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JOHN DEERE CLASSIC MEDIA DAY
July 11, 2016
CLAIR PETERSON: Thanks, everyone. This is a day we really look forward to, a lot of energy and excitement about a month out or so, the 46th John Deere Classic. I just had a chance to go to a PGA TOUR meeting where Tim Finchem was first on the podium and said that he now understood his role, and that was to introduce Jay Monahan. That's kind of my role.
I'm going to introduce a lot of people here, but not without first thanking all the people in the blue sport coats, our board members. Many of them also have their golf shirts on, so we thank all the board members that make this event so successful, and we're in a facility, TPC Deere Run, that we're so thankful for.
Todd Hajduk, the general manager, Andy Stoterau, the head golf professional, you're going to see Alex Stuedemann's fantastic product out there today, and we're really excited about that.
Without further ado, I'll introduce the -- well, I guess I should thank John Deere, too. Why don't I do that.
We have the greatest title sponsor on the PGA TOUR. We say it all the time, but it's absolutely true. Last year they extended until 2023. At that point, actually before that point, it'll be the second longest title sponsorship on the PGA TOUR, actually third. AT&T, Honda are ahead of us, Shell right now is ahead of us, but their title sponsorship only goes for one more year, so we couldn't be more proud to present ourselves as a John Deere product and to have them put their trust in us.
So now representing the 1,750 volunteers who step forward every year to make this event possible is the volunteer chairman, Paul Scranton.
PAUL SCRANTON: Thanks, Clair. On behalf of the board of directors, the volunteers, and the staff, I enthusiastically welcome you to the 2016 John Deere Classic. We are in the business of community engagement, and we are fortunate to have a PGA TOUR event as our tool to accomplish this mission. Our mission statement contains four main pillars that guide us in all that we do, and I'd like to share those with you today.
The first, provide growing annual contributions to local charities. Last year we raised $8.7 million that went to over nearly 500 local charities. That placed us in the top five of all PGA TOUR events and No. 1 in per capita giving, with over $23 per person in the Quad Cities raised.
Since our beginning the John Deere Classic has raised over $71 million for local charities, and at our current pace we should eclipse $100 million in just a few short years.
No. 2, promote volunteerism in the Quad Cities. As Clair mentioned, 1,750 volunteers help make this tournament what it is, many of them working all year long, and many have been with the tournament for over 40 years.
We're also fortunate to have a lot of local companies, including John Deere, that allow their employees to take time off of work to volunteer at the John Deere without having to take vacation days.
No. 3, provide a positive economic impact in the Quad Cities. Last year John Deere and Western Illinois University did an economic impact study and determined that the John Deere Classic adds over $54 million annually to the Quad City economy, which is fantastic.
And No. 4, contribute positively to the quality of life in our area. Clearly there is no doubt about this one, and this is one of the core values of our sponsor John Deere. They bring this culture to every community in which they operate, and it all begins right here in the Quad Cities.
I've had the pleasure to join Clair and several staff members at four different PGA TOUR events over the past couple years, and I can tell you without a doubt, we have the best staff and the best title sponsor.
I'd like to say to Clair and all the staff, thank you for the professionalism and the dedication you bring each and every day to make this tournament a success.
I want to thank John Deere for their commitment through 2023. As Clair mentioned, they're now the third longest title sponsor on the TOUR. And lastly, I want to thank all of our volunteers and our board of directors. As Clair said, many of them are here today, and I want to thank them for their endless time and their monetary commitments to this tournament.
Again, welcome to the 2016 John Deere Classic, where magic happens. Thank you.
CLAIR PETERSON: Thanks, Paul. It's really cool, I think, this year to have the two young men that we're going to introduce representing our first five sponsor exemptions. We've got a long history of introducing our golf fans to that next great class, and when you look at, I guess, their past history, Zach Johnson, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Camilo Villegas, Tiger Woods, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau last year, Lucas Glover, Webb Simpson, Bill Haas, a few of the young players coming out of college that we were able to help kind of kick-start their career.
