JOHN DEERE CLASSIC: Rookie Gotterup looking for a storybook outing | Golf

TOM JOHNSTON

Chris Gotterup knows the script well.

A young golfer gets an exemption to play in the John Deere Classic and it eventually turns into a lucrative career on the PGA Tour.

Thanks to JDC Executive Director Clair Peterson, this story has been told and told – by players such as reigning JDC Champion Lucas Glover, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm and many more – during his 20 years at the head of the local event.

Gotterup would not hesitate to add his chapter to this book. He enters this week’s $7.1 million event as one of the spotlight-exempt sponsors as he embarks on what he hopes will be a budding professional golf career.

“Obviously there are a lot of good stories coming out of this tournament,” Gotterup said of the wealth exemption stories. “In college, it was one of the tournaments that guys watched and wanted to play.

“Everyone knows that John Deere cares a lot about sponsor exemptions and the opportunities they provide for players like me and, you know, like Jordan Spieth who came on the scene here.”

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More often than not, players on the pitch with sponsor exemptions aren’t there to play on the weekends. The majority of them since the transfer of the tournament to Deere Run in 2000 missed the 36 holes.

But there were those exceptions. David Gossett turned a field invitation into a 2001 title. Charles Howell III placed third after receiving an invitation in 2000. Greg Kraft finished T5 in 2010 and Viktor Hovland broke out with a T16 in 2019.

Whatever the future holds for any of these guys, the present is what matters to them when they receive their invitations to the field.

“It’s huge,” Gotterup said of earning a spot in the 156-man squad. “Without it, I would probably be sitting on my couch playing Xbox and waiting for Q-School. The sponsor exemption gives me a chance to gain a lot of experience playing in a real tournament. It really gives me a chance to assess my status and know what to improve in my game.”

Gotterup passed up a chance to play on the Forme Tour in Canada, a spot he earned through the PGA Tour University, as he capped off an impressive collegiate career with Haskins and Nicklaus awards for best player. college in the country.

Four years at Rutgers — which included two Big Ten Conference Player of the Year honors — and his final season in Oklahoma set him up for what he hopes will be a long career on the PGA Tour.

This could start with the experiences gained on his sponsorship exemptions. This will be his fourth start on the tour besides making the cut at the recent US Open and finishing T43. He made cuts at the Puerto Rico Open (T7) and last week’s Travelers Championship (T35 with a final round 67). He missed the cut at the RBC Canadian Open.

After a late finish in the Quad-Cities on Monday cost him the chance to see the Deere Run layout at Monday’s Pro-Am, Gotterup has spent the day working on his game and building for what he hopes will be a big week.

“On a basic note, I would love to play,” Gotterup said as he worked through the lineup. “The last two weeks I’ve made a few cuts, but I’ve still left a lot. I’ve played some good rounds and some not so good ones. My goal is to put four really solid rounds in place and to see where that puts me.

“I know if I do that, it will put me in a good position. I think I’m getting ready to click here. Let’s hope that’s the case.

And who knows, it could lead to quite a story for the 22-year-old at his first John Deere Classic.

“Getting the chance to play is more exciting than anything,” Gotterup said. “There’s something about it that seems to make for an exciting ending or an exciting story. I think it gives you some inspiration that it’s definitely possible. It’s more fun than anything.”

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