The free youth clinic at TPC Deere Run's driving range on Tuesday afternoon featured pros Ricky Barnes and Viktor Hovland sharing pointers and showing off their range in front of the kids in attendance.
But it was Katelyn Harris, one of three recipients of a First Tee scholarship on hand, who stole the show. Harris broke two glass panes in her first two shots to the cheers of the youngsters.
The pros weren’t quite as swift at the challenge, with two of Barnes’ shots bouncing off the mounted square targets. One bounced into the crowd but avoided hurting any spectators.
Barnes and Hovland took questions throughout the event, taking time to sign autographs after the event.
Barnes, 38, and Hovland, a 21-year-old participating on a sponsor's exemption, both have U.S. Amateur titles under their belts.
Barnes won the title in 2002 and Hovland, considered among the favorites to win the John Deere Classic this year, was the first Norgwegian to win the U.S. Amateur last August.
Hovland is making his JDC debut, his fourth pro start, and Barnes is competing in his 10th JDC.
Barnes said the up-close interactions create unique and hopefully lasting teaching moments.
“Sometimes you walk around the course and give an autograph or two, but when you get them in front of you and see their excitement and can hit some shots and interact with them, it makes it pretty fun for us,” Barnes said. “We were there once, and this community does unbelievable stuff for the whole Quad-Cities; and to get 150-250 kids out here every year for the clinic, it’s awesome.”
Barnes recalled growing up in Northern California and playing golf with Johnny Miller’s kids. Barnes vividly remembered attending Miller’s clinics as a 10 or 11-year-old.
“Hopefully there are a few kids out there today that will remember the shots that Viktor and I hit," he said.
The three John Deere and First Tee Power For Good Scholarship winners, Harris of Antelope, Calif.; Kharynton Beggs of Charleston, S.C.; and Mombo Ngu of Jacksonville, Fla; also took turns at shattering a glass pane.
All three earned scholarships after their essays were recognized for best illustrating the values of First Tee along with the game of golf.
All three are in today’s pro-am and will have VIP access all week at the JDC.
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Harris, a Sacramento resident that earned a golf scholarship to Portland State, said it was a nerve-wracking moment before her first shot was on the money.
“I’ve done break the glass challenges before, but I always seem to hit the board and never the glass. And I’m a big fan of Viktor Hovland, especially, and Ricky Barnes,” said Harris, a golfer since age four with almost 14 years of First Tee experience. “Being so nervous in front of them, I can’t believe I actually did it.”
She said the awestruck looks of the kids and the opportunity to connect with young golfers is what it’s all about.
“She did steal the show; 2-for-2!” Barnes said. “I loved it.”
— Drake Lansman, Dispatch-Argus
Field shakeup: There were two changes to the field Tuesday. Kevin Streelman and Jim Knous withdrew. They were replaced by Chris Couch and Charlie Beljan.
Streelman, from the Chicago area, was given a spot into next week's Open Championship at Royal Portrush in Ireland after John Daly dropped out. Daly, 53, withdrew after the R&A turned down his request to use a golf cart for his arthritic knee.
Couch will make his eighth appearance in the JDC, just the second since 2012. Beljan has missed the cut in three of his previous four appearances here.
Light moment: When Zach Johnson was discussing the tournament during his press conference Tuesday, he mentioned this was the 21st year of the tournament at Deere Run. A couple media members interjected and said 2000 was the first year of the event here.
"You guys know better, you're the media," Johnson said. "That's what my wife says, 'You put the ball in the hole and I'll do everything else.' She's a sage."
Notable pairings: The pairings were released Tuesday afternoon for the opening two rounds of the tournament.
The 12:50 p.m. pairing Thursday will feature three JDC winners in defending champion Michael Kim, Brian Harman (2014) and Johnson (2012).
Last week's winner, Matthew Wolff, is grouped with Charles Howell III and Kevin Tway. They go off the 10th tee at 7:40 a.m. Thursday.