So we have two of our first announced sponsor exemptions, two of the first five. Lee McCoy, Jordan Niebrugge and Jon Rahm are not here. They're all playing around the PGA TOUR or around the world. Jordan Niebrugge is at the British Open because he finished sixth last year, and Lee McCoy and Jon Rahm are playing at the Barbasol.
These two young players are going to, when they leave here, they'll be playing, as well, up in Canada and over in Springfield in a MacKenzie Tour and a Web.com TOUR event, so they're already launched, but we just had a chance to sit for a couple hours this morning, really didn't know them that well, and they fit perfectly into the profile of what we're looking to start here, and that's a long-term relationship with great young men who have already proven themselves as athletes, but we fully expect them to continue on a course that's going to make history.
If you don't already know a little bit about them, we'll explain a little bit in a short bio. How about Barry Cronin back in the house, ladies and gentlemen? Talk about the best title sponsor on the PGA TOUR, we have the best media director by far. Welcome back, Barry.
Next to Barry is Charlie Danielson. Illinois's Charlie Danielson was named Big Ten Player of the Year for 2016 and is recognized as First-Team All-American, becoming the first Illini in history to earn All-American recognition in all four years of his career. He represented the U.S. on the 2016 Arnold Palmer Cup team. He qualified for and competed in the U.S. Open at Oakmont.
As a senior, the 22 year old from Osceola, Wisconsin, finished among the top 5 in his six spring collegiate tournaments, earning medalist honors in two of those events. He recorded a third-place finish at the NCAA Central Regional at Kohler. He was eighth at the individual NCAA championships and helped lead his team to the semifinals.
Earlier in the year, the Charlie made the cut at the PGA TOUR's Northern Trust Open, finishing tied for 72nd. Last summer he finished seventh at the prestigious Western Amateur, earning a spot in the sweet 16. He tied for third at the Brabazon Trophy. That's the English Open Amateur. Quite a distinguished amateur career.
Aaron Wise, who's sitting next right to Charlie, NCAA champion. That's what a collegiate athlete is always looking forward to hopefully accomplishing, and Aaron did that this year. It says he's 19 years old. We just found out he just turned 20 years old. Won the 72-hole individual stroke play title by two shots on May 30th with a 5-under par total of 275 at Eugene Country Club. A couple days later, Aaron and his teammates defeated Texas in the team match play finals to win the team championship.
Wise was the first player in school history to win the NCAA individual championship.
The NCAA title was the pinnacle of an impressive amateur career. Last summer he won the Pacific Coast Amateur, was a finalist at the prestigious Western Amateur. We just recall now, it went to 20 holes and some -- 22 holes? And some guy sunk a third shot on a par-5 out of a bunker to beat Aaron, which is pretty unexpected. He took it well, though.
Earlier this year he won Australia's Master of the Amateurs. That sounds like a really cool tournament.
At the time he turned pro, the native of Lake Elsinore, California, was ranked No. 3 in the world by the Scratch Players World Golf Amateur Ranking. He was medalist in U.S. Open qualifying and competed in the U.S. Open at Oakmont, as did Charlie. He also won the 72-hole qualifying tournament for the MacKenzie Tour. That's the Tour in Canada, so he was a medalist, so that's where he's going. He's going up to Thunder Bay after he gets done here to play up there, and he played for the University of Oregon, like I said, whose coach is Casey Martin, who played with Tiger Woods in college if you remember and played here at the John Deere Classic a couple times.
Instead of, like we traditionally do, having the young men come up to the podium, we thought it would be great for Barry to just carry on a bit of a conversation with them and then open it up for questions later. Barry?
BARRY CRONIN: Welcome, everybody. We'll just start out with Aaron. Aaron, tell us a little bit about how you got started in golf. Were you multi-sport athlete as a kid, or were you only golf, and when did you start just golf?
AARON WISE: Yeah, honestly, I don't remember starting golf. It's before I can even remember. I'm told stories of going out in the backyard with my dad and trying to mimic what he's doing and holding the club up against my neck and kind of wearing myself out and chipping around and just trying to be like my dad just like every other kid. That's kind of how I got into the game.
