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August 9, 2016

Mara Downing

Jen Weiler

Silvis, Illinois


MARA DOWNING: Good afternoon. My name is Mara Downing, and I'm the director of global brand management and corporate citizenship at John Deere.

Along with those responsibilities, I have the pleasure of being the president of the John Deere Foundation. The John Deere Foundation invests in a number of worthy initiatives across the U.S. and globally. One of those initiatives and one of those organizations is the First Tee.

First Tee has been a great partner of ours since 2012, and so we're pleased to announce today an extension of our commitment to the First Tee over the next five years. Our commitment really builds on a number of things. When we think about the First Tee Organization and what they do to encourage young people to get involved in the game of golf, it's really great in terms of how that aligns with our business objectives, and particularly our golf business.

The First Tee is a youth development organization, and they have a life skills training program that really focuses on core values. Those core values align with a number of John Deere's core values, like integrity and commitment. And those are some of the reasons those fundamentals are so important as we look at future investments as a group.

So as we talk about the investment today, we're really focused on three things. I'm excited about the new approach to funding. The first is looking at creating a national competition. It's going to be an essay contest for kids ages 14 through 18 participating in the First Tee Organization across the U.S.

They have an opportunity to submit an essay and become a finalist to compete for a $5,000 college scholarship and to compete for a VIP Pro-Am slop in the Pro-Am here at the John Deere Classic.

In addition to that, we're going to be looking at directing some of the programming to a girls' leadership academy. We plan to host one leadership academy each year for the next five years in large metro markets. We'll do this in coordination with the First Tee program and the girls' golf, LPGA-USGA girls' golf chapters in those markets.

So we're pleased with that. We think that encouraging young women to get engaged in the game of golf and develop leadership skills through the game of golf is critically important.

One of those Pro-Am slots that I talked to you about previously will be allocated to the girls' leadership academy program, and so we're pleased to provide that opportunity to one of those participants.

The final component have our investment will focus on investing in First Tee chapters in John Deere home communities. We're investing in programs in the Quad City area, Des Moines, and Cary North Carolina.

With that, I would like to hand it over to Jen Weiler to make a few comment s about the First Tee program and our partnership together.

JEN WEILER: Thank you so much, Mara. It's really an honor to be here today on behalf of the First Tee to help make this announcement about John Deere's extension and commitment to young people across the country.

As Mara said, it's really a three-pronged approach, a three-pronged investment that John Deere is making in the First Tee. I want to tell you a little bit more about the level of impact that this investment will have over the next five years.

One of the First Tee's nine core values is confidence. As Mara mentioned, this essay contest that we'll launch later this year will encourage young people in the First Tee to draw on their level of confidence and apply for an opportunity for a college scholarship and to play in the Pro-Am at the John Deere Classic.

Can you imagine being 14, 15 years old and having the confidence needed to put your name in the hat for an opportunity like that? That is the opportunity that John Deere is giving these young people. So they're not only celebrating commitment and service that the young people are showing in their community, but giving them this opportunity to demonstrate confidence. That's a value that the First Tee believe is important both on the golf course and off.

The second area of support, as Mara mentioned, is the girls' leadership academy. At the First Tee, we believe that we should be a leader in introducing, nurturing, and retaining more girls in the game of golf.

We have a goal to grow our female participation to 45% ; we're at 38% right now. In all of golf, female participation is about 20%. We feel like we're doing a good job, but we can do better.

Why have we set this goal to reach more young women? We know that girls who participate in sports have greater levels have self-esteem and self-image, and they're less likely to exhibit risk-taking behaviors.

Research by the Women's Sports Foundation found that sport participation can have a positive influence on future business success. More specifically, they found that 80% of business executives in Fortune 500 companies played sports as young women.

John Deere's commitment will allow the First Tee to put an even greater emphasis on bringing young women into the game. Starting in 2017, the academy will be a life-changing experience for the participants, and they can bring the life-changing experience they had at the academy back to young women at their chapter.

Finally, John Deere will be committed to an investment in three communities, as Mara said. The First Tee of the Quad Cities, the First Tee of Des Moines, and the First Tee of The Triangle in the Raleigh/Cary area.

These chapters are very grateful for John Deere's support, and will continue to reach more and more young people in their communities because of it.

I would like to thank John Deere for its commitment to golf, more specifically to the First Tee. We are encouraged by companies like John Deere who believe that the seeds of leadership are sown at a young age, and that programs such as the First Tee help the next generation learn, grow, and succeed.

Thank you very much.

MARA DOWNING: Thanks, Jen. As Jen mentioned, John Deere is committed to golf. As I think about this course and this beautiful facility where we're sitting today, it was about 20 years ago - in fact, it was 1996 - that the PGA approached John Deere about becoming a title sponsor of what is now the John Deere Classic.

You think about how far our golf business has grown since that time. When you think about our golf equipment division, we've been in that business for 25 years.

We think about that partnership with the PGA Tour and how integral that's been to the growth of our golf business. It's been absolutely incredible. That dedication and commitment to programs and organizations like the First Tee and encouraging more people to get involved in the game of golf is really important to the continued success and growth of the golf industry. We're demonstrating that commitment here today.

Thank you very much for joining us. We'll be happy to take any questions.

