John Deere Classic Attracts Local, National Media
When covering stories in the Quad Cities, you see a lot of familiar faces. The newspaper, television and radio reporters often attend the same events and get to know each other.
But the John Deere Classic — the Quad Cities' biggest sporting event — draws local, statewide and national media.
Rick Brown doesn't have to travel too far to get to the Quad Cities. He retired in December after 35 years with the Des Moines Register and has covered the Classic every year since 1983. This year he returns to write for the tournament website.
"It's not nearly as challenging as the newspaper, where you feel like you almost have to have your hands around the entire thing," Brown says. "Now, specifically, I'm just writing a game story like I would — an early one with how the first half of the field is doing then the overall after the day is over — so nothing real challenging. But it's enjoyable and a great way to still feel involved in the tournament."
Brown has witnessed countless remarkable drives, putts, victories and upsets at the Deere Classic over 33 years, but he says the most memorable moments happened in recent years.
"I would say 2010 when Paul Goydos shot 59 in the first round and Steve Stricker shot 60," Brown says.
Stricker ended up beating Goydos on Sunday for the title — his second of three consecutive wins.
"And then to see Jordan Spieth win two of the last three," Brown says. "His first career victory will always be at TPC Deere Run in the John Deere Classic."
He's covered PGA tournaments across the U.S., as well as Zach Johnson's first Ryder Cup appearance in Dublin. Johnson is a Cedar Rapids native and won the Deere Classic in 2012. Brown says they've become close friends.
"When you get to know the people you cover, I think they have a better appreciation for what you do and then the respect is better on both sides."
Mark Zecchino also spends a lot of his time traveling along with pro golfers, but this is his first time at the John Deere Classic.
Zecchino works for PGA Tour Radio, which provides play-by-play coverage and studio analysis. He's one of three "rovers" broadcasting live from each hole. Parts of the job took some getting used to — Zecchino carries 15 to 20 pounds of equipment and has about six different voices in his headphones from hosts, analysts, producers, engineers and other rovers.
He's naturally a loud talker and had to master the hushed technique.
"You can be loud and energetic and then you get out there and it's like, 'Okay, I've got to blend in here,'" Zecchino says. "At the same time, you have to blend in without doing the typical golf whisper because nobody really enjoys that or wants to encourage that type of belief that that's how you call it."
Photographer Todd Mizener has been snapping photos at the Deere Classic since it was held at Oakwood Country Club in Coal Valley. This week, the director of photography for the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus is overseeing a team of first-time golf photographers.
The most important lesson: NEVER snap a photo during a golfer's swing. The click from a camera is enough to get a golfer riled up — as, unfortunately, Mizener has experienced.
"It was back at Oakwood and Curtis Strange screamed and yelled at me and I wasn't even the one that took the picture," Mizener says. "Some amateur on the other side of the tee box snapped in the middle of his back swing. He only could see me, so he unloaded on me and I just stood there and shrugged my shoulders. I mean, what am I going to do? I'm not going to win an argument with a U.S. Open winner."
Mizener looks forward to the Deere Classic each year and has taken some great shots. Over 27 years, his favorite photois from 2013.
"We were tired and we had been walking all day and there was this kid in the bunker," Mizener says. "We were like, well, we'll shoot the kid come out of the bunker. He's not going to be in the lead and we'll go get some water."
That kid was Jordan Spieth.
"He chipped in and he went crazy and I was lucky enough to be there and I made the picture," Mizener says. "The picture ran in our paper, ran on the wire, and then Sports Illustrated picked it up."
There are a lot of men out at TPC Deere Run this week. But one woman at the course is reporter Elizabeth Wadas with WQAD-TV Channel 8, the official TV sponsor of the Classic. It's her first year covering the tournament.
"It's been cool being here, being a female and just jumping right in," Wadas says. "I can do this, too."
Almost everyone who works at Channel 8 is working the tournament this week.
"My job is to find different stories that really aren't sports but more human interest stories — cool volunteers, people that are making a difference out here but not necessarily tied to golf," Wadas says.
Brown, Zecchino, Mizener and Wadas are just four of the hundreds of media professionals covering the John Deere Classic.