Twenty years ago today, John Deere and the PGA TOUR signed a ground-breaking sponsorship agreement that provided the John Deere Classic with such a firm foundation that the Quad Cities’ tournament now boasts the third-longest title sponsor relationship on Tour.
In marking today’s 20th anniversary, John Deere and the Tour celebrate the tournament not only for the world-class golf it has brought to the fans but also for being the charity engine that has helped raise $80 million for hundreds of worthy causes over the last two decades. The current contract extends through 2023.
The 2016 John Deere Classic was named Tournament of the Year by the PGA TOUR and received the Tour’s Most Engaged Community Award.
“The John Deere Classic has become one of the Midwest’s signature sporting and entertainment events,” said Samuel R. Allen, chairman and chief executive officer of Deere & Company. “Year after year, the tournament provides millions of dollars of support for local charities and serves as a global showcase for the John Deere brand and its products. It is also an important venue for building relationships with customers and supporting the growth of our golf and turf business. We are proud to be title sponsor of a tournament that has become such a prominent part of the PGA Tour schedule.”
The PGA TOUR also hailed the 20th anniversary.
“The PGA TOUR is proud to celebrate this 20-year milestone with John Deere, the John Deere Classic and the greater Quad Cities community,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan. “Thanks to our partner in John Deere, the John Deere Classic has grown into the region’s largest professional sporting event and is a staple on the PGA TOUR schedule. Most importantly, the tournament provides an incredible, positive impact throughout the community, giving us reason to celebrate each and every year.”
On April 2, 1997, John Deere and the PGA TOUR entered a multi-faceted agreement under which Deere:
- Became title sponsor of the PGA TOUR’s annual Quad Cities tournament;
- Provided land for the construction of TPC Deere Run;
- Became the Official Golf Course Equipment Supplier of the PGA TOUR, providing Deere golf and turf equipment to maintain 20-plus courses in the Tour’s TPC network;
- Became the Official Golf Course Equipment Leasing Supplier of the PGA TOUR.
Hans Becherer, Deere’s chairman and chief executive officer at the time, signed the initial agreement on April 2, 1997. The relationship continued through Bob Lane’s nine years as chairman and CEO and into Sam Allen’s tenure at the company’s helm.
“The ongoing success of the John Deere Classic can be traced to the way the initial agreement was structured,” said John Deere Classic tournament director Clair Peterson. “The golf course equipment and TPC Deere Run property provisions were elements that added depth to the agreement that you don’t normally find in many other title sponsorships.”
Charity also was a major priority for both Deere and the TOUR.
In the 28 years from the first PGA TOUR satellite event in the Quad Cities in 1971 through 1997, the event raised a total of $2.5 million for charity. In the 20 years since Deere’s first year of involvement, the tournament has helped raise $78.9 million for hundreds of charities and community organizations in the Quad Cities region.
Beyond business and charity, the tournament also has had a significant impact on the local economy, including helping to attract out-of-town visitors. A 2015 study by Western Illinois University quantified the annual economic impact of the tournament at $54 million.
"John Deere’s sponsorship of the John Deere Classic for the past 20 years has been an important key in increasing sports tourism in the Quad Cities,” said Joe Taylor, president of the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau. “John Deere's support stabilized the event, made the long-term commitment to help it grow, and provided unmatched support of regional charities and community development."
The on-course competition itself is noteworthy for its dramatic finishes and memorable champions. The tournament has been decided by playoffs seven times, including both of Jordan Spieth’s victories, in 2013 and 2015, and Zach Johnson’s in 2012.
No man has dominated the tournament as much as Steve Stricker, the Wisconsin native whose deft short game and otherworldly putting stroke carried him to three straight victories from 2009-11.
Paul Goydos achieved golfing immortality at TPC Deere Run when he shot 12-under par 59 in Round 1 of the 2010 John Deere Classic, making him only the fourth PGA TOUR player up to that point to so.
The John Deere Classic also has been a place where young players get their starts, often by way of sponsor invitations extended by Peterson. Among the players receiving sponsor exemptions since 1998 who have gone on to win major championships are Johnson (2002 and ‘03), Jason Day (2006), Webb Simpson (2008), and Spieth (2012). Three rookies have won the John Deere Classic – Michael Clark II in 2000, Sean O’Hair in 2005, and Spieth in 2013 – and all have gone on to win Rookie of the Year honors.
In 2004, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, which conducts the Open Championship, awarded a sponsor exemption to the highest John Deere Classic finisher within the top five not otherwise qualified for the world’s oldest major championship. With the John Deere Classic typically being played the week before the Open, the exemption enhanced the tournament’s attractiveness to potential contestants and brought international attention. In 2008, the John Deere Classic initiated a trans-Atlantic charter service to fly Open-qualified contestants direct to the championship.
The 2017 John Deere Classic will be played the week of July 10-16 at TPC Deere Run, where defending champion Ryan Moore with compete with 154 other top players for a purse of $5.6 million, with $1 million for the champion.
Tickets for the John Deere Classic are available at www.johndeereclassic.com or by calling 309-762-4653.