For 46 years, the John Deere Classic has left a permanent impression on spectators, near and far. The excitement of watching PGA golfers and the joy of giving back to local organizations unites all involved in an unbreakable way.
But the real MVPs are the people who make this tournament a success every year: the volunteers. Freely giving of their time and energy, volunteers lend support through a number of different jobs, like marshaling transportation and shepherding attendees throughout the course. And this year brought 1,700 volunteers into the action. John Deere Classic Tournament Director Clair Peterson reflects, “Volunteering gives the tournament positive momentum because these people understand what it means from both an economic and charitable standpoint.”
A dedicated volunteer for the past four years, Stephen Campbell says joining the tournament’s support team is simple. Interested individuals can visit the John Deere Classic Volunteer Center website, register and choose what committee they want to work for. As part of the Information Committee, Stephen works with a team that answers questions from tournament spectators. And this year, Stephen has taken on additional responsibilities. “I’ve gotten to know the tournament staff and I help them in the office, doing odd jobs like unpacking boxes or doing inventory checklists on shipments coming in. I help out wherever I’m needed.”
But what drives people to volunteer in the first place? Eight-time volunteer Karen Dahlstrom credits her long-time passion for golf as the spark: “I’ve grown up around golf and first attended the tournament in 1996 when Tiger Woods played. I wanted to volunteer and I knew I wanted to be inside the ropes, so it was as simple as hopping on the website and joining. I can’t imagine my summers without it.” As part of the Standard Bearers committee, Karen walks with the official scorekeepers and holds signs with players’ names and scores so spectators can stay up-to-date and locate their favorite players on the green. Karen was also recognized as July’s Community Hero, as she continues to serve as a positive force of change. Her $1,000 designation was donated to the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement. It is her positive experience that’s even turned the tournament into a family affair. “This year, I recruited my dad and my husband to volunteer!”
"This is the major leagues…this is our Super Bowl." - Clair Peterson, John Deere Classic Tournament Director
As The Classic evolved throughout the years, so did volunteer efforts. Clair explains, “Our Committee Chairs work 6-7 months out of the year organizing and keeping abreast on all events. Then during the tournament, they are the point people for most tasks.” About a month before The Classic, volunteers join the Committee Chairs to provide around-the-clock support. To improve the overall spectator experience, the volunteer effort was recently revamped, according to Stephen. “[The Classic] added an extra tent for informational support and a rover, a volunteer that walks around that people can go to and ask questions.”
And while most volunteers are locals from the Quad Cities, others come from all over – even other states – to lend their support. Karen emphasizes, “All different people come together in different ways to volunteer and show support. It’s a mix in terms of years of experience…some have been doing it since [The Classic was held at] Oakwood Country Club, and then there are others that are retirees.”
Aside from individual efforts, larger community organizations also rally to dedicate their time and resources to the cause. Karen explains, “More local employers are understanding how this gives back to the larger community. Some of the concessions are staffed by non-profits and school bands needing funds, and certain marshals are local rotary clubs, churches and women’s golf groups.” It’s this widespread commitment to the tournament that gives it the strength upon which this community stands.
A Lasting Foundation
The Classic’s proven success of giving back to the community – last year, $8.73 million was donated – shines a spotlight on the volunteer effort as well as the strong camaraderie volunteers have established with each other. Stephen explains, “My favorite part of volunteering is getting to know all the people. Everybody involved has been phenomenal… it doesn’t feel like work at all. Feeling appreciated and knowing what I can do to help truly matters.” Karen echoes, “I love getting to know the other volunteers and hear their stories. When do you get a chance to see people out of your day-to-day life? It becomes a family.”
In addition, volunteers know that they’re making a difference for the Quad Cities community, which makes all of the hard work more than worth it. According to Stephen, “People see how awesome it is for our community because of all of the money we’re able to give back. If you’re not able to give money, but you want to make a large, positive impact in your community, volunteering for this is an amazing opportunity.” Karen agrees. “So many local organizations get something back from the tournament. Community members on the sidelines can still volunteer and get involved. We need more people to continue what the long-time volunteers have done.”
John Deere Classic leaders make it a point to show off their appreciation of the volunteers in many ways, including hosting the annual Volunteer Appreciation Party; a night filled with fun, food and awarding standout volunteers. Clair says, “Players and spectators comment how great they’re treated and how great the event is and that’s a reflection of the volunteers. We’re sitting on their shoulders.”