Clair Peterson oversees his last JDC charity announcement

Clair Peterson, executive director of the John Deere Classic
Clair Peterson, executive director of the John Deere Classic, Sunday, July 3, 2022, after the final round of the tournament held at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, IL. After serving 20 years as tournament director, he transitioned into his new advisory role. CREDIT JOHN SCHULTZ

Clair Peterson, the longtime John Deere Classic tournament director, will preside over his final Birdies for Charity announcement Monday, Oct. 31, at the John Deere Pavilion in downtown Moline.

Mr. Peterson’s 20-year run as tournament director officially comes to an end on Dec. 31.

He will be joined by 2022 Volunteer JDC Chairman Pat Eikenberry and Birdies for Charity Director Micaela Booth, as they announce the total amount being distributed to charities from this past summer’s event. The announcement will be at 11 a.m.  

“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,” he said in a JDC news release. 

“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,” said Mr. Peterson, whose career with Deere led to his leadership of the Quad Cities PGA Tour event.

A 45-year employee of John Deere, Mr. Peterson joined the company’s marketing department in 1975 after graduating from Iowa State University, Ames, with a journalism degree. He began as a copywriter; but 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.

Mr. 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 the Moline-based John Deere assumed title sponsorship of the annual PGA golf tournament in 1998.

He served as the company’s tournament liaison in the early years. Before that, as TPC Deere Run was under construction in Silvis, Mr. 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 enduringly on the brass tee monuments on holes 1-18 at Deere Run.

Mr. Peterson is credited with bringing 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 golf knowledge made him the perfect fit for the tournament director post.

“Clair is green and yellow [Deere’s iconic colors] through and through,” 2012 JDC Champion Zach Johnson, a JDC 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 JDC titles beginning in 2009 and was the winning captain at the 2021 Ryder Cup, echoed that sentiment. “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,” Mr. Stricker said. “Not to mention the charitable aspect, which is what it’s all about.”

The 52nd edition of the Quad Cities-based JDC is slated for the week of July 5-9, 2023, at TPC Deere Run with J.T. Poston as defending champion. The tournament 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 JDC, which includes Birdies for Charity, is a 501(C)3 non-profit organization located in tournament offices at 15623 Coaltown Road, East Moline. The JDC and its predecessors, which began in 1971, have helped raise more than $133 million for charity.

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