Q. Can you tell us about the percentages of women in golf in more context?
MARA DOWNING: Sure. 20% of American golfers are women today. That's of all ages.

Q. All ages, any level?
JEN WEILER: That's correct. At the First Tee last year we had 38% of our participants were female. We don't think that's good enough. We want to get up to 45%. In golf that's not an easy thing today.

Q. Why is that?
JEN WEILER: I think because young women, if their mothers don't play golf or other female role models that they have in their life don't play golf, it's not something they think they can do.

We have a many-pronged approach to growing female participation. This academy is one of them. But hiring more female coaches is another. We really want young women to see women as role models and make them think that this is a sport that they can play, too.

Q. Where is the closest leadership academy?
JEN WEILER: This will be a new academy starting in 2017, the first of its kind of the First Tee. It will be our first all-girls event that we have.

Q. It will be here in Quad Cities?
JEN WEILER: It will be in locations that John Deere chooses.

MARA DOWNING: They will likely be in larger metropolitan areas. For example if we had an event in Chicago, we would hope we would draw participants from the Quad Cities to attend that academy.

JEN WEILER: But young women from all over the First Tee network will be able to apply to the academy. The application process will include essays, letters of recommendation from their chapters, and John Deere executives will help us at the First Tee pick the young women who will be able to attend each year.

Q. You talked about cooperation with the three cities. Is that financially?
MARA DOWNING: Yes, through our John Deere Foundation we're providing chapter support to each of those markets.

Q. How much? Are you announcing that?
MARA DOWNING: The total amount of the commitment combined between John Deere and the John Deere Foundation is just over $625,000 over a five-year time period.

JEN WEILER: That includes all three of the initiatives that Mara announced today.

Q. How does that compare to...
MARA DOWNING: It is a bit less than the 2012 commitment, but we based the dollar amounts in terms of how we approach our citizenship funding and our foundation funding.

We base those amounts on need and programatic support that's required to execute on our goals and objectives. That's where our investment ended up this year.

I should note that local chapter support for the Quad Cities is increasing with our new investment. We're excited about the future of the program in the Quad Cities.

Q. How many kids participate?
MARA DOWNING: Do you know that number off the top of your head?

PERSON: 585 at the Davenport facility; about 115 at the Twin Rivers Y; and about 100 right now in our program out in (indiscernible.)

Q. So close to 800?
PERSON: About that.

MARA DOWNING: Yeah. Nationwide it's nearly 5 million. 4.7 million kids are engaged in the First Tee.

JEN WEILER: That includes young people at green-grass golf facilities, but also young people in the First Tee National School Program and more than 8,000 elementary schools across the country and in our after-school locations at YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs and things like that. We go to where the kids are, and then we also bring them to us at green-grass golf facilities.

Q. Does it take very much money for a child to be able to enter a First Tee program?
JEN WEILER: No. So we have 160 chapters of the First Tee, like the First Tee of the Quad Cities, and each chapter has different levels of paying. It's really based on family ability.

So if a young person comes to the First Tee and can't afford to participate, can't afford the registration fee, it's waived. That money that John Deere is investing here in the Quad Cities and the other chapters, they can use that for scholarships for kids. We really want to reach kids who wouldn't normally be exposed to golf.

Q. Do they need to have their own clubs?
JEN WEILER: Definitely not, no. All chapters have clubs for kids to use when they come. Some of the clubs are donated by adults and they're cut down to junior sizes, and other are new clubs that are donated.

Q. Maybe you can talk about how your own experience in athletics and how it's helped you be successful.
MARA DOWNING: Sure, yeah, definitely. I played junior golf, and I believe that golf is very important to developing business goals. I think that a lot of the skills and the values that I learned through the game of golf, like integrity, confidence, being secure with who you are, honesty. All of those things are values that I learned through the game of golf and competition at early age.

My parents used to drop me off at the golf course bright and early. Not that it was a day care facility, but they would drop us off on their way to work and we would play golf all day long. Some days it was 36 holes, 45 holes of golf. Just loved spending time on the driving range and was very involved in a number of the events here locally in the Quad Cities.

I went on to play golf at St. Ambrose University, and had the pleasure of being an all-American my junior year in college. We played our national championship at the Owasso, Oklahoma that year at the Bailey Golf Ranch. It was quite a tournament. It was a great event.

Still to this day I enjoy getting out and playing some golf. Yesterday I had the pleasure of joining some customers and a dealer who played in the pro-am with our golf and turf group, and it's been a game that I think still to this day you get a lot of business done on a golf course.

Those skills, once again, it's about dedication and commitment, training for the sport, and then the honesty and integrity piece that comes out of scorekeeping and the values that we learn through the game.

JEN WEILER: Like Mara, I started at a very young age, too. I unfortunately chose a college that didn't have a women's team at the time so I didn't keep playing competitively. But I love it, and I do think -- sometimes I get to play with young women in the First Tee across the country, and I do think it's just such an amazing opportunity for them to learn the skills, as Mara mentioned: like introducing themselves with confidence; shaking someone's hand and looking them in the eye; taking off their hat at the end of a round and congratulating someone at the end of a round of golf.

Those are skills you learn on the golf course, and then you can use them in the business world as well. I just love with the First Tee is teaching young women. I'm so excited about this leadership academy. I think it's just going to take everything to the next level for our girls.

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