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Meet the 11-year-old gathering garbage at the John Deere Classic

It's a family affair for Payton Goldensoph. 2023 is her third year working with the grunt crew's ecology department alongside her father, uncle and grandfather.

SILVIS, Ill. — Operations out at the John Deere Classic may look effortless to the fans, but it takes a crew of extremely dedicated people working behind the scenes to ensure everything goes off without a hitch. 

One of the youngest members of that group is 11-year-old Payton Goldensoph. It's not trash-talking to say she's somewhat of a trash queen out at the Classic. 

"I actually just ride around in a golf cart and pick up garbage," Goldensoph smiled. "It's actually really fun!" 

As the fans pile in, the trash quickly piles up. But few spectators will ever spot all those scraps, as Goldensoph and the rest of the volunteer grunt crew's ecology department dutifully empty and re-bag each garbage can as needed. 

From 5 a.m. until about 5 p.m., Goldensoph makes her rounds between holes 15 and 18. She checks the trash bins around fan areas, garbage drop-off tents and the recycling containers around the course. Full bags are tossed into her cart, a new liner is placed in the bin, and then Goldensoph heads down to giant dumpsters beyond the 18th hole to dispose of all the trash. 

It's tough work and long days, but the DeWitt native doesn't mind the 4 a.m. wake-up call. Especially since she's got a secret to staying awake, despite not drinking coffee. 

"I about fall asleep in the golf cart," Goldensoph laughed. "But my dad drives past a convenience store every day and always gets me m&m's! Those m&m's keep me fueled!" 

And fueled, she is. Goldensoph might be short, but she doesn't let anything stop her. The dumpster lid stands nearly as tall as her, but she puts her knee up and flings the heavily-laden bags up and over. 

"You get to meet a lot of people and hear all their different stories about being out here," Goldensoph said. "And it's changed so much throughout the years, so it's really cool listening to those stories!" 

Despite her young age, Goldensoph has a few of those stories herself! After all, 2023 is her third summer out at the Classic. 

"We used to not have golf carts! We used to have to carry the garbage everywhere. It was pretty exhausting," she said. 

But this story gets even sweeter. For Goldensoph, working at Deere Run is a family affair, with her father, uncle and grandfather also on the ecology department. 

"People are amazed she's out here doing the garbage," said grandpa, Lyle Goldensoph. "I love it! That's what keeps me coming back now, as long as she comes back. I love hanging out with her all day and just doing the job." 

Now, Payton is hoping for more young people to volunteer at future tournaments. 

"I would say it's a fun experience for everybody," she said. 

Photographer Jenny Hipskind contributed to this story by shooting the attached video. 

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