I actually grew up in South Africa. That's where I started, and my parents moved over to the States when I was a young kid, four or five, just to give me more opportunities to play the game because it was clear I had a talent for it and a passion. I loved it, and it's kind of gone on from there.
BARRY CRONIN: What was your amateur career like in California? How old were you when you first started? Did you play AJGA and all that?
AARON WISE: Yeah, so my family obviously didn't have the finances that some others have, and that made it tough for me growing up. I played in as many tournaments as I could. I didn't travel very much, it was very local events, and got a few starts in the Junior World, which was down in San Diego, which is close to where I live.
That was kind of the platform for me playing my way into college, and that's where Casey Martin recruited me out of, and that kind of gave me a start going on to develop my amateur career.
BARRY CRONIN: And what was it about Oregon that kind of made you want to go there? Was it Casey Martin, because I know you were obviously recruited by some other top schools.
AARON WISE: Yeah, there was a bunch of things. Casey obviously was a big selling point just because of what he's been through and what I thought I could learn from him and what I did learn from him, and a lot of the other things that kind of went into that were off-the-course things. I needed to develop myself as a golfer. I needed to further develop off the course, and there's only so much you can do from a technique standpoint, and Oregon offered a lot of the other things like nutritionists and physical trainers and being able to work on myself, and even working with Jay Brunza on the mental side, and yoga, team yoga. All those things played into further developing me as a player.
BARRY CRONIN: Did you know when you were a freshman? How did you decide to turn pro? Was it any particular performance, maybe last summer where you were winning a lot? How did you decide?
AARON WISE: Yeah, that decision honestly came down to the fact that I really wanted to go into law school. That was kind of my goal from an academic standpoint, and the challenges of getting into law school and the challenges of playing golf at the top level were -- there wasn't enough time in the day for me to do both. You know, it kind of came down to a decision where I had to pick one or the other, and I kind of chose golf.
I sat down over winter break of my sophomore year, and that was kind of the time where I sat down with my family and talked to a few people close to me, and we decided it would be best for me to turn pro after that season, obviously because having NCAAs on your home course, it's an awesome experience and an opportunity you can't let go of. And school was just getting to hard to the point where I had to either choose one or the other.
BARRY CRONIN: Now that obviously you're qualified for the MacKenzie Tour, tell us about your summer. You're going to play John Deere, and then what's the rest of your schedule look like?
AARON WISE: Yeah, as an am I played in the Open obviously a few weeks ago and then took a couple weeks off to move to Vegas, which is where I'm going to base myself out of because my coach is there so it all kind of makes sense. I'm going up to Canada for a few weeks, and obviously the John Deere is going to be an incredible opportunity to play in that, play on the PGA TOUR, and then probably finish out the season on the MacKenzie Tour and take it from there, see what I have to do after that.
BARRY CRONIN: What's it mean for a younger guy like yourself to get an exemption here to play at the John Deere, a PGA TOUR event, and sort of the reputation that the tournament has to giving you guys an opportunity?
AARON WISE: Yeah, for us to get an exemption into a PGA TOUR event is awesome. It's what we need; it's what we work towards.
Obviously it's hard to make it out on the PGA TOUR. It's hard for anyone to do that. And all we can do is work as hard as we can and hope tournament directors like these give us that opportunity to go out and show our game on the biggest stage.
For us to be able to do that here at the John Deere is just an opportunity that you're not going to get many other places. The tradition you guys have of doing that is absolutely incredible. For you guys to give all the names that Clair mentioned exemptions and help jump-start their careers is awesome, and you don't know where those guys would be if they didn't play well. You remember Jordan Spieth holing out of the bunker here, and that kind of kick-started everything for him.
You know, things kind of happen for young players at the John Deere, and for me to be able to play this year is going to be a special opportunity.
BARRY CRONIN: Charlie, obviously you're a Wisconsin guy, went to Illinois, so you've got sort of the Steve Stricker prototype that you're trying to avoid, and now you have to win the John Deere three times in a row. I think that would be a good thing for you to do. Tell us a little bit about your athletic background as a youngster. You might have been good at basketball judging by being 6'5". I don't know what that's like, obviously.
