John Deere Classic officials are teeing up for what they hope will be another record-breaking year raising money for hundreds of Quad-City area charities.
Touted as a "community success story" by Tournament Director Clair Peterson, the Birdies for Charity campaign raised a record $13.4 million for 534 charities last year. On Monday, dozens of local nonprofits and volunteers gathered at the John Deere World Headquarters in Moline to kick off this year's fundraising drive, aiming to break last year's record.
"All of our board members are so motivated to always try to exceed the previous year's number, and you are at the heart of our success," Peterson said to the crowd. "We couldn't be more excited."
Peterson said it was "no coincidence" the John Deere Classic launched its fundraising campaign the Monday after the Masters Tournament, which he said featured "a lot of players that have played here and are doing well."
With golf season in full swing and the 49th John Deere Classic coming up this summer, Peterson focused on what he calls the "most important objective" of the tournament: raising money for charity.
Last year's record helped the John Deere Classic maintain its position in the top three for charitable donations raised among the PGA Tour's 48 events. The campaign was pushed into the top three for the first time in 2017.
The Quad-Cities tournament has helped raise $107 million since the event started 49 years ago, Peterson said.
On Monday, dozens of nonprofit representatives picked up their new Birdies for Charity campaign materials, including pledge forms, posters and JDC merchandise.
Last year, 534 charities participated in the program, raising pledges from their donors through Birdies. Individual charity pledges are based on the number of birdies recorded in the tournament, as well as lump sum donations to specific charities.
During last year's four-day tournament and pro-am at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, 2,355 birdies were recorded, according to a news release.
Deere & Co. which assumed title sponsorship in 1998, underwrites the administrative expenses of Birdies, so each charity receives 100 percent of the pledges it collects. In addition, a Bonus Fund consisting of tournament profits and a $325,000 matching donation from the John Deere Foundation is distributed across each charity.
Birdies for Charity Director Kristy Ketcham Jackson said charities receive a bonus of at least 5 percent each year from the fund. Last year, the match was 8.2 percent.
Peterson said $950,000 was poured into the Bonus Fund last year to distribute the 8.2 percent matching bonus.
"The John Deere Classic Birdies for Charity Program continues to be an extremely powerful and cost-effective way for nonprofit organizations to maximize their fundraising efforts," Ketcham Jackson said.
Another perk of the campaign, Peterson said Lexus of the Quad-Cities has again agreed to provide a two-year lease of a 2019 Lexus NX to one donor who correctly guesses the number of birdies recorded at this year's John Deere Classic, to be held July 8-14.
The local car dealer also will continue to furnish courtesy cars to John Deere Classic contestants during the week of the tournament.
At the press conference, Peterson took a minute to boast about Ketcham Jackson, his first hire who he calls the "envy of the PGA tour." Both Peterson and Ketcham Jackson have held their positions for 17 years.
"I remember 17 years ago when (Peterson) and I did this for the first time. Our goal was to raise $1 million that year," she said. "Things have really grown. And we're looking forward to seeing what this year brings."
Peterson also thanked John Deere for its support and position as the third-longest title sponsor on the PGA Tour.
"We're off and running," he said. "We're going to have a great year."