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Lehan an ace in the Deere Run kitchen
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Photo: Paul Colletti
Executive Chef Mark Lehan oversees kitchen operations at the TPC Deere Run golf course in Silvis.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
With a quick spin from the stove to the counter, Chef Mark Lehan plates the pasta and shrimp meal he has just prepared.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
Stacks of plates wait to be filled with entrees prepared by Executive Chef Mark Lehan at TPC Deere Run in Silvis.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
With a practiced hand Chef Mark Lehan makes fire leap from the pan as he prepares meals in the TPC Deere Run kitchen in Silvis.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
Chef Mark Lehan garnishes a steak dinner before sending it to the TPC Deere Run dining room.
SILVIS -- When most people head to TPC Deere Run, they arm themselves with metal drivers, state-of-the-art irons and enough golf balls to get them through 18 holes.

When Mark Lehan heads to the PGA Tour-owned facility, he is armed with tongs and other utensils, a vast array of spices and seasonings, two coolers full of food and his own imagination.

What else would you expect from the head chef?

"I definitely have a passion for food and creating things, so there's an artistic creation to it that I really enjoy — pairing things together, like food and wine,'' said Chef Mark, of Taylor Ridge. "Ultimately, the greatest satisfaction is pleasing people. It's a service to the public, and I enjoy it when the public really appreciates what you create for them.''

For the past 10 years, Chef Mark, one of only two original employees still at the club, has been serving quality dishes to those not only looking for a fine-dining experience but also to golfers looking for a quick bite before, during or after a round of golf.

Had a three-pronged deal between the PGA Tour, Deere & Co., and the John Deere Classic not led to Deere Run's creation, the Quad-Cities native would not have the job he has today.But when the opportunity presented itself, he went for it like most golfers trying to reach the 17th green in two shots.

"The PGA Tour is a great company to work for and a great organization that does a lot with charity,'' said Chef Mark. "I'm glad to be a part of that. Real happy to be a part of that. ... When I came on board, I realized all the charitable work the PGA Tour does and that was kind of the hook for me. At some point in your life, you come to the realization that it's not about you; there are much bigger things out there in the world, and I wanted to be a part of that. Still do. ''

He is especially happy to have this job each summer when the PGA Tour's traveling road show sets up camp with the annual John Deere Classic. While serving 150 golfers and their families, those with the Tour and catering to the throng of media makes for a long week, Chef Mark said he loves it.

"Quite honestly, it's a very exciting time here,'' he said, shrugging off the nightmarishly busy week. "I don't think you'd find any employee of Deere Run or the PGA Tour who would say it's grueling or anything like that. Everybody really likes it, and it's fun.''

Sure, if your idea of fun is having a linebacker physique working in cramped quarters for 12-hour shifts that normally begin at 3 a.m. each day of the tournament. Chef Mark said the volume of food produced and consumed is staggering and estimated serving about 7,000 meals for the week.

"It changes the pace and it's very exciting to be part of a huge organization that produces that much money for charity,'' he said. "It's exciting because we change some food around. There are a lot of international players, so we're always introducing different food.''

Chef Mark is a 1985 Alleman High School graduatewho worked his way up to broiler cook at Harold's On The Rock restaurant in Moline. He later became a certified executive chef, earning his degree at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. He workedin Colorado, Wisconsin and overseas before returning to the Quad-Cities, where he worked at other golf clubs before joining Deere Run.

He dispels some myths about how demanding or particular some of the players and their families can be.

"Some of them just want peanut butter sandwiches; that's just their thing,'' said Chef Mark, who has a 5-pound jar of peanut butter and 3-pound jar of concord grape jelly on a countertop in the kitchen. "Vijay Singh, when he was here, always had a grilled peanut butter sandwich every time in here.''

He admitted that another JDC week favorite is — nope, not pork chop sandwiches — macaroni and cheese.

"People probably think these guys want to eat exotic — duck, lamb or other things,'' he said, noting the players are very gracious to the cooks and wait staffs each summer. "But it's usually just the basic stuff. They want something simple, and they want it good.''

While their roles at the JDC are not front-and-center, Deere Run General Manager Ian Nicoll knows what Chef Mark and Food & Beverage Director Richard Hollis do is key to running a good tournament and keeping the golfers and their families happy.

"He is very important to the club,'' said Mr. Nicoll. "He is instrumental in preparing all the special menus for the Tour players when they are in town with their families and the Tour officials. ... He has a lot of balls in the air that week with all of the people he is serving."

It's not just tournament week when Chef Mark has to be on his game. Last year there were 23,000 rounds of golf played at Deere Run, and that means a lot of sandwiches and a la carte products being served.Some weeks the club also hosts up to a dozen special events in addition to regular breakfasts, lunches and dinners.

For the chef and his main staff of four, quality food is a given, be it a holiday brunch, Friday night prime rib buffet or catered special event. Everything from soups and sandwiches to salads is made from scratch and the staff also cuts its own steaks.

"I think we have built up a reputation of quality food and service,'' he said.

What is most surprising about the food served at Deere Run is that it comes from such a compact kitchen. There are basically just two aisles containing broilers and stoves where all the food is prepared, and each aisle is filled by two people -- definitely not glamorous working conditions, but Chef Mark enjoys it nonetheless. He is proud of the food that comes out of his kitchen — even the peanut butter sandwiches.

"I enjoy coming to work,'' he said. "I can think of a lot of other jobs I would rather not do. It's easy to come to work when you enjoy what you're doing and enjoy the people you work with.''

Local events heading

  Today is Wednesday, Oct. 1, the 274th day of 2014. There are 91 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: It is rumored in the streets that the 13 negroes sent to Quincy on the Moline quota were refused. We think this must be a mistake.
1889 -- 125 years ago: Harvey McKenna, of Detroit, billiard player matched to play Wizard Schafer in New York in January for the world championship, was a professional friend and manager, Billy Catton in Rock Island.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Levi Cralle, former Rock Island county sheriff, had come from his farm near Mitchell, S.D. to visit friends in the city.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Work is being rushed on the new high school building in Orion to replace the one destroyed by fire last winter. Classes are being held in churches.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Rehearsals for the 84th season of the Handel Oratorio Society chorus will begin at 7:30 p.m. Monday on the stage of Centennial Hall, Augustana College.
1989 -- 25 years ago: The Rock Island City Council's plan announced this week to have the federal government vacate Valley Homes public housing and move residents to Arsenal Courts to reduce density may not be feasible.

(More History)