A behind-the-scenes look at the 2023 John Deere Classic with Superintendent Jonathan Graham

By |  July 10, 2023 0 Comments

In his first year as superintendent at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill., Jonathan Graham has lived with an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality.

“I didn’t want to come in and make a bunch of changes and do anything that way,” he said. “We’re kind of status quo on what we do. I mean, it seems to work. It’s a pretty good plan.”

Graham, formerly an assistant at both Deere Run and TPC San Antonio, recently returned to the course and hosted the John Deere Classic — a tournament in the city of Silvis, on the banks of the Mississippi River, has hosted in some fashion since 1971. It was his first as the man in charge, following his move back to western Illinois, and he didn’t let the moment get to him.

TPC Deere Run Superintendent Jonathan Graham (right) surveys the grounds with Assistant Superintendent Jarrett Chapman. (Photo Golfdom Staff)

TPC Deere Run Superintendent Jonathan Graham (right) surveys the grounds with Assistant Superintendent Jarrett Chapman. (Photo Golfdom Staff)

“More than ever, every decision kind of falls on your shoulders,” he said. “When you’re in the assistant role, you’ve got some protection there. That’s the biggest, biggest difference. But I’ve got a really good team around me, and they do their best to do everything they know is right.”

Outside factors

The leadup to tournament week was dry. From May 14 until June 25, Deere Run didn’t receive any measurable rainfall, according to Graham.

“The humidity that we normally have was not here. So we were fighting (evapotranspiration) rates of .3,” he said. “Then, all of a sudden, in the last week we’ve had 2.38 inches of rain.”

The last-minute rain — including a storm on the day before the start of the tournament — made the course softer than it normally plays.

“It was playing pretty firm and fast leading into the event,” he added. “But (the late-June rain) did allow the rough to release some nitrogen, start growing and be a little more uniform and a little more penal for the players this week.”

In addition to the rain, Graham’s crew dealt with the fallout from Canadian wildfires that caused air quality to plummet. As a result, some employees stayed home, while others worked with masks.

“When it was happening here, it was during our last push really to get all the details done,” he says. “The timing wasn’t great for sure. If it would’ve happened a couple of weeks sooner or after, then would’ve probably been no big deal for us.”

A helping hand

(Photo: Golfdom Staff)

(Photo: Golfdom Staff)

Former Deere Run Superintendent, Alex Stuedemann, who still lives nearby, was in the shop with Graham for the tournament. Stuedemann, Golfdom’s 2022 Herb Graffis Businessperson of the Year, is now a director of international and TPC agronomy for the PGA Tour.

“It’s great to have him as a resource,” Graham said. “He’s been the superintendent here for the last nine years, and probably knows the property as well as anyone. To not only just pick his brain at any point in time, but to have him here for these important couple weeks, It’s a great bonus.”

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About the Author: Rob DiFranco

Rob DiFranco is Golfdom's associate editor. A 2018 graduate of Kent State University, DiFranco holds a bachelor's degree in journalism. Prior to Golfdom, DiFranco was a reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio

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