It has been called “the little tournament that could.” But in 1997, what was then the Quad City Classic, located in the PGA Tour’s smallest market, was in dire need of a title sponsor.
John Deere stepped up and signed a multi-year agreement to become title sponsor of the annual tournament. The company also provided land to construct TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois, where the tournament is now played, and became the official golf course equipment supplier and official golf course equipment leasing supplier of the PGA Tour.
Today, John Deere is the third longest-running title sponsor on the PGA Tour, and in 2016, the John Deere Classic was named Tournament of the Year. The award recognizes the dedicated work of the Classic’s board of directors, staff and 1,700 volunteers, many of them John Deere employees and retirees. The real winner, however, is local charities.
The 2016 Classic helped raise a record $10.5 million for nearly 500 local and regional charities in the Quad Cities, Iowa and Illinois area, ranking it among the top three in charitable giving on the PGA Tour. Most of the funds were generated from the John Deere-sponsored Birdies for Charity program, with 100% of pledges going to charity.
Non-profit organizations like Friendship Manor, a continuing-care retirement community, call the Birdies program a “difference maker.” “Without Birdies for Charity, we would not be able to continue our hallmark virtue of never asking a resident to leave simply because they outlived their resources,” said Jeff Condit, Friendship Manor’s development director. “Birdies has helped us continue our tradition of service,” he added.
Since John Deere became title sponsor in 1998, the Classic has provided the greater Quad Cities community with $78.8 million for charity. If past experience is any indication, that tradition will continue well into the future.