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COVID-19 canceled the 2020 John Deere Classic. Pandemic restrictions last summer also limited the locally hosted pro golf tournament to a more muted than normal celebration. However, this year’s complete comeback story promises to be a full party again – which serves as the appropriate star-studded send-off for Clair Peterson. The 20-year tournament director is transitioning this summer to the advisory role of executive director. “The last few years just didn’t really feel like the right time to pass the baton,” said Mr. Peterson, who is handing off his full-time duties to long-time protégé Andrew Lehman. “I’m still going to stick around as a player liaison. I’ve developed a lot of relationships over the 20 years. So, I’ll still have involvement – just not quite the same day-to-day, hour-to-hour role as it’s been,” he said. For Mr. Peterson’s unofficial retirement party – the 2022 JDC from June 29-July 3 at TPC Deere Run in Silvis – some of the biggest names in golf are returning to honor a friend who helped launch their careers. Included are four former major tournament winners who got their PGA Tour starts as JDC sponsor’s exemptions: two-time major winner Zach Johnson (2007 Masters, 2015 British Open), Jason Day (2015 PGA), Webb Simpson (2012 U.S. Open) and defending JDC champ Lucas Glover (2009 U.S. Open). Mr. Glover and Mr. Johnson also are joined on the local PGA Tour stop’s commitment list by fellow former JDC champs Brian Harman, Dylan Frittelli, Ryan Moore and three-time JDC winner Steve Stricker. “It’s crazy looking back,” Mr. Peterson said. “I wasn’t supposed to be anything except the John Deere liaison when I first started. But then Kym Hougham (my predecessor) got recruited to another tournament. “So, it was a total surprise when I got this job – and fortunately I got to learn on the job and grow under all these long-time committee and board members,” he said. “Twenty years goes by quickly but it’s satisfying to see what we’ve done – and exciting to see what the future holds with a great staff in place.” The upcoming $7.1 million tournament lost two-time Masters champ Bubba Watson to knee surgery recently. However, among those also expected in the 154-player field are: Mr. Johnson’s fellow Deere brand ambassador Daniel Berger (currently ranked Top 30 in the world), as well as 2022 PGA Tour winners Ryan Brehm, K.H. Lee and Olympic bronze medalist CT Pan. Chicago native Patrick Flavin, Oklahoma star Chris Gotterup and Duke standout Quinn Riley are this year’s sponsor exemptions hoping to follow in the footsteps of other JDC exemptions turned success stories. Also included are majors winners Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau and Jordan Spieth – the latter two also are former JDC champs. “Starting some 20 years ago,” Mr. Peterson said, “we adopted a philosophy that we would provide up-and-coming young players with the opportunity to prove themselves against the best in the world and to give our loyal fans a chance to get a look at them early in their careers. We think it has worked out very well for both the players and our fans.” The nationally televised tournament certainly works well for the community – boasting a weeklong $54 million annual economic impact locally, according to Visit Quad Cities. All of the money raised from ticket sales, hospitality packages and sponsorships is reinvested into the community with the JDC, a non-profit entity whose mission is to benefit other area charities.