The John Deere Classic today announced it has awarded sponsor exemptions to the 2016 NCAA individual champion and five other elite college players currently ranked among the top 10 amateurs in the world.
NCAA champion Aaron Wise, a 19-year-old Oregon sophomore, won the 72-hole individual stroke-play title by two shots Monday (May 30) with a 5-under par total of 275 on rounds of 70-70-64-71 at Eugene Country Club in Eugene, Oregon. He and his Ducks teammates were set to square off against Texas in the team match play finals on Wednesday.
The NCAA title was the pinnacle of an impressive amateur career for Wise, who last summer was a finalist at the prestigious Western Amateur, winner of the Pacific Coast Amateur and winner earlier this year of Australia’s Master of the Amateurs. The Lake Elsinore, California native is ranked No. 3 in the world by Scratch Players World Amateur Golf Ranking.
Like all of the players whose sponsor exemptions are being announced today, Wise plans to turn pro at the conclusion of NCAA Championship competition.
The other five sponsor exemptions are:
- The world’s No. 1-ranked amateur, Jon Rahm, of Spain, who recently was named the first two-time winner of the Ben Hogan Award for best college golfer. The 21-year-old Arizona State player tied for fifth at the PGA TOUR’s 2015 Waste Management (Phoenix) Open, finished T-10 earlier this season at the TOUR’s Mayakoba Championship. He won the Pac 12 individual championship, finished T-3 at the NCAA Championship and made it to the quarterfinals of the 2015 U.S. Amateur.
- Texas star Beau Hossler, 21, ranked No. 2 in the world, recently finished fifth in the individual NCAA Championship. The Mission Viejo, California native was consecutive Big 12 Player of the Year in 2015 and 2016, and was medalist in five tournaments for the Longhorns this past season. He was a finalist for the Ben Hogan Award. His breakthrough major amateur victory came at the 2014 Western Amateur. In the summer of 2015, he finished 3-0-1 in match play representing the U.S. at both the Walker Cup and Palmer Cup. Earlier this year, he won the prestigious Jones Cup. At age 17, Hossler held the outright lead at the 2012 U.S. Open midway through the second round and wound up finishing 29th. Last year, he finished T-58 at the Open.
- Georgia’s Lee McCoy will be making his second appearance at the John Deere Classic, where he finished T-69 last year playing on a sponsor exemption. McCoy finished at 2-over par 286 with rounds of 67-71-78-70 at TPC Deere Run. Ranked No. 4 in the world, McCoy, 22, finished T-6 at the NCCA Championship. Earlier this year, he finished fourth at the PGA TOUR’s Valspar Championship and won the 2016 SEC individual title. He finished fourth at the 2015 U.S. Amateur and was a member of both the Palmer Cup and Walker Cup teams. A seven-time tournament winner at Georgia, his career stroke average of 70.87 was the lowest in school history. He was semi-finalist for the Ben Hogan Award.
- Oklahoma State’s Jordan Niebrugge, the No. 8-ranked amateur in the world, also will be returning to the John Deere Classic on his second sponsor exemption. The 22-year-old native of Mequon, Wisconsin finished T-27 in 2014 at TPC Deere Run, with a 10-under par total of 274 on rounds of 71-68-66-69. The following week he tied for sixth at the 144th British Open, earning the silver medal awarded to the low amateur. His 11-under par total at St. Andrews was the lowest score by an amateur since the first Open Championship in 1860. He recently finished T-17 at the NCAA Championship. Last summer, he tied for third in stroke play at the 2015 Western Amateur and made it to the quarterfinals in match play. Niebrugge burst onto the major amateur golf scene in 2013 when he won, consecutively, the U.S. Public Links, the Wisconsin State Amateur and the Western Amateur, which earned him a spot on the Walker Cup team.
- Illinois’ Charlie Danielson finished in the top five in his six spring college tournaments, including eighth at the NCAA Championship, third at the NCAA Central Regional at Kohler, and second at the Big Ten Conference Championship. The 22-year-old senior from Osceola, Wisconsin also made the cut at the PGA TOUR’s Northern Trust (Los Angeles) Open earlier this year, finishing T-72. Last summer, he finished seventh at the Western Amateur, earning a spot in the Sweet Sixteen, and tied for third at the Brabazon Trophy (English Open Amateur). He wraps up his amateur career as the 11th-ranked player in the world.
“The John Deere Classic is proud and eager to have the six top young players announced today in our field for 2016,” said John Deere Classic tournament director Clair Peterson. “Part of the John Deere Classic’s mission is to provide promising young players with opportunities to compete early in their careers against the best players in the world - the established PGA TOUR veterans who play here every year. A number of those young players – including the likes of Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – have told us the experience they gained at the John Deere Classic helped them immensely to advance in their professional careers.”
Fans of the John Deere Classic often are among the first to see the so-called “young guns” perform in a professional surrounding. Played annually at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois, the John Deere Classic will be played Aug. 8-14 before moving back to its normal mid-July dates in 2017.
In addition to Spieth (2012) and Day (2006), other past sponsor exemptions whose careers have panned out include defending British Open champion Zach Johnson (2002-‘03), Matt Kuchar (2001), Bill Haas (2004), Patrick Reed (2013), Webb Simpson (2008) and Tiger Woods (1996).
Tickets for the John Deere Classic are available at www.johndeereclassic.com or by calling 309-762-4653.