Bandwagoning Behind The Ropes: John Deere Classic 2014

New definition of dedication: I’ve just spent the entire day following Jordan Spieth around 18 holes worth of steep inclines. And even after that, I’m still sitting in front of the TV watching recorded Golf Channel coverage of the event I was just at.

This week’s event is the John Deere Classic, hosted at TPC Deere Run in the middle-of-nowhere (Silvis), Illinois. I was born and raised in this state, and I can tell you that traveling further than 50 miles out of Chicago feels like a scene from Children of the Corn. Silvis is no exception with its one supermarket and abundance of farm animals.

Once we got to the quaint little course, I knew that this tournament wasn’t like others on the PGA Tour. For one, there was a gigantic golf ball with the John Deere logo in the middle of the course. Also, lots of tractors. Like, so many tractors I was surprised that the PGA didn’t rent them out for player vehicles.

Also, there were only a few names in the field that I recognized, and we got to the course just in time to see Zach Johnson give his post-round interview.

Though not on my favorites list, Johnson seems both well-respected on the course and humble. I gave him a quick high five and made my way to see Jordan practice his drives.

The cool thing about watching golf in person is that you get super close to the athletes. Arguably closer than any other sport. It sounds kind of stalker-ish, and to a certain extent it is. For example, there was a woman standing right behind Jordan and his caddie, chatting it up with a couple that I later found out were close friends of the Spieth family, bragging about how she’d followed Jordan all over the country to the point that it’s hindered her marriage.

Don’t get me wrong, I love all the gents on my favorites list and then some. But first of all, Jordan has a girlfriend. Second of all, this kid is just that: a kid. Jordan isn’t even old enough to drink, and this grown ass woman is talking about how much she loves him.

Needless to say, I felt a little better about naming my clubs after players. At least I wasn’t on the brink of a restraining order.

In the same way that hockey and football are almost more enjoyable from your couch/a bar stool, golf had its moments of being significantly less fantastic in person.

Firstly, it was SO HOT out. I have no idea how these guys wear long pants and a hat and don’t faint from exhaustion by the first green. I was in shorts and an Under Armour golf shirt (I’m usually all about Puma, but today was about supporting Jordan) and I was fanning myself like a menopausal woman in Arizona.

Secondly, following the action is damn near impossible. You can kiss sight of the ball goodbye as soon as it leaves the tee, and unless the course is well-designed for spectators, you’re probably walking twice as far as the golfers do. As such, there’s no way you’re making it to the green before they putt.

Even if you do manage to shove your way through the throngs of leisurely walkers, there are 100 other people who got there first. My partner in crime that day was 6′ 6″, so he had no issues seeing the action, but I’m 5′ 4″ and had to rely on the noises from the crowd to discern what Jordan was doing around the green.

Not cool.

I eventually figured out a system- watch the tee shot then walk straight to the green without pausing to watch any fairway shots. And as soon as Jordan was within two feet of the hole, I just assumed he’d make it and booked it to the next tee. It almost became a tournament for me: How many of these grandparents can I out-run without looking like a fool? 3

After a few errant shots (including one that landed in the trees in front of me, putting me on camera for far longer than I was comfortable with), Jordan finished his round and headed to sign his card. He was disappointed with his showing, but as a Cubs fan I was the first to say that it was only Thursday. He had got plenty of time. (UPDATE: Brian Harman ended up winning at -22; Spieth finished -16).

After their media obligations, the threesome (Spieth, Steve Stricker and Stewart Cink) rolled along the line to give autographs. I was FAR too excited, and managed to get the whole group’s signature and congratulate them all on a great day.

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Note: Jordan stayed and signed something for EVERY person that waited to see him. Even as he was being shuffled along to the clubhouse, he stopped to make sure all of his fans were happy. The guy is a class act, honestly. Still not grounds to stalk him, but he epitomizes what makes golf better than most other sports.

After another drive through the produce section that is Illinois, I got home to realize I’d sweated all of my makeup off and had two souvenirs- a cute rubber duck designed like a golf ball and a gnarly sunburn. Bright side: “duck face” photos are totally acceptable is there’s an actual duck in the frame.


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