MILAN — By sinking a pair of clutch shots for eagle in Monday's John Deere Classic Open Qualifier, Kurt Slattery went from JDC hopeful to hometown hero at Pinnacle Country Club on Monday afternoon.
Cliff Kresge, Matt Lee and Sam Horsfield shot rounds of 6-under 66 to grab the first three qualifying spots.
With his round of 67, Slattery found himself among seven golfers tied for the fourth and final qualifying spot. All seven lined up for a sudden-death playoff round at the 10th hole, a par-4, with a trip to the JDC at TPC Deere Run on the line.
When the former Rockridge and Western Illinois standout sunk his estimated 44-yard shot for eagle in the playoff following his straight-ahead drive, emotions from friends and family immediately erupted. That shot capped off a miraculous finish for Slattery, who also eagled 18 to put himself in position to reach a potential playoff.
“Standing on the 18th tee when I was 3-under par, I knew I had to make eagle to do it,” said Slattery of getting his score to where it could hopefully compete. “And I did it. And to cap it off by holing out on the playoff was truly a dream come true.”
After eight straight trips to the JDC qualifying event, the Taylor Ridge resident realized his dream of competing in the local PGA Tour stop, which boasts a purse of $5.6 million this year.
“I'm in complete shock. This was a lot of hard work,” said Slattery, also an assistant pro at Pinnacle. “I made so many changes to myself with my body, my mind, and my attitude, that this has just been a long time coming.
“I've been dreaming of this since I was seven years old at Highland Springs in Rock Island,” added Slattery, who also teaches lessons at TPC Deere Run. “I just always believed in myself and knew I could do it. It feels so great to have done it.”
Slattery was among the first groups to tee off on Monday morning following a brief rain delay. The long wait of watching the scores come in meant a period to re-focus for the 27-year-old.
“I pretty much had to refresh my mind,” said Slattery, “and I knew I had to at least birdie 10 and 17 to win the playoff. I knew somebody was going to birdie 10 out of seven guys. And I hit that good drive to put myself in good shape to make that birdie. And holing out was just a bonus.”
The impact of what that shot to qualify meant was magnified by the support of Slattery's friends and family who were in attendance. Slattery said that helped push him over the edge to finally compete in the JDC.
“They just said, this is the year that you make it,” said Slattery, “and I started believing that myself.”
Slattery will take that belief with him back to TPC Deere Run in the coming week, where he said his swing coach and Deere Run head pro Butch Haverland has also helped him work on his game. Slattery says he is confident he can make the cut at this year's JDC.
“This is the best day of my life,” said Slattery. “I am so excited for what lies ahead. And you know what, I'll go into John Deere with the utmost confidence that I can play with anybody in the world. And if I bring my 'A'-game, I'll be ready to contend.”