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Q-C Classic: a summer hot spot

For one week every summer, Quad-Citians are privy to the biggest, longest-lasting block party the area sees.

People flock to the Quad-Cities for the atmosphere, the partying and, oh, yeah, some pretty decent golf.

Dispatch/Argus File Photo

The Quad City Classic golf tournament has had many ups and downs in its 26 years. Twice it was almost discontinued; at other times it was on rocky financial ground. Now, stronger than ever, it will be moving to the Tournament Player's Club course being built on Deere-owned Friendship Farm, off Colona Road in Silvis.

Of course, the back yard happens to be Oakwood Country Club, and the golf is compliments of some of professional golf's biggest and best, who trek to the Quads for the annual Quad City Classic.

In 1997, the partying was at its finest as the golf tournament returned to summer playing dates. July provided not only hot golf, but hot socializing.

QCC tournament director Kym Hougham said all along that ``the golf tournament belongs in the summer.'' By the crowds that flocked to Oakwood on a daily basis, he was right.

As a result, local charities received $525,000 from QCC proceeds, bringing the total charitable contributions since 1990 to nearly $2.4 million.

``Our sponsors showed us they love being back in the summer,'' 1998 volunteer chairman Dave Howell said. ``That's as big a key as anything.''

Even bigger is the future of the local PGA event.

In 1997, the Tour, Deere & Co. and the local event agreed on an unprecedented three-way, nine-year deal.

Not only does Deere become the event's title sponsor in 1999, but a Tournament Player's Club golf course is being built on Deere-owned Friendship Farm property east of the intersection of Illinois 5 and Colona Road. It will be the TPC Deere Run layout.

In return, Deere becomes the official supplier of golf-turf maintenance equipment for the Tour.

Hammered out early in '97, the agreement was billed as a ``win-win-win-win'' proposal for all parties.

It is putting the Quad-Cities on the golf map.

``I have Tom Lehman, Greg Norman, all the big-name golfers coming up to me and asking me about the new course and tournament,'' Mr. Hougham said, shaking his head in amazement.

It's a far cry from where this tournament party has been.

``We were on life support,'' said 1997 QCC volunteer chairman Dave Engstrom. The event faced imminent death twice and was in dire straits a number of years in its 26-year run, quite a few of those without a title sponsor. ``It's amazing how things go.''

Amazing, indeed.

This year the tournament will offer a $1.55 million purse, up $200,000 from 1997. With a new TV contract signed by the Tour, there will be more money available for even larger purses in the future.

Which means better golfers will make an appearance here, which means more fan and business interest. Hence, more reason to party on.

``From a sales standpoint, the preliminary indicators are that everybody wants to get in line now,'' 1998 tourney volunteer chairman Dave Howell said. ``People who have been involved are excited about staying involved. We're seeing more and more people expressing an interest and getting more involved in the golf tournament now in order to be involved when we make the move to the TPC course.''

The QCC also is in an enviable spot on the schedule (July 7-12) for the new Player Incentive Plan, which features three separate payouts to golfers with the most money won in 10-week sessions.

Should some of golf's bigger names still be in the hunt for that prize pool, trips to the following week's British Open may be delayed for a shot at some cool cash in the Quads.

``We're still one of the smaller markets, and it's still going to be a struggle for us,'' Mr. Hougham said. ``We're going to need the support of the community and the business community. But we're a long-term event now, and we'd like to think the corporations around here will see that and do some long-term planning with us.''

Which is, indeed, progressive talk for the QCC.

-- By Tom Johnston (January 22, 1998)

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