Clanton among young JDC golfers chasing early success

Clanton JDC
Luke Clanton, left, participates in an interview on Tuesday, July 2, in the John Deere Classic Media Center TPC at Deere Run in Silvis. CREDIT JENNIFER DEWITT

Luke Clanton will be an amateur when he tees off Thursday, July 4, for the opening round of the John Deere Classic (JDC) and he vows to remain an amateur regardless of his position on Sunday when someone wins the PGA Tour championship.

Mr. Clanton has already shown he may have the game to win the trophy, the JDC winner’s check of $1.44 million, and the admiration of thousands of spectators.

But unless he completes an unexpected misdirection play, Mr. Clanton will be back at Florida State University in the fall.

He already left $200,000 on the table, finishing in a tie for 10th in the Rocket Mortgage event last week.

“I want to win a national championship with my team,” Mr. Clanton told reporters gathered Tuesday, July 2, inside the JDC Media Center at TPC Deere Run. “That has been my No. 1 goal in college and we came pretty close this year.

“All of us back home are very driven this year to do it,” he said.

The 20-year-old Mr. Clanton is coming off an outstanding college season. He set a Florida State all-time record for scoring average (69.33) and won three straight tournaments. Those are major milestones for the tradition-rich Seminoles program.  

Amateur has NIL deal

Mr. Clanton is not an impoverished college student, living on cups of noodles. Not with name, image, likeness (NIL) sponsorships available. He has a mortgage company logo on his shirts and hats.

“There is a little bit (of NIL money). Again, I think it’s enough for a college student,” Mr. Clanton added. “I don’t need a lot of money right now. I’m 20 years old, still at Florida State.”

Mr. Clanton is not the lone player in the JDC field this week hoping for a breakthrough event at TPC Deere Run in Silvis. Dozens of golfers in the field will be seeking career-best finishes on a course with a history of giving up low scores.  

Neal Shipley recently turned professional after finishing low amateur in the Masters and U.S. Open. He was in the Top 20 of the Rocket Mortgage event. He is in the JDC field on a sponsor’s exemption just as he was at the Rocket Mortgage tournament.

“I wouldn’t have these opportunities if it wasn’t for the exemptions,” Mr. Shipley told reporters. “It was awesome to take advantage of my first one. I’m excited to hopefully take advantage of the opportunity this week.

“I’m really thankful for the opportunity because this is something that maybe six months ago didn’t seem possible,” he said. 

Mr. Shipley has already been on two of golf’s most prominent stages and has performed well. He said he is happy with his response to the pressure.

“Obviously, there are nerves competing here,’’ he said. “I felt pretty comfortable with the experiences at Augusta (Masters) and U.S. Open. Coming into Rocket Mortgage I felt pretty settled.”

JDC Notes: What We’re Watching

  • Tournament play for the 53rd edition of the Quad Cities PGA event begins at 6:45 a.m. Thursday, July 4, on the TPC Deere Run par-71 layout. The tournament ends Sunday, July 7.
  • Giving back – In 1993, the first Birdies for Charity effort turned $183,480 over to participating
  • organizations. The hugely successful program has raised more than $173 million in the years since.
  • Go low or go home – The average score of the last 10 champions of the John Deere Classic is a hefty -21 on the par-71 layout. The average 36-hole cut over the past 10 JDC events is 3-under par.
  • Neal Shipley – We haven’t seen a better mullet since the old days of the Colonial Hockey League. He was low amateur in the U.S. Open and Masters.
  • Jordan Spieth returns – He has won JDC twice. Can he contend for a third?
  • Coody twins – Parker and Pierceson Coody are third-generation pro golfers. It would be cool if grandfather, Charles Coody (1971 Masters), saw the twins play their way into contention.
  • First-time winner – JDC has had 23 first-time winners since the Quad Cities tournament began in 1971.

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