Retiring John Deere Classic tournament director Clair Peterson drove home the enduring charm of the local PGA Tour stop during a media-and-sponsor event counting down to the June 29-July 3 tourney.
While introducing defending champion Lucas Glover to the “Champions Day” breakfast crowd Monday, May 23, Mr. Peterson proudly pointed out the 2009 US Open winner made time for the JDC’s morning event mere hours after finishing in the top 25 at a major tournament – the PGA Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Around the question-and-answer session at Bally’s Casino in Rock Island, Mr. Glover’s travels included a midnight arrival and an afternoon departure for another tournament this week in Fort Worth, Texas.
“This doesn’t happen everywhere on the PGA Tour,” Mr. Peterson said of the effort made by Mr. Glover.
However, as Mr. Glover explained, he feels a special fondness for an event that gave him a sponsor’s exemption and allowed him to play two decades ago when the now four-time tour winner was merely a young pro scuffling to find his footing in the game.
“People here are great. Down to earth. Real,” Mr. Glover said. “I like the area, the people, the fans – it’s a great event and they do a great job for everyone. It’s a community-driven effort and it’s awesome.”
Mr. Glover’s appearance was merely the latest example of Mr. Peterson’s relationship-building skills over his 20-year run as tourney director.
That trait continues paying off in the quality players attracted despite being one of the smallest markets to host a PGA event – and being sandwiched between two of golf’s majors, the U.S. Open (two weeks prior to the JDC) and the British Open (two weeks following).
Besides Mr. Glover, the list of Mr. Peterson’s sponsor’s exemptions includes fellow JDC champs and major winners Bryson DeChambeau and Jordan Spieth.
This year’s PGA Championship winner, Justin Thomas, also is a former JDC exemption along with two of the sport’s other big names – Jason Day and Patrick Reed.
“Golf is all about relationships,” said Mr. Peterson, who is transitioning to an advisory executive director role during this 51st annual JDC. “Whether you’re on the course or watching in the gallery, there is a lot of time to talk and get to know people.”
That is one reason the JDC is “good business,” according to Pat Eikenberry, this year’s JDC volunteer chairperson and the vice president of civil engineering at IMEG Corp.
“This tournament supports our community and that’s very healthy for everyone concerned, especially our businesses,” Mr. Eikenberry said.
The nationally televised tournament boasts a $54 million economic impact locally, according to Visit Quad Cities.
The event also is a non-profit entity with a mission to benefit other area charities as well as raise the area’s profile – and Mr. Eikenberry said that is good for everybody from large companies to small family businesses.
The local Birdies for Charity program has set the fundraising standard on the PGA Tour. Nearly 500 local charities shared in $12.5 million in support last summer.
“None of that money is for the golfers,” Mr. Eikenberry said. “Everything that’s donated comes back to your charity of choice – and then some thanks to our bonus fund. Our board of directors and tournament staff works very hard to try and match anywhere from 5 to 10% of whatever the community donates.”
The JDC also offers a variety of sponsorship and hospitality options to help raise charitable funds.
The sponsorships businesses can invest in includes exhibit space, charging stations, autograph zones, individual holes, and advertising on the 18th hole JumboTron scoreboard.
The hospitality possibilities include private Chalets at the 17th and 18th holes and eight-person tables at the open-air Courtyard at 18.
The all-inclusive Chalets range from $15,000 to $21,000 depending on the size, location and amenities offered. The Courtyard tables include 12 all-inclusive tickets for $2,500 and are limited in availability.
“Golf allows you to host clients in a different way than if you just had a suite at a ball game,” said Andrew Lehman, a 15-year JDC veteran who is succeeding Mr. Peterson as tourney director.
“Instead of a couple of hours, you can host clients all day and have a multitude of different business discussions. It can be a great employee benefit day, too, but if you really manage your guest list and zero in on what you’re trying to accomplish, it can be some really successful days for you hosting clients at a golf tournament.”
Tickets also add to the JDC’s fundraising efforts.
Packages include general grounds passes ($40-day specific Thursday-Sunday), flex passes ($50 any day) and special hopper passes ($90 for Thursday or Friday, $120 for Saturday or Sunday) – with the latter including access to cash bars and concessions at the private venues on the 15th and 18th greens (and the Clubhouse on Saturday or Sunday).
Individual all-inclusive tickets are available on a limited basis at the Courtyard at 18 for $225 per day. VIP parking is included.
Youth tickets also are free for ages 15 and under free with a paid adult grounds pass. (Note: Join the Kids Club for additional perks).
Lowe’s also offers a Military Appreciation program with free admission Wednesday-Sunday for active duty, retired or military veterans and a guest. Advance online registration required.
This year’s JDC tickets are digital, meaning your phone acts as your entry. As an added bonus, all ticket holders receive free parking at an assigned, tourney-sanctioned lot.
For large groups of 10 or more, or for sponsorship details, contact Jennifer Kress at firstname.lastname@example.org or (309) 207-2133.
For more information, visit johndeereclassic.com or call the tourney office at (309) 762-4653.