The VIP Experience I had at The John Deere Classic
The John Deere Power for Good Scholarship recognizes three young people who have a passion for giving back to their communities. To read more about the criteria of the scholarship and the application process, click here. As a scholarship recipient, I was able to have a VIP experience at The John Deere Classic located at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, IL. It was a week packed full of numerous amazing opportunities.
The second I stepped off of the plane in Illinois on Monday, I went straight to a learning center where we volunteered with a camp. The two other winners, Katie and Mombo, and I helped children of all ages learn about the different categories of animals, and we helped them create their very own. It was so much fun talking and joking with these children, all of which partake in The First Tee of The Quad Cities weekly. On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at Whitey’s Ice Cream, the best ice cream place I’ve ever been to! After that we were able to refresh before the pairings party dinner. At the dinner, we were presented in front of all the other players in the Pro-Am as the scholarship winners and we were able to pick out pro-am pairings. We were ecstatic that we were able to chose Kevin Tway and Cameron Champ to play with on Wednesday.
The next day we got a VIP tour of TPC Deere run. On this tour we checked out the clubhouse and the Pro Shop, talking to the director of golf at the course. We visited the Calloway equipment trailer, where they showed us all that they're capable of doing in the trailer for the players leading up to the tournament. It was so cool learning about how they kept the trailer stocked which each of their players specific things, like hats, grips, and specs for their clubs. We also got to check out the original building on the property, the Stone House, where we held the trophy! We also visited the grunt dome, which is where all the volunteers for the tournament go to get their work done.
Then we headed up to John Deere’s pavilion for lunch. During lunch there was a panel with Scott Langley, a First Tee Alum, and David Lawrence, a pro from the Quad Cities. They talked about their time as a junior golfer and as a pro, while also giving great advice. We served on the next panel with The First Tee’s CEO Greg McLaughlin. We were asked questions about the community service we do and about our time in The First Tee. We were also presented our scholarship awards at the end of lunch.
After lunch, we headed down to the range to get some autographs before the youth clinic, which we were asked to participate in. Having only spent thirty minutes on the range, our flags were almost full. I ran into Russell Henley, a pro that used to live in Charleston and who would come to my First Tee classes often. He remembered me and I was able to grab a picture to send home to my chapter. Shortly after, the youth clinic started. The pros running the clinic were Viktor Hovland and Ricky Barnes. They were super laid back, joking with each other as they explained their warm up routines. The children were so engaged, and they kept urging them hit drives and eventually they caved. They both hit BOMBS to the other end of the driving range. Then it was our turns; we were tasked with breaking panes of class about 50 yards in front of us. The pros went first, both of them missing the glass. Then it was my turn. I was so extremely nervous, but I somehow managed to hit to great punch shots that missed the glass by inches. Next up was Katie, who somehow manages to break two panes! It was a ton of fun and we were all laughing by the end once all the glass was broken. Afterwards all the kids wanted our autographs, which was super cool.
We headed back to the hotel to get ready for The Big Dig; which by far was the best part of the whole experience. I had the opportunity to operate actual John Deere Equipment. I drove a huge tractor and an excavator. It was honestly the coolest thing ever.
Wednesday was Pro-Am day, and we were all so excited!! We were each given a caddy, and I have to say that my caddy Justin was THE BEST. We started the day playing with Kevin Tway, who is honestly the coolest person. He was super chill and absolutely crushed the ball. We talked about how he got started playing golf, and he gave me some advice on a new pair of golf shoes to buy. We all played pretty great, and Justin kept me smiling the whole round. As we made the turn, we said goodbye and good luck to Kevin, and hello to our new playing partner: Cameron Champ. He hits bombs every. single. time. It was so cool watching him play. He also gave us awesome college advice, since he’s not that much older than us. We all had so much fun playing with both of our pros and the course was incredible. We finished tied for 3rd at -13, which was pretty awesome. Right after the round we met up with the CEO of John Deere and the PGA Tour Commissioner as they started their Pro Am round. After we finished, we went to dinner, and then went to a charity concert where all the proceeds went to local charities.
Thursday was definitely a more “chill” day compared to our hectic three previous days. Mombo was an honorary observer, while Katie and I had the freedom to walk around the course and watch golf. We split up, and I decided to hang out at the John Deere Pavilion by the 18th green. I was actually able to grab a few signatures as the players made the turn. Then adventured up to the range to watch some players warm up, hoping I’d run into Bill Haas. I started talking with some of the volunteers and I told them that I was looking for Bill Haas because I played with his dad, Jay, last year in the Pure Insurance Championship. They were able to pull some strings and I was able to meet Bill and get a picture with him. He was super nice, and Jay loved the picture that I texted him that evening. After Mombo finished her round, we went up into Golf Channel’s 18th Tower. It was so cool getting to see the course from such an awesome view point. Then we raced to club house to meet Beau Hossler and Matthew Wolff, both of whom were super nice. Matthew even gave us advice for college and life, considering he's only two years older than us. After our impromptu meeting, we raced to the CBS trailer and watched as they went live. It was somewhat overwhelming watching the dozens of screens playing numerous different shots from all over the course. It made me realize that there is so much work put into making a live coverage broadcast of a golf tournament happen so smoothly.
After that, we headed to an amazing dinner at The John Deere Headquarters. The headquarters itself was incredible. There was an indoor garden right in the middle of one of the buildings! It was gorgeous and dinner was amazing. It was really cool getting to network with customers and dealers from around the country. I was seated next to a John Deere customer from Texas who was invited to the event due to his loyalty to the company, and he was an avid golfer. We had a great time and I plan to keep in touch with him in the future.
Friday was our last day at The Classic and we had nothing on the agenda after we did a factory tour at Harvester Works. While no pictures were allowed inside of the factory, it was so cool learning and watching how a combine is put together. It was an amazing combination of technology and manual labor. Once we reached the course, I headed to the Pro Shop to buy some merch, and got to talking with guy who works there. He was in the PGM program at Coastal University, which made me realize who small the world actually is. After we left the Pro Shop, we were informed that Harold Varner III wanted to meet us. We had a great meet-and-greet and many jokes were made. Mombo and I ventured to the family zone, where we played numerous arcade games that were John Deere themed. It was super cool and honestly a lot of fun. Walking back to the clubhouse at TPC Deere Run for the last time was definitely sad, since we had fallen in love with this course over the past week. The drive to the airport was short, but while we were waiting for our flight we ran into Scott Langley and Smylie Kaufman. It was a great ending to an amazing week at The John Deere Classic.
Overall, this event was one of my favorites. I loved how much access we had to the players and the course, and how many unique opportunities we were able to participate in. I am so glad that my last national event was this one, and I encourage everyone to apply if they’re able to!