CHARLIE DANIELSON: Yeah, I've always been the tallest kid, and I was a little bit of a football player, big basketball AAU player, all the way through middle school, and some golf here and there. And eventually my knees started to wear down on me, and I had to have two knee surgeries which kind of put an end to the whole basketball and football thing.
I definitely missed golf, missed being out on the course with my family and friends, and decided that I was going to stick to golf because I had to take about six months off of golf, and it would have been even more for basketball.
You know, I developed a love for the game, and I had a lot of friends in high school that I could spend time with and stay on the course all day. I started to play some solid golf. My dad was my teacher. Both my sisters played competitive golf, and so I just kind of grew up in a competitive family, and there was a lot of talent there on the golf course, and I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship at the University of Illinois and take it from there.
BARRY CRONIN: We have a Wisconsin contingent here that really wants to know why you chose Illinois over Wisconsin.
CHARLIE DANIELSON: If you look at the programs, it probably isn't that hard to tell why I would pick University of Illinois. The reputation that Coach Small has and the development of all of his players that go through there, you know, it's really astonishing. It's incredible the way that they get better every year if they buy into the culture, buy into what he has to say, and him being a former player like Coach Martin, that's a huge impact that they can have on players coming through there because they have been through exactly what we have.
For us to listen to him is really easy because he's been through the pressure, he's been through the slumps that we have, so listening to him, learning from him, he was a father figure in a way, and the facilities are amazing there, the support is unreal at University of Illinois. It was a pretty simple decision.
BARRY CRONIN: What do you think you learned most from Coach Small and that whole program?
CHARLIE DANIELSON: Mental toughness I would say, first of all, and short game. Everyone wants to come in and hit the ball far like all these amazing guys on the PGA TOUR, but he focuses on being the toughest guy out there, being the toughest team out there, and being able to make more putts and get up-and-down than anyone else, and that's kind of what he took pride in coaching and what we took pride in as a team is to have the best short game and to be the toughest competitors and being the most poised out there.
BARRY CRONIN: At what point did you know you were going to turn pro? Did you know it when you were a freshman or did it take a while to develop the confidence and say, I'm really going to do this?
CHARLIE DANIELSON: Yeah, I got thrown into the lineup my freshman year. I wasn't expecting it, but I definitely had some ups and downs, just like most freshmen have. You know, I had some good finishes and I had some really bad finishes. I had the summer to kind of regroup, came back sophomore year, had a pretty steady year but nothing great, and then when I started competing on a national level in the summers in my junior and senior year, it was pretty evident that I had the talent. I just had to put everything together and get comfortable, get my life figured out, what I would do, what my plan would be, and everything kind of fell into place, especially when you start playing good golf.
BARRY CRONIN: You grew up with Jordan Niebrugge, who has played here before and who was mentioned before, low amateur at the British Open last year. How much did his performance and you just being close to him inspire you to realize you could be at that level, too?
CHARLIE DANIELSON: Yeah, definitely. Aaron and I play against some of these college players that are taking top 5s in TOUR events. We compete against them, we beat them every other tournament, so obviously we can take some confidence from that.
I've been playing summer golf with Jordan Niebrugge since we were eight years old. We do everything together, and just seeing him have the success and knowing that our talent levels are pretty identical, that was pretty cool for me to see.
Obviously we're supportive for each other, and we've definitely pushed each other every year. One of us will have success for a year or so, and then the other one will kick it in gear, and it's just fun to see.
BARRY CRONIN: What was it like for you to see Jon Rahm finishing as high as he did at Congressional? He played in your conference, et cetera, and I'd like to get Charlie's comment on that, too.
AARON WISE: Yeah, to see Jon Rahm do what he's doing out there, it's awesome. He's obviously a great player and has been for a very long time. I played a couple practice rounds with him before the Open because we were from the same conference, and obviously we became decent friends competing against each other often, and just to see what he's been able to do is awesome. You know he has the talent level. A lot of us do; we have the talent level, too, it's just a matter of putting it together at the right time and getting enough opportunities to be able to show the world how good we are.
