In the early stages of his golf career, Zach Johnson received much-needed sponsorship help from a Holland-based insurance company and a product that prevents fleas in animals.
On Tuesday, he added a sponsor that makes a lot more sense.
Johnson, a Cedar Rapids native who currently ranks seventh in the World Golf rankings, will now be sponsored by Deere & Co.
Johnson has served on the board of directors of the John Deere Classic for nine years and won the PGA Tour event in 2012.
Clair Peterson, executive director of the JDC, said Deere has held off sponsoring any one particular golfer through the years because it backed the local PGA Tour event, held every July at TPC Deere Run in Silvis.
“They’ve always had the philosophy that they have 156 of the best golfers in the world coming here and they’ve invested in that way,’’ Peterson said.
But Johnson has become so closely affiliated with the company through his work with the board and through other special programs that the company felt compelled to make this move.
“They felt like it might be time to formalize their relationship and say thanks for all the things he already has done for the tournament,’’ Peterson said. “It also has a component to it that supports (Johnson’s) foundation, which is very important.’’
Beginning with this week's World Golf Championship event in Marana, Ariz., the John Deere trademark will be displayed on Johnson's golf bag at all events he plays during the tenure of the multi-year sponsorship deal.
"We admire Zach Johnson as a competitor and for the overall values he exemplifies in his life," said James Field, president of Deere's Worldwide Agriculture & Turf Division.
"We believe Zach represents the core values for which the John Deere brand is known. He has unquestioned integrity, has displayed great commitment to his profession, family and community and is one of the highest quality players in the game today."
Johnson, in a news release, referred to John Deere as “one of the world's most admired companies."
"It is a significant responsibility to be entrusted with representing a company known around the world for its strong values,’’ he said. “I am sincerely looking forward to it."
Johnson first played in the JDC on sponsor’s exemptions in 2002 and 2003, getting financial backing at that time from Aegon, a Dutch-based company with its U.S. headquarters in Cedar Rapids, and Bayer Advantage.
Over the years, he has emerged as one of the top players in the world. He has won 11 PGA Tour events including the 2007 Masters. He also has played on three Ryder Cup and three Presidents Cup teams.
He became a member of the JDC board in 2005 and often has played well in the event. He has been among the top three finishers four of the past five years and finally broke through with a victory in 2012, defeating Troy Matteson in a sudden-death playoff.
At the time, he referred to the achievement as “supremely special.’’
“I can’t really put it into words,’’ Johnson said. “This tournament has meant so much to me and my family over the years.’’
He almost repeated as JDC champion last summer, losing a playoff to Jordan Spieth.