What is now the John Deere Golf Classic Tournament started in 1971. In 2013, it will take place July 8 to 14 and is a PGA Tour-sanctioned event including 156 Tour players and a $4.6 million purse. In its 40+ year history, the tournament has almost been discontinued twice. From 1975 to 1980, Ed McMahon was the emcee, and up until 1979, the tournament included stars such as Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope, Mickey Rooney, and Telly Savalas, thanks to its Pro-Am.
The first sponsors of the Quad-Cities Open were three men from Kewanee, Ill, who owned nine Quad-Cities area Hardee’s franchises; these ties led to the Hardee’s Golf Classic’s birth in 1986, a title held through 1994. The Hardee’s sponsorship came to an end in 1994 and the search for new sponsorship began once again. The tournament was granted a five-year window to find a title sponsor in agreement with taking a backseat to the bi-annual President’s Cup event.
Here are player interviews after the 2012 event.
Here is a series of time lapse videos behind-the-scenes of setting up for the tour.
In 1997, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and Deere chairman and CEO Hans Becherer announced plans to build the Tournament Players Club Deere Run on the Friendship Farms property owned since 1928 by the ancestors of company-founder John Deere. One of the key elements in the deal included Deere becoming the official golf course equipment supplier of the TPC network of courses as well as the title sponsor of the John Deere Classic.
TPC Deere Run became the site of the John Deere Golf Classic in 2000, and Deere has since extended its sponsorship through 2016, making it one of the longest agreements on Tour.
Since Deere has become the title sponsor, the event has featured two impressive records. Paul Goydos shot a tournament single-round record score of 59 in 2010, the same year Steve Stricker set an overall tournament low record score of 258 in four rounds. The score marked the second victory of Stricker’s remarkable three-consecutive finishes atop the leaderboard, which ended in 2012 when Zach Johnson became the new champion.
Each year the winner of the John Deere Classic receives a unique trophy created specifically for the tournament by renowned sculptor and jewelry designer Malcolm DeMille. The trophy is a custom-made fine art sculpture cast and finished in bronze that depicts a deer bounding across a fairway in front of an elevated green bordered by a stream. The leaping deer has been a part of the company’s logo for more than 170 years, and the golf course setting refers to the company’s major presence in the golf and turf equipment market.
John Deere’s involvement in golf extends beyond the tournament. John Deere is now a Trustee of The First Tee, a non-profit youth organization that provides life skills and character education programs to young people using golf as a platform. John Deere will donate $1 million over five years to The First Tee, further emphasizing Deere's active commitment to the game of golf and the career development of professionals in the golf maintenance industry.