The giant golf ball and club along the entry road to TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill., site of the John Deere Classic since 2000. Photos courtesy of John Deere
Sophia and Kaeva, daughters of Alex Stuedemann, CGCS, have picked up some golf course management vocabulary from their dad.
“When the teacher quizzes them on what a gator is, they say it’s a four-wheel utility vehicle and not a swamp creature,” Stuedemann says with a laugh. Sophia and Kaeva’s “Gator” has a capital G, is trademarked, and is heavy on green and yellow — a common color scheme in Silvis, Ill., where their dad is director of golf course maintenance operations at TPC Deere Run.
John Deere’s world headquarters is located less than 6 miles away, in Moline, Ill., part of the Quad Cities. Since 1999, John Deere has been the title sponsor of a PGA Tour event — now known as the John Deere Classic — held in the community. When the 2021 event tees off at TPC Deere Run on Thursday, it’ll mark the tournament’s 50th anniversary.
“The John Deere Classic is more than a golf tournament; it is a celebration of the local community,” says Mara Downing, vice president of global brand and communications for John Deere. “Each year, hundreds of employees participate in the Classic as a volunteer, pro-am participant or a spectator. As an organization, we look forward to the John Deere Classic as a moment to take pride in the Quad Cities community and further engage with our locally based employees in the region.”
In 2017, the John Deere Classic was named PGA Tour Tournament of the Year, and the event has also been recognized with the PGA Tour’s Most Engaged Community award, a nod to the thousands of residents and businesses that step up to support the event.
The dogleg 18th hole at TPC Deere Run is a 476-yard par 4 guarded by a pond and a pair of bunkers.
John Deere’s involvement brought much-needed stability to an event that had struggled in its formative years. The first event, the Quad Cities Open, was staged at Crow Valley Country Club in Davenport, Iowa, in 1971. It became an officially sanctioned PGA Tour event the following year, but the lack of a title sponsor from 1971-81 threatened its existence. John Deere entered the picture as presenting sponsor from 1996-97, and the company became the title sponsor in 1999.
Now, after a one-year absence because of COVID-19, the tournament is back for its 50th-anniversary rendition. Also back is that big excavator with the golf club driver head on it that sparks major patron interest. “It’s like the Magic Kingdom at Disney World,” says Clair Peterson, John Deere Classic tournament director. “They (fans) stand in line to get their picture taken in front of that. We have to have a marshal there for crowd control.”
Peterson, a John Deere employee since 1975 who once worked in its golf and turf division, says Stuedemann has been invaluable. He started at TPC Deere Run as an assistant, staying from 2002-07 before leaving to work at other TPC facilities, including as superintendent at TPC Twin Cities. In 2014, Stuedemann returned to TPC Deere Run as its superintendent.
“There were many more trees to begin with than now. The thing that — and I’ll call out Alex specifically — the thing that really has happened since he became superintendent is a deep-tine aerating program and heavy topdressing program, which has allowed percolation during those summer rain events that we always seem to get,” Peterson says. “The course drains so much better, and the ability to have a deep root structure in the greens has made a huge difference. It’s now able to withstand what summers are like here.”
According to Bert Schmidt, John Deere’s global manager of market development and strategy for golf, being located near John Deere’s headquarters has allowed TPC Deere Run to take advantage of numerous innovations, such as John Deere’s introduction of its electric reel technology to the golf industry. “Golf is a special part of the John Deere business. One benefit that John Deere has with our ties to other industries, including agriculture, is that we can leverage the significant investments in research and development across the enterprise to deliver a robust portfolio of golf, turf and utility products,” Schmidt says.
Editor’s note: At the 2019 John Deere Classic, John Deere gave a select group of golf course superintendents a peek at its autonomous fairway mower. See the machine in action.
Since its founding, the PGA Tour’s Quad Cities tournament has helped raise more than $133 million for local charities, with more than 99% of it generated since John Deere became the title sponsor. That resonates with Stuedemann and makes him proud to be along for the ride. “It’s part of me,” he says.
After the John Deere Classic concludes on Sunday, Stuedemann and his crew — including assistants Andy Cooper, a three-year GCSAA member, and Jarrett Chapman, a five-year member — will be on to the next big thing: a complete bunker renovation (78 of them). “New sand, new liners. ... And we’ll make a few adjustments so the bunkers blend the proper strategy, aesthetics and maintenance,” Stuedemann says. “Assets age, and our bunkers have certainly paid their rent.”
The 2021 John Deere Classic: Golf course facts
The 2021 John Deere Classic will be held July 8-11 at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill.
Greens: L-93 bentgrass maintained at .100 inch
Tees: Southshore bentgrass maintained at .375 inch
Fairways: Southshore bentgrass maintained at .400 inch
Rough: Kentucky bluegrass/fescue maintained at 4 inches
Year built: 2000
Architect: D.A. Weibring
Average green size: 5,500 square feet
Acres of fairway: 28
Acres of rough: 120
Number of sand bunkers: 78
Number of water hazards: 3
Number of holes on which water is in play: 3
Soil conditions: Silty clay
Water sources: Surface water
- The Silvis, Ill., area had a wet spring followed by above-average temperatures. Golf course maintenance practices have been cautious and geared toward long-term plant health.
- TPC Deere Run has hosted the John Deere Classic since 2000.
- TPC Deere Run architect D.A. Weibring, an Illinois native, is a three-time winner of the event (1979, 1991 and 1995) when it was called the Quad Cities Classic.
Alex Stuedemann, CGCS, director of golf course maintenance operations
Andy Cooper, assistant superintendent
Jarrett Chapman, assistant superintendent
Bruce Phillipson, equipment manager
Todd Hajduk, director of golf
Andrew Elliott, PGA professional
Number of employees: 25
Number of tournament volunteers: 30
Howard Richman is GCM’s associate editor.