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July 8, 2009

Clair Peterson


BARRY CRONIN: Clair, you want to just give us the state of the situation right now, what's going on?
CLAIR PETERSON: It's very wet. You guys were here probably all day and saw the weather somewhat unpredictably not just go through but kind of set over the golf course, the community. As is the case during the regular Thursday through Sunday tournament week, the first priority is safety. The first evacuation revolved around the potential of lightning. That put us about an hour and 15 minutes behind.
We still felt and the weather people felt that the front was going to go through and people were going to be able to finish 18 holes in the morning. And if we wanted to go until dark, finish 18 holes in the afternoon. But if we ran into another issue, it could have been a nine-hole afternoon.
And then it just obviously never stopped raining. So it got to be a playability issue. The golf course became unplayable. There was standing water on a number of the greens. You can see the rivers going down the fairways, with the prediction that that could last for a couple more hours. I don't even know what time it was, sometime 12:30-ish, something like that. We just made the best educated guess that we could that because of golf course conditions, playability, maintenance schedules, we would be better served by not having the pro-am at all, and that's what we decided. I don't know what more to say.

Q. Talk about the disappointment of having the event canceled and what happens with the participants? Do they get any of their entry fees refunded? Do you have other activities for them the rest of the day, anything like that?
CLAIR PETERSON: Yeah. I just came from the 18th hole suite behind the green, and Davis Love is down there talking to -- he met his amateur team, Brad Faxon is down there, Rich Beem was down there, Glen Day was down there. That was just in the last ten minutes. I haven't been there for a couple hours.
I believe a number of players went down. All the amateurs were invited, as they would have been had the round completed normally, to go in and have something to eat and drink. So it's kind of cool. There's a lot of electricity in there.
All the morning groups went off, so they got their Insta-plaque photos of the signatures of their pros. The afternoon groups didn't get a chance to have a photograph, but we have a plan to do something special for them with an Insta-plaque photo.
They all have their shopping sprees which they can do anyway, but there is no refund built in or promised in the pro-am. It's really impossible for us to do that. That money is, to some extent, spent already. We use it -- it's really our major source of income, and we use it to do a lot of the build, a lot of the structures, a lot of everything you see out here is paid for with that revenue stream.
But we'll do something to make sure that they appreciate, make sure they know we appreciate them stepping forward. But we can't give a full refund.

Q. On a happier note, you're going to tee off tomorrow with what you believe is the best field you've ever had at Deere Run. A lot of guys have talked about the jet, but they say it's not the be-all and end-all. Can you just talk about how happy you are with the way the field has shaped up and what you're looking forward to this week?
CLAIR PETERSON: Yeah, we feel the investment in the jet -- and that's the way we view it is an investment in our product, a way to improve our product. We started it last year after in '07 only having seven players go to the British Open after playing here, and almost all of those had some issue with missed connections, lost luggage, not having clubs. So it was not a good deal.
It really is a basic premise that you can play here and collect official money, collect FedExCup points, collect Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup points, which you can't do at the Scottish Open, and still get to the British Open relaxed, refreshed and competitive early in the week. You never could really do that before because you had to get to either Chicago or the East Coast to catch a plane that had a couple connections and get in late Monday or early Tuesday if everything went right. Hopefully your luggage got there.
So our proposition is you benefit from being in a PGA TOUR event here, plus leave right from Quad City International Airport, in a very comfortable plane, 767 with 100 first class seats, can get you this year to Prestwick, 20 miles from Turnberry, by 10:00 o'clock Monday morning. You fly all night, you sleep on the plane, there's two meals served, and they have told us that it has made a difference.
It's a quantifiable difference. We had 22 players on the jet last year. I think we're up to 24 now, Bryce Molder and Brandt Snedeker just qualified for the British on Sunday. They immediately through their agents called us, we want to get on the jet.
I think Lucas Glover winning the U.S. Open, we're thrilled that he is going to stay with us, but if we didn't have the jet it would have probably been tougher for him to say yes to that. I know Steve Stricker as soon as he called and committed asked about the jet and how many seats he was going to need. Davis Love qualified for the British Open at a qualifier after the Byron Nelson and didn't get into our field until after he knew he was in the British.
It's almost become, if you are going to the British, you have to really think seriously about coming to the John Deere Classic. It's become an advantage to be here because it's such a more hassle-free way, more relaxing way to get over there and be competitive.

Q. Talk about the charity donations.
CLAIR PETERSON: $1,250 this year. $1,000 was the charity donation last year, and every player made a donation. In fact, David Duval gave us an extra $2,500 last year, just said, I really appreciate this - he had five seats - and it really means a lot to us; we'd love to make an extra donation to your charity fund.