BARRY CRONIN: Charlie, does it give you confidence knowing that he can do it, I can do it, too?
CHARLIE DANIELSON: Definitely. Jon Rahm is quite the talent. I've played quite a few competitive rounds with him. He hits the ball long, has a great short game, has a competitive fire, and it's just someone who we can compare ourselves to. Obviously success comes at different times for different people, and his came really early, but it's really cool to see.
BARRY CRONIN: Anybody else have questions?
Q. Does Jordan Spieth's performance here, the way he played his way onto the TOUR, does that inspire you?
CHARLIE DANIELSON: Yeah, definitely, and for him to do it here was all the more special. You know, it's something that we can look towards, but like I said, success comes at different times for people, and for us to get as many opportunities as we can to be on TOUR and to give ourselves a shot at taking top 10 and getting into the next week or winning and becoming a TOUR member, we have to take advantage of these opportunities, and that's why we're so thankful and humbled to be here and thankful for Mr. Peterson to give us this opportunity.
Q. (No microphone.)
AARON WISE: First and foremost, that was probably my best finish in a major amateur event, especially one of that stature. I won the Pac Coast also but second at the Western Am is almost as good as the win at Pac Coast, if not even better. That week obviously I was playing very well that summer going into that, and just boosted my confidence.
You know, you can obviously take some negatives out of that from the fact that I didn't win, but I looked at it the fact that there were so many great players there like Jordan Niebrugge and a bunch of these amateurs that you hear about, and I hadn't really had the exposure on a national level yet, and to be able to compete in a tournament with all those big names and to do as well as I did, make sweet 16 and then go on to win my first few matches and make it all the way to the finals was something I just looked at as, wow, I can really do it.
Q. (No microphone.)
CHARLIE DANIELSON: Yeah, so I played in the Palmer Cup and then I turned pro after. I played in the Barracuda two weeks ago, finally was able to have some rest this week, and now I head to Web.com in Springfield. Hopefully top 25, which would get me to the next week.
I have a couple sponsor's invites on the Canadian Tour, where Aaron will be. I have the John Deere. I have a start in Europe in Germany the last week in September, and I'm just going to try to play as much golf, as much good golf as I can before Q-school, and unless something spectacular happens, I'll probably end up there, so it's just about staying fresh, staying competitive, and getting ready to go get my card.
Q. (No microphone.)
CHARLIE DANIELSON: Yeah, I would say it adds confidence for all of us seeing that we played collegiate golf with all these guys, and we're just as good as them. You know, it's awesome to see, and it's great for the game. But expectations can definitely get in the way if you force yourself to be as good as them. You've got to go out there and just play your game, and eventually we'll be on TOUR with them. It's just a matter of when.
Q. (No microphone.)
CHARLIE DANIELSON: Yeah, definitely. All of those guys have been so supportive for our team. They've kept in touch with me and a bunch of our teammates. Everyone is starting to have success. You have Brian Campbell who is playing great on the Web.com. You have Pieters and Thomas Detry over in Belgium, in Europe, having some really high finishes. And like two weeks ago, I showed up to the Barracuda on Tuesday morning, hopped on the first tee with Luke Guthrie and Scott Langley and caught up with them. I'll hopefully see them here in August, and just catching up with them, talking about what it's like for them to be on TOUR and learning from them. The support from all of them has been great, and I look forward to spending more time with them.
Q. (No microphone.)
CHARLIE DANIELSON: Yeah, it's definitely a little different. It's just a matter of getting comfortable here, getting used to doing everything on your own, spending some time with different people. But you know, it's something that we have to embrace. If can be a lonely road out here if you make it, but I'm looking forward to it, learning as much as I can from other people about myself, too, so it's going to be a fun journey.
