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Defending champion J.T. Poston commanded the stage for much of Monday morning, June 5, during the John Deere Classic’s annual media day kickoff at Bally’s Quad Cities Casino & Hotel in Rock Island. However, the true champion of the local PGA Tour stop — Deere & Co. — ended up stealing the show with a classic closing number. Deere spokesperson Mara Downing ended nearly a year of questions by announcing the Moline-based agricultural and construction equipment giant is extending for three more years its role as title sponsor of the JDC. Financial terms were not disclosed, but the deal continues a relationship first forged in 1997 to make Deere & Co. the Official Golf Course Equipment Supplier of the national network of TPC golf courses — which includes the JDC’s home, TPC Deere Run in Silvis. Deere also retains the title of Official Golf Course Equipment Supplier — and the Official Mower, Official Tractor and Official Utility Vehicle — of the PGA Tour. Deere now is one of the longest-running title sponsors on the PGA Tour with the tournament — founded in 1971 as the Quad Cities Open — being rebranded as the JDC in 1998. “For our company, and for the hundreds of John Deere employees and retirees who volunteer their time to make this such a great event for the fans and the players, the John Deere Classic is much more than just another stop on the PGA Tour,” Deere Chairman and CEO John May said in a released statement from the PGA Tour. “(The JDC) helps us connect with our global customers and make a positive contribution to the quality of life in our local community. Our relationship with the Tour has been extremely productive. We look forward to working together to elevate the experience and impact of the John Deere Classic for the players, fans and community members,” he added. Since the tournament began in 1971, it has helped raise a total of $159.57 million for local charities, with 98% of that total coming in the past 25 years under John Deere’s title sponsorship. The JDC raised a record $13.9 million last year for 481 participating charities through the Birdies for Charity program. Among the many awards received, the JDC was recognized as the PGA Tour’s Tournament of the Year in 2016. Several times, including last year, the JDC also earned Best Title Sponsor Integration and Most Engaged Community from its peers on the Tour. “We would like to express our gratitude to John Deere for its continued support of the PGA Tour and the John Deere Classic,” PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said in the news release. “The John Deere Classic is a signature example of one of the PGA Tour’s most engaged communities coming together to achieve great things. As title sponsor, John Deere has gone above and beyond to help create an outstanding experience for our players and golf fans, while making a lasting impact with local nonprofits,” he said. JDC Tournament Director Andrew Lehman admitted the temptation was to wait and announce the new deal during this year’s globally televised tournament on CBS, July 5-9. But with this year’s tournament marking the final year of the existing sponsorship deal, Deere wanted to quiet the persistent questions since last year’s JDC. “The PGA Tour is working through a lot of different elements right now,” said Ms. Downing, Deere’s vice president for Global Brand Management and Corporate Communications. Included in the elements has been the back-and-forth competition with LIV Golf over the last year forcing changes on Tour such as the “elevated event” concept to assure a majors-level field for a tournament. “We were wanting some clarity from them, and they were wanting some clarity from players — and there was a lot of back forth,” Ms. Downing told the QCBJ after the announcement. “But we were in constant contact — at some point, there was a weekly phone call where we were talking about our mutual shared interest. I would say one thing that was always at the forefront was our mutual commitment to one another. “While it did take a little bit longer than we had wanted to get to the place where we are today, we couldn't be more excited about what the future holds.” A new three-year deal is shorter than the previous, seven-year extension. However, from other sponsorship deals over the past year, Ms. Downing said the length is typical. “COVID changed a lot of things,” she said. “The environment is much more dynamic than it's ever been before. “In terms of where things stand, we felt comfortable with the three-year extension just to see how things do shake out with the new elevated event schedule and feedback from players and just the overall competitive landscape when it comes to professional sports. “It's our intent to continue conversations on how do we continue to grow and build on our success and that's evidenced I believe by the investments we're making in this year's event to truly elevate it,” she added. This year’s additions include an on-course concert series. Performers have yet to be announced, but Ms. Downing said the new addition will feature “Grammy Award-winning” acts. The JDC also is looking ahead to next year, when the first round of tournament play will land on the July 4 holiday. Ms. Downing said plans have yet to be finalized, but the JDC plans to embrace its role as “America’s Tournament” right here in America’s heartland. “They're putting all their chips on the table, trying to continually make this event better,” Mr. Lehman said. “Their support couldn't be at a higher level right now. “John Deere is the best title sponsor on the PGA Tour. And we're not just saying that because they're ours. I mean, they nurture this event — and the synergy between our (tournament) staff and their (marketing) staff has never been at a higher level,” he added. “They are fully committed to making this event special.”