Clair Peterson will preside over his final Birdies for Charity announcement Monday, Oct. 31, as his 20-year run as tournament director of the John Deere Classic officially comes to an end Dec. 31.
“The annual charity announcement is always one of the biggest – some would say most important – days of the year, because it’s really the reason we exist: to help raise money for our local charities,” Peterson said. “It’s a day for the community, our volunteers and leaders, our staff, and most importantly John Deere to be proud of what they’ve all helped to accomplish.”
A 45-year employee of John Deere, Peterson joined the company’s marketing department in 1975 after graduating from Iowa State with a journalism degree. He started as a copywriter; his lifelong passion for golf would later influence his career in ways he never could have imagined as a young caddie at Blue Mound Country Club just outside his native Milwaukee.
Peterson was hired as tournament director in 2002 over 80 other candidates and ran his first event in 2003. But his deep involvement in the tournament began even before John Deere assumed title sponsorship of the annual Quad Cities-based PGA Tour event in 1998.
Peterson served as the company’s tournament liaison in the early years. Before that, as TPC Deere Run was under construction, Peterson was assigned the task of naming each hole and writing historical descriptions that tied into the land, Deere and area history. Those descriptions are engraved on the brass tee monuments on holes 1-18 at Deere Run.
Peterson brought the marketing savvy of a world class international Fortune 500 company to the small-market tournament and imbued the event with Deere’s major league standard of excellence. His understanding of Deere’s corporate and civic values combined with his knowledge of golf made him the perfect fit for the tournament director post.
“Clair is green and yellow (Deere’s iconic colors) through and through,” 2012 Deere champion Zach Johnson, a board member and 2023 Ryder Cup captain, said in a recent news report. “He loves what Deere stands for and respects the iconic brand to the utmost…His leadership and wisdom have taken the John Deere Classic to phenomenal levels.”
Steve Stricker, who won three straight Deere titles starting in 2009 and was the winning captain at the 2021 Ryder Cup, has similar admiration.
“What he has done and meant to the John Deere Classic and the quality of every component is what stands out – golf course, staff, volunteers all the way down is first class,” Stricker said. “Not to mention the charitable aspect, which is what it’s all about.”
The 52nd edition of the Quad Cities-based tournament will be conducted the week of July 5-9, 2023 at TPC Deere Run in Silvis with J.T. Poston as defending champion. The tournament also will offer a $7.4 million purse, an increase of $300,000, and three exemptions into the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England.
The John Deere Classic, which includes Birdies for Charity, is a 501(C)3 non-profit organization located in the John Deere Classic tournament offices at 15623 Coaltown Road, East Moline. Since its founding in 1971, the tournament has helped raise more than $133 million for charity.