Consistent with its tradition of offering promising young players the opportunity to compete against the best, the John Deere Classic today announced it has awarded sponsor exemptions to four of the game’s most accomplished amateurs, including two from the University of Illinois.
Those who follow amateur golf will be familiar with the names: Wyndham Clark, Nick Hardy, Dylan Meyer, and Maverick McNealy. They will be included in a field of 156 players, July 10-16, at TPC Deere Run in Silvis.
Meyer and Hardy are key members of an Illini team that made it to the quarterfinals of this week’s NCAA Championship and are ranked the No. 1 and No. 15 amateurs in the world, respectively, according to Scratch Players World Amateur Rankings.
McNealy, who equaled Tiger Woods and Patrick Rodgers as the winner of 11 tournaments during his career at Stanford, won both the Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson Awards this year.
Clark won the individual Pac 12 championship for Oregon and helped the Ducks make it to the NCAA Finals at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois, outside Chicago.
“The John Deere Classic is very proud to welcome Wyndham Clark, Nick Hardy, Dylan Meyer, and Maverick McNealy to compete against the best players in the world at TPC Deere Run,” said tournament director Clair Peterson. “Not only are all four of them accomplished in the game of golf but they are outstanding young men off the course as well.”
A native of Denver, 23-year-old Wyndham Clark won three tournaments this year for Oregon, including the Pac 12 Championship, which featured five Ben Hogan Award semifinalists. He was runner up three times, and finished in the top 10 in 10 of the 11 events he played. Over the course of the season, he has been ranked as the No. 1 amateur in the world by at least two amateur ranking organizations. He recently earned status to compete professionally on the 2017 Mackenzie Tour, the PGA TOUR’s Canada-based developmental tour. A redshirt senior, Clark transferred amicably from Oklahoma State, where he was Big 12 Player of the Year as a freshman and was a member of the 2014 U.S. Palmer Cup team. A finalist for this year’s Ben Hogan Award, he will graduate with a degree in Applied Business and Economics. He made a hole-in-one at age six.
A 21-year-old junior from the Chicago suburb of Northbrook, Illinois, Nick Hardy already has had a prodigious career, having qualified for the U.S. Open in 2015 (when he made the cut) and 2016. This year, he was co-Big Ten Champion for the second time (also in 2015) and recently won the NCAA Midwest Regional. He finished T-39 in the NCAA nationals this week and helped his team to the semifinals in match play. This season, he recorded four top-five finishes for the Illini. Last summer, he made it to the Sweet 16 at the Western Amateur after finishing T-4 in medal play. He won the 2016 Illinois State Amateur by the largest margin in that tournament’s history and was 2015 Big Ten Freshman of the Year after a fine career at Glenbrook North High School in Northbrook.
These days, many college golfers have physiques like football players. Illinois’ Dylan Meyer isn’t one of them. However, the 5-foot 10-inch 150-pound junior from Evansville, Indiana compensates for his lack of brawn by being ranked the No. 1 amateur golfer in the world, according to the Scratch Players Amateur Golf Ranking. His start at the John Deere Classic will be his first on the PGA TOUR. Meyer, 21, a junior political science-pre-law major, finished T-6 at this week’s NCAA Nationals at Rich Harvest Farms and helped his team advance to the semifinals in match play despite a recent hospitalization for ulcerative colitis, which caused him to drop to 140 pounds. His signature victory came at the 2016 Western Amateur, where he defeated the deepest and most talented international field in the amateur game. Meyer made it to the quarterfinals of last year’s U.S. Amateur, came in 12th at the Master of the Amateurs in Australia, and finished seventh at the Jones Cup going into his junior season.
A 21-year-old native of Portola Valley, California, Maverick McNealy won two of amateur golf’s most prestigious awards this year, the Ben Hogan Award (top college golfer) and the Byron Nelson Award (top graduating college senior golfer along with academic performance and character). His standout career at Stanford was highlighted by six victories in his sophomore year when he won the Haskins Award as best college golfer of the year, voted on by players, coaches and college golf writers. Although the double major in management science and engineering has been somewhat ambivalent about whether to pursue a professional golf career, he has made three cuts in PGA TOUR events, playing on sponsor exemptions.
These four exceptional amateurs will compete against John Deere Classic defending champion Ryan Moore, who had one of the most prolific amateur careers in golf history, winning the U.S. Amateur, Western Amateur, U.S. Public Links, and the NCAA individual championship in 2004.
Moore will be joined by John Deere Classic icons and past champions Zach Johnson (2012), of Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Wisconsin native Steve Stricker (2009-2011), and 2014 champion Brian Harman.
Now in its 47th year, the 2016 John Deere Classic was recognized as the PGA TOUR’s Tournament of the Year for overall excellence. The Quad Cities-based event will feature its highest-ever purse: $5.6 million, with $1 million going to the winner.
Tickets for the John Deere Classic are available at www.johndeereclassic.com or by calling 309-762-4653.