AARON WISE: Yeah, I'd say it's completely different. We may make it look like it's easy, but there's a lot we deal with off the course now that is totally different to what we had to do in college. Golf is a sport where it's nice and the people you're playing aren't bigger or faster or stronger, you're still going out and you're playing a golf course. So inside the ropes it's a lot of the same for us. We learn the courses as best we can, we go out and play as good as we can that week and do our best, but off the course we're dealing with a lot more than we did before, and that's probably the biggest change.
BARRY CRONIN: Do you both feel that maybe there's certain elements of your game you know you have to improve on in order to succeed on the TOUR? Is that something -- well, I know if I'm going to do well out here, I have to do X with my game. What do you think about that, Aaron, or are you a full product?
AARON WISE: No, I'm definitely not a full product. I'm still young. I've got a long way to go. I don't think I'm anywhere near as good as I could get eventually, and that's my goal looking forward is to push forward and to get as good as I can. Not many people I think get to see their full potential, and if I could ever experience that one day, that would be really special.
For me the biggest thing I think I need to work on right now is say from 80 to 140 yards or so, kind of my wedges to my short irons. I don't think I hit them quite close enough to give myself enough scoring opportunities as when I watch someone, maybe the top players in the world. Off the tee I'm pretty good. Around the greens, on the greens, I think my game is pretty sharp, but from that 80 to 140 range I think I give up a few too many shots.
BARRY CRONIN: How about, you Charlie?
CHARLIE DANIELSON: Yeah, I would say I'm kind of on the same boat as Aaron. You have to be confident in your game in all aspects, but every single one of them can get better. Obviously the best players in the world are better in every aspect. I'd say I struggle the most with off the tee, driving, and the thing that they're better than us at is shooting low scores consistently, getting the ball in the hole, regardless of how your game feels.
So it's just a matter of getting better every day, getting better every week, and the more opportunities like this that we have, the better we can get.
BARRY CRONIN: How much do you guys analyze the statistics of the game, like in baseball there's a statistic for everything now, and of course with ShotLink, closest to the hole, strokes gained, putting, all that, do you guys look at that and see what's going on out there or have anybody doing it for you maybe?
AARON WISE: Yeah, I do. The guy I work with, Jeff Smith, obviously works with Piercy and maybe couple other TOUR pros, and he gets kind of access to all those stats. I think it's huge in developing your own game to know kind of where you stand amongst the field, and say I have a false sense of I think I'm driving it well but I don't really know. It's kind of the facts are out there, and you know where you need to improve. So I look at those numbers a lot to try and make myself better.
CHARLIE DANIELSON: Yeah, in college we would record every round, every hole, and we could compare it against TOUR pros, our conference, other players on the team, and so that was definitely beneficial. And then I have all my stats through my four years.
Going off that, I can see where I put the work in, where I got better, where I still struggled at, so that's definitely nice to see, and being on TOUR I think you can definitely look too much into it. There's a happy medium, but having the availability to look at your stats is huge.
CLAIR PETERSON: Just a couple of closing comments, I guess. We have a chance to do one-on-ones like we historically do. Aaron will after that need to get to the airport, so we're going to peel out of here probably when you guys start to play golf. Charlie has been nice enough and his schedule allows, he'll be on the 10th tee. It's a scramble format, so you get to use his drive for one hole, until about 3:00 when he's going to have to head to Springfield.
We will have the -- and you have it in your packet, I think, the field first press release. We'll have it on our website starting today.
I will make a comment because I'm asked a lot about the Olympic issue and whether or not the players who have decided not to play in the Olympics, and Jordan Spieth just made that decision, as you might have known while we were sitting downstairs. We haven't heard from any of them at this point, but we were warned by Zach Johnson months ago that this was going to be a late-breaking field and that players would get through the majors, which will take them to the end of July. We've still got two majors to go, the British Open and the PGA Championship, and then we're two weeks after the PGA, two weeks before the FedExCup Playoffs. I don't know what's going to happen, but we're optimistic that some of those players might come our way. That's all I know at this point.
Any questions before we do the breakouts? Other than that, thanks so much for being here. I think you're really going to enjoy the course, and Barry will kind of organize the one-on-ones. Thanks very much.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports