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Volunteers here to help with 50th anniversary of the John Deere Classic

By |  July 8, 2021 0 Comments

The John Deere Classic has been a staple of the PGA Tour since 1971. The tournament has seen many incredible events and winners, including Steve Sticker’s run of three straight victories from 2009-2011. Last year, however, there was no winner. There was no tournament. Another causality of the COVID-19 pandemic that altered life for everyone across the globe.

Now a year later, with the help of the vaccination effort, life has begun to return to normal. With that comes the return of the annual tournament, celebrating its 50th anniversary, from TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill. Alex J. Stuedemann, CGCS, director of golf course maintenance operations, has been hard at work preparing for this year’s tournament with his team of volunteers.

Crew hard at work preparing TPC Deere Run for the tournament. (Photo courtesy of John Deere)

Crew hard at work preparing TPC Deere Run for the tournament. (Photo courtesy of John Deere)

“I know last week he came in at like 2 in the morning just to check on the course,” said Trevor Dejaynes, a teacher at Colona Grade School and a volunteer at this year’s tournament. “He’s a grinder he comes in, gets his stuff done, tells us exactly what he expects and what he wants done. He’s definitely somebody to look up to if you’re in the agronomy business.”

Despite the tournament’s cancellation last year, golf as an industry was still trending upward, and while keeping the course in good shape was still a priority, Stuedemann’s focus shifted.

TPC Deere Run Superintendent Alex Stuedemmann. (Photo courtesy of Alex Stuedemann)

TPC Deere Run Superintendent Alex J. Stuedemmann. (Photo courtesy of Alex J. Stuedemann)

“For me, last year became so much less about ‘hey is the grass alive (and more about) is my staff healthy? Are they making proper choices outside of work to make sure they stay healthy?’” Stuedemann said. “It drove home how important our people are.”

The staff at the course is what keeps it in its best shape year-round, but the volunteer program is also vital for keeping the course looking its best, especially when it comes to hosting a tournament. Stuedemann explained these volunteers are so important when it comes to prepping a course in six-hour workdays as opposed to a typical 40-hour workweek.

“What I’ve always stressed with our volunteers is we want you to come here and have a great time and enjoy the experience,” Stuedemann said. “But I also tell my staff that we’re bringing these volunteers in so that we all can work less that week.”

Crews at TPC Deere Run preparing the bunkers. (Photo courtesy of John Deere)

Crews at TPC Deere Run preparing the bunkers. (Photo courtesy of John Deere)

The return to normalcy has helped the volunteer program, but Stuedemann said it was an extra challenge trying to recruit this year, in part, because the volunteers come from all over the world, including places like Australia and the United Kingdom. Another result of the pandemic as Alec Austin, a TPC Deere Run greenskeeper, explained.

Alec Austin is in his sixth year working at the course and also works as a nurse after graduating from nursing school in May 2020. (Photo courtesy of Alec Austin)

Alec Austin is in his sixth year working at the course and also works as a nurse after graduating from nursing school in May 2020. (Photo courtesy of Alec Austin)

“Our volunteer numbers aren’t as big because with COVID, the international travel was kind of tricky, so we don’t have any international volunteers this year,” Austin said.

Although he is in his sixth year working at the course, Austin went to school for nursing, and upon graduating in May of 2020, he was thrust right into the middle of everything as he was sent to a COVID-19 floor for the first five weeks of his career. Austin said he was proud to know he was doing his best to help but said he would be lying if he said it wasn’t challenging.

“I remember a certain person, their family had nine people in the hospital with COVID, they had a big outbreak,” Austin recalled. “This individual had been intubated for a long time and happened to come off the ventilator and was unaware the child had died. There was a big discussion on whether or not we should tell them because they were starting to get better and we didn’t want them to give up.”

Austin said that the trying experience reminded him that you should always hug your loved ones and spend as much time with them as you can because life is short. For that reason and many others, Austin explained he was just happy to be back at the course this summer preparing for a tournament. “The people and the relationships you make, you’ve got friends everywhere,” Austin said.

Trevor Dejaynes is a teacher at Colona Grade School and is in his first year volunteering at TPC Deere Run. (Photo courtesy of Trevor Dejaynes)

Trevor Dejaynes is a teacher at Colona Grade School and is in his first year volunteering at TPC Deere Run. (Photo courtesy of Trevor Dejaynes)

One of those friends is Dejaynes, who is in his first year volunteering. Dejaynes said he enjoyed coming out and seeing Austin as he had previously coached him in high school for baseball.

“It’s cool to see guys invested in the community and it’s awesome seeing the feedback that we get from people talking about the course,” Dejaynes said. “It gives you that sense of pride that people notice the hard work you put in.”

That hard work will be on display for everyone to see with fans and players on their way, a little differently than last year.



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