Q. Do you feel you can adjust the quality of the field?
CLAIR PETERSON: Well, I think it's the strongest field we've ever had here at Deere Run, even back in '03 with a fall event. Vijay Singh was No. 3 in the world back then, and we had guys like Davis, Bernhard Langer. I think, if recollection serves me, we had maybe 11 major championship winners. We have 14 this year. And we have some of the hottest guys in golf. You've got the top two -- well, I guess after last week, Tiger has now rearranged the FedExCup points, but going into last week, Kenny Perry and Zach were one-two on the FedExCup points list. Stricker is a Top 10 player, has already won once, Zach has already won twice this year. Jerry Kelly won in New Orleans, he's here. There are 25 to 30 players who have won a PGA TOUR event in the last two years in our field, in addition to 14 former major winners.
Just look at who's hot; Kenny Perry is the hottest guy in golf, five wins in the last 13 months. Look at the U.S. Open; in addition to Lucas in the field, you've got Ricky Barnes and David Duval, guys that finished second. It's really exciting, it's really deep, and it has the names in it that the public gets excited about, too.
Plus we got some tremendous sponsor exemptions, I think, some evolving stories there, some guys that are going to be very exciting to watch over the next few years.

Q. Course-wise what's the biggest plan for the rest of the evening? Is it kind of hands-off or do you have to take a more active approach?
CLAIR PETERSON: Well, they'll obviously wait for it to quit raining and dry out. But it drains -- golf courses are built to drain, and we've had major rains here before. Once it's dry enough, and the mowing doesn't have to take place -- they can do it early tomorrow morning, too. With the weather forecast expected to blow out of here and dry up, we should have no problem.
But just like today, it's a bit of an uncertainty. You just kind of play it as it goes.

Q. With such a strong field and inevitably soft greens the first day or so, are you expecting some pretty low scores going into this week?
CLAIR PETERSON: You know what, any week I expect low scores. They're just such great players. You put them on any golf course with 156 guys with this talent, and someone is going to shoot low. Whether or not they have four great rounds or not is always kind of the question.
Our score seems to be between 15- and 18-under par. That seems to be historically where we land. The weather changes -- every day last year, we had some wind on Sunday, which is probably not -- it's likely that you'll have some of that before the week is over. So it's hard to predict what the scores are going to be. I'm sure somebody will shoot a good score, regardless of the conditions.

Q. Did you get a chance to talk to the amateurs and kind of get their reaction?
CLAIR PETERSON: I did. You know, they understand. It's one of those things that's out of our control. That group that teed off early had to get collected off the golf course, put back on the golf course. That's really not a whole lot of fun. They had a couple really strong squalls to play through, pretty uncomfortable. And there again, it's a safety issue, especially with those early decisions. You don't want to mess around with lightning on a golf course, and they certainly understood that.
And then it became -- they can see, just like everyone else here, you look outside and you see a river coming down the 1st fairway, it's something that they understand. No one is happy about it, but what are you going to do?

Q. A couple guys this morning were talking about the hospitality here. You've always said that's one of the great calling cards of this event. Talk about that and how important that is for the community to get behind this event and what it means for you and the tournament.
CLAIR PETERSON: It's a big criteria, I believe, in players' minds. Once you get past the quality of the golf course and the date, those intangibles come into play, big time. We had an event last night, the Big Dig, where we served 400 meals at John Deere's test site. Players and their spouses and their families are invited to come out and just enjoy themselves. There's the oh, wow experience of sitting on a piece of construction equipment and actually operating it after a professional operator tells you what to do. The kids' eyes are big, the adults' eyes are big.
It's a Midwestern barbecue hog roast is what's served. There's a fishing pond where guys go and do it and throw a line in the water and the Bassmasters help us provide equipment. To me it's like a company picnic. It's the families interacting. All these players don't necessarily get a chance to interact with the other players' families, the spouses and the kids and everything else, and they're all running around together and there's little electric toys that the little kids tool around in. And it's very gratifying for us. It's a great presentation of the way we feel the event's personality should be presented. It's great for John Deere.
Brad Faxon was a classic example, has not been here since we moved to Deere Run. I don't know when the last time he was at Oakwood, and last night, I go, "Brad, are you having a good time?" He goes, "this is unbelievable," and all his kids were just having a terrific time. So it does make a difference.
I had Bo Van Pelt come up to me in Tampa say, "I'm coming to the John Deere Classic because I have to take my kids to the Big Dig." Where on the priority list it ends up coming, I don't know, but it's something that is an important part of what we do this week.
It's not just the Big Dig, it's the hospitality. All the volunteers -- I get told that all the time. When Mark O'Meara was here in '03, he goes, I love the golf course and I've never been treated better anywhere on TOUR. We put that up on a Power Point presentation for new bored members and new volunteers, that that's part of our brand. We have a first-class facility, first-class golf course, and it's a first-class event because of how the players are treated.

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