bonus donations.

"What kick started the program, or took it exponentially higher, was this concept of a bonus promise," said Peterson. "Being able to explain to someone that if you want to support my organization, and you do it through Birdies, I'm going to get every one of those dollars then I'm going to get a bonus on top of it. There's no better deal than that."

The tournament also brings a huge economic boost to the area. Thousands of people from all over the world travel to the QCA to take in the professional competition. They spend $31 million in direct purchases like lodging, food and retail. That means a big $53 million economic impact. 

"It comes form all those people coming into town, spending that money, taking in that product," said Peterson.

The tournament also attracts talent from all over the world. Names like Jordan Spieth, Ryan Moore and Zach Johnson have walked the greens at TPC Deere Run. Generations of families attend every year and almost one billion households world wide get the broadcast. 

"There's also a quality of life component," said Peterson. "Those of us who live here love to have a major league sporting event in town, and this is one of only 47 events on the PGA TOUR all over the world."

Overall, the impact is huge. That is why the John Deere Classic staff work 51 weeks of the year to bring the one week of magic to Silvis. 

"It's hard to think of what would happen if this event weren't here," said Peterson. "You would lose the charity component, you would lose the economic impact, and that's why we really work hard to never take it for granted that this event is going to be here."

Peterson has been the tournament director since 2002. He says he knows how lucky the area is to have this tournament, and that it's success is warranted. Over 1,700 volunteers worked in 2016 to make the event happen.

"To have a PGA TOUR event in a community of 400,000 people still is an amazing success story," said Peterson. "And it's one that we're really proud of."

In addition to being recognized as the Tournament of the Year, the JDC also received recognition for Best Social Media Activation, and Most Engaged Community. 

"There are big communities without a PGA event that are just waiting for a week to open up," said Peterson."So we are always vigilant about trying to keep making progress, improving the product, keeping our title sponsor feeling like it's the right thing to do, keeping the PGA TOUR happy, and we spend a lot of time and energy never taking for granted the fact that we're still here. "

The staff has done it's job well. John Deere just renewed it's title sponsorship for the next seven years. 

"2017-2023 are guaranteed," said Peterson.  "We're going to have a PGA TOUR event."

Meanwhile, the staff has a list of improvements they want to make going forward. Peterson, although he has been with the tournament since 2002, says the future looks good.

"The future is as solid and exciting as I can ever remember," said Peterson.

The 2017 dates for the JDC are July 10-16 at TPC Deere Run. 

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