The John Deere Classic today announced it has awarded sponsor exemptions to three of golf's most accomplished and promising young players, all under the age of 21.
For the second year in a row, rising star Jordan Spieth, 19, who turned pro after his freshman year at Texas, received a sponsor exemption based on his strong play. Spieth has four top-10 finishes in 11 starts this year on the PGA TOUR and has earned more than $900,000 in tournament competition. A native of Dallas, Spieth played the John Deere Classic on a sponsor exemption in 2012, finishing tied for 58th.
Justin Thomas, 20, who will be a junior at Alabama, was a star on the Crimson Tide's 2013 NCAA national championship team. During his sophomore season, he won two tournaments and was a finalist for the Ben Hogan Award after winning 2012 national Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year awards in his first year in Tuscaloosa. At 5-10 and only 145 pounds, Thomas is comparatively slight in stature, but had a team-leading stroke average of 70.72 in his first two seasons with the uber-talented Crimson Tide squad. As a 16-year-old, Thomas made the cut at the 2009 Wyndam Classic in Greensboro, NC.
Patrick Rodgers, 20, a junior at Stanford and a finalist for the Ben Hogan Award given to the nation's top college player, recorded three individual victories among six top-10 finishes during his sophomore season with the Cardinal, and was named to the All-Pac-12 First Team for the second consecutive year. A native of Avon, Ind., outside Indianapolis, Rodgers led his team with a stroke average of 70.66. Rodgers also played in last year's John Deere Classic on a sponsor exemption, shooting 67-74. He is the No. 8-ranked amateur in the world, according to the Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking.
Previously, Steven Ihm, of the University of Iowa, received an exemption to play in the John Deere Classic. A native of Peosta, Ia., near Dubuque, Ihm was the top player on Iowa's resurgent men's golf team after winning the individual junior college national championship. Ihm won the prestigious Sunnehanna Amateur last weekend against a strong field, improving his World Amateur Ranking to No. 42.
"The John Deere Classic is pleased to award sponsor exemptions to Jordan Spieth, Patrick Rodgers, and Justin Thomas, all of whom have demonstrated the talent and commitment necessary to compete on the PGA TOUR now and in the future," said John Deere Classic tournament director Clair Peterson. "We like our fans to have the opportunity to see tomorrow's PGA TOUR stars and major champions today."
"The John Deere Classic embraces and takes pride in its role as a tournament that is able to provide playing opportunities for young, talented players, and we're very excited with the outstanding group we have invited this year," Peterson said.
Among the John Deere Classic's previous sponsor exemptions are such major champions as Zach Johnson, Lucas Glover and Tiger Woods. In recent years, the tournament also has awarded exemptions to such players as Jason Day, Bill Haas, Luke Guthrie, Matt Kuchar, Spencer Levin, D.A. Points, Webb Simpson, Kyle Stanley, Camilo Villegas, and Nick Watney, all of whom have gone on to highly successful careers on TOUR.
This year, a field of 156 players will contend for a purse of $4.6 million with the winner receiving $828,000.
Tickets for the John Deere Classic are available at www.johndeereclassic.com or by calling 309-762-4653.
The PGA TOUR began its run in the Quad Cities in 1971.John Deere, whose world headquarters is in Moline, Ill., assumed title sponsorship of the event in 1998.The tournament moved to TPC Deere Run in 2000.
Now in its 43rd year, the tournament helped raise $6.79 million for 493 charities in 2012, ranking it first on the PGA TOUR overall in per capita contributions at $18.11 for each of the 375,000 residents of the Quad City area. It is among the top five in overall charity donations on the PGA TOUR.
The John Deere Classic, which includes Birdies for Charity, is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization located in the John Deere Classic tournament offices at 15623 Coaltown Road, East Moline, Illinois. Since its founding in 1971, the tournament has helped raise $49.08 million for charity.