More Tournaments Should Run Like John Deere


Tournament Director Kym Hougham strolled up to me on the practice range here at the John Deere Classic on Tuesday afternoon to say 'hello.' Not that big a thing, right? Well, it was to me considering I'd never been to this tournament and never met Hougham either.
He asked if there was anything he could do for us, or me in particular. Now I need to let you know that these little chats don't come every week at tournaments around the country. And from what I hear, this is what has made Hougham such a prized possession in the Quad Cities. Problem is, Hougham's duties will be in someone else's hands come next year. He's accepted and already started a job as Tournament Director at the newly named Wachovia Championship in Charlotte, NC. The new event sporting a purse of more than $5 million jumps onto the PGA Tour schedule next year.
My hunch is that Hougham's role at the John Deere Classic is going to be tough to duplicate. First impressions mean a lot in the business world and from the minute I arrived here on Tuesday I was impressed. This golf course, TPC at Deere Run, is a gem of a layout designed by the tournament's only three-time winner D.A. Weibring. Beautiful terrain and holes than just seem to fit together make it appealing to the eye and the players can't seem to find a negative thing to say. Believe me, that doesn't happen every week!
This place has a nice Midwestern feel to it. Great people, great hospitality and yes, some pretty good food around here as well. This place is famous for the pork chop sandwich!
Now, let's talk about the field for a minute. It's not up to par as far as I'm concerned. And I can attribute much of that to it's place on the schedule. The John Deere Classic isn't the only tournament that falls at a time where it's tough to get the big names. The facts are the facts. The British was last week and the big purse is coming at Castle Pines,CO, with the Buick to follow before the year's final major, the PGA Championship. Factor in that it's the summer and many of the guys have kids out of school and can't possibly play every week, and you have reason for many of the top draws to pass on the Deere.
However, I think things will change in a hurry. Next year the tournament gets a new date in September and in the years to follow could be moved to the week before the British Open. The real change though should come via the players' word of mouth. Everybody's raving about this being one of the very best courses they'll play all year. The tournament support is strong and it doesn't take long for guys to figure out the spots where the 'going's good.'
Just for the record, I'm not saying all this to gain something. I'm just convinced that Kym Hougham has this event right where the Tour needs it. Now, it's up to the players to support it like Hougham's band of merry men and women have - and this one will be tough to pass up.