SILVIS, Ill — What could be more classic than a European vacation? How about a few Europeans vacationing at the John Deere Classic!
When the golfers are through the course and the fans have all moved on, there's one crew of workers that's just getting started. If you happen to be at the course before the sun rises or after play has concluded, you might hear the clapping that signals the JDC grounds crew is about to roll out.
A line of men, atop a caravan of mowers, blowers and gators, trek through TPC Deere Run. The crew carefully restores all of the greens and tee boxes, fills in divots and blows the rough back into shape.
But among them are a few people whose accents sound a little different.
Six Europeans made the trip across the pond to volunteer at the 2022 JDC. While Deere & Company paid for their flights, the men were not paid during their time on the course. Instead, they spent the week gaining experience at a foreign golf tournament and working with state-of-the-art John Deere equipment.
And that time consisted of 3 a.m. wake-up calls followed by another round of work later in the evening.
"I asked my two bosses if there was any tournament opportunities like to fly to either Dubai or England. They came back to me a week later saying they'd send me to the John Deere Classic in Chicago," said Alasdair McLaren. "Cause we're such a small country, we didn't realize how far west you're from Chicago. But close enough!"
McLaren is from Scotland, where he works at The Gleneagles Hotel's golf course. Back home, he regularly works with John Deere gators, hand mowers and fairway mowers.
With the JDC grounds crew, his job was to walk through the fairways and fill in any divots with green sand, to hide the holes from the cameras.
While he said his time at the classic was filled with valuable experience, laughter and international connections, he did notice two big differences between Scotland and America.
"Back home we wear a lot of ear defender protection. Over here, you don't see that as often," McLaren laughed.
The other big change? How hot the JDC was. McLaren spent his working hours wearing a hat, long sleeves and lots of sunscreen to hide from it.
"Everybody's saying this has been the coolest (classic) week they've had in a long time, which I'm like... it's really hot for me," said McLaren. "I'm very pale white. We get a lot of rain in Scotland!"
Frenchman Etienne Pillier also made the journey to Silvis, although it wasn't for the first time. He had volunteered at the JDC back in 2018 and knew he needed to come back and help out again.
"It's a very big welcome - human warmth," Pillier said. "I mean, the course superintendent here makes a great human experience. So I wanted to get back for that."
He spent his early mornings and golden hours mowing fairways, much like his work on a course in the north of France.
But for all the time he spent working, Pillier said the week was well worth it.
"I can work this job without money. It's like a bit of vacation," he smiled. "It's just magic. You have to be in it. And for that, I just decided to take the opportunity to come back again."
After all, what screams 'classic vacation' like working the classic?