After a one-year hiatus, the John Deere Classic will be back this summer to finally celebrate its 50th anniversary tournament.
Although it will be a much more subdued event than tournament officials had originally planned for, at least it will happen this year after being put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic last July.
You could say, it may be a throwback to the very early days of the tournament at Crow Valley Golf Club or Oakwood Country Club with it basically being golf and little more for at least this year's event.
“Maybe it's a return to our roots a little bit before the big builds and everything,” said JDC tournament director Clair Peterson of the more simplistic look to TPC Deere Run this July.
But there will at least be a tournament.
“We didn't have a tournament, but we still had the other part of our business proceed very successfully with the Birdies For Charity program and its end results of $12.2 million,” Peterson said. “We couldn't be more pleased with that and appreciative of everyone who supported it from the 465 organizations that partnered with us to the 20,000 or so individual donors.
“This year, we're obviously very excited to have both parts of our businesses — the athletic side and the charity side — back."
Peterson admits that the golf tournament will definitely have a different look to it and potentially a different feel as issues still remain surrounding the pandemic and health guidelines that must be followed as set by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The number of fans allowed on property at TPC Deere Run during the week of July 5-11 is still undecided. Protocols that spectators, volunteers and others on the grounds will have to follow are still being determined.
What is known is that a full field of 156 professional golfers, including still defending champ Dylan Frittelli, will be here to compete for the $1,080,000 purse at the par-71 Silvis facility.
Another difference is that ticket prices have increased this year and general admission cost will be $50.
“We know there are still questions to be answered as far as how many people per day we can have on the property,” said Peterson, who noted that playing spots for both the Monday and Wednesday pro-ams can be purchased this year. “We have contingency plans to adjust as we learn what those numbers are. Our plan is to adjust forward, thinking that as the next two months click by that more people will be getting vaccinated and that will have an impact on our ability to safely have people on the property.”
As of this week, Peterson said that IDPH would allow roughly 10,000 people on property per day, but he hopes that number can increase come July.
Another huge difference will be the look of the tournament.
Because of protocols regarding safe social distancing, Peterson said that the construction of hospitality venues on property will be limited to holes 17 and 18 and that those builds will be less extravagant than in recent years.
“As of right now, the plan is to have no enclosed venues like we have in the past but provide open-air pavilions for both general admission ticket holders as well as upgraded hospitality ticket holders,” Peterson said. “The upgraded tickets will be adjacent to the 18th pond area where we traditionally have had the enclosed skyboxes over a large flat area. We can build it as big as we need to and feel we can take care of as many as 500 people per day.”
The price point for access to that hospitality area is looking to be $250, according to Peterson. That will include food and beverages as well as other amenities.
Peterson said that some partners who have participated in hospitality in the past are still hesitant to jump back in because of health concerns and the business climate.
With that in mind, ticket prices have increased a bit to help offset expenses and also help restock the tournament's emergency fund that had to be dipped into last year to cover expenses when income was flat without the tournament.
“We have many expenses, as anyone can imagine, above and beyond what we normally do as well from transporting people to cleaning and sanitizing and all kinds of things," Peterson said.
The veteran tournament director added that the family zone and the oasis concession area will both be set up this year.
And even with a scaled-back and altered event, it is much better than the alternative that had to be dealt with a year ago.
“We're excited,” Peterson said. “We think golf is perfectly suited to be viewed in this way. If people watched the Masters, there were no grandstands like there normally are and people followed groups as they chose or sat in a nice shady spot to watch groups go by. We can do the same thing at Deere Run. The property is perfectly suited for watching golf in that way.”
Volunteers are still needed and can sign up through the tournament website at johndeereclassic.com.