Let’s Move Quad Cities celebrates the spirit and determination Quad City area residents take to promote movement and fitness. With the John Deere Classic this week, we welcome guest blogger, Laura “Divot” Ekizian, Immediate Past Tournament Chair of this popular QC summer event!
Golf is Why I Move
By Laura Ekizian, AKA “Divot,” Quad City Bank and Trust, Executive Vice President, Chief Relationship Officer
I was lucky enough to grow up golfing. I played in high school and college and met so many great people associated with the sport. That is what connected me to the game. I was never the best golfer on the team but I always had fun with my teammates. I have also really appreciated that the game can be played by all ages and all abilities. You are at your best in life and as a golfer when you honor the rules and etiquette of the game.
How did you come to call the Quad Cities home and what do you like best about living in the QC?
I came to visit St. Ambrose as a prospective student. I immediately loved it and didn’t even apply to any other school.
I didn’t really connect to the QCA until after my sophomore year. I stayed in town that summer and could not believe all of the fun activities within reach. Every weekend there was something going on nearby. I never moved home again!
The best part of living here is not an easy thing to explain. Being in the Midwest helps us be a kind and easy place to live. The people are genuinely good and compassionate.
I have always appreciated how easy it is to get around in order to enjoy our amenities. I was used to traffic delays and long lines everywhere. Not the case here and I have to remind myself of this sometimes when I have to wait at a stoplight!
How did you get the nickname “Divot”?
Finally, a few weeks in to my first semester, I was riding in an elevator with a floor mate. She asked me about my golf abilities. I offered an answer in my Chicago tone….and then she asked me if I knew what a Divot was. I said, yes…a divot is a chunk of grass or mud. Duh.
She then proceeded to look me up and down and said to me “well, you look like one”! She exited the elevator and said: “Goodbye…..DIVOT”. I hated it. She knew it. She then made it her mission to get as many people to call me Divot as possible. I went to a class the next day and the professor called me Divot. I went to lunch and fellow students were calling out my new name! Obviously, I grew to love it. Most people do not even know my real name.
Tell us how you got involved in the John Deere Classic?
My first year on the board was 10 years ago. I was then asked to serve on the Executive Committee in 2009. As a member of Exec, you move thru 4 years as a Vice Chairman, working with different volunteer committees each year. The 5th year you are Tournament Chairman. You remain on for a 6th year as Immediate past chair, which is my role this year.
Being involved in some way with the JDC was a goal of mine. When I was a student at SAU I knew that having a PGA tournament in our town was so special. I just wanted to contribute in some way. I had no idea it would lead to such an amazing experience.
What is the Tournament Chairperson’s role at JDC?
Chief encourager and promoter! The best thing about this tournament is the incredibly capable staff and tournament volunteers that make this thing run so smoothly. I just wanted to get out of their way and let them do their thing.
We have volunteer committee heads that manage the core production. They know their role and they are good at it.
What I could do was to help them recruit new volunteers and remind them why we do this. Why our title sponsor, our community and our charities deserve our very best presentation and effort.
It is hard in July to understand the impact the tournament will have in October when we pay out our Birdies for Charity pledges and the bonus to the participating charities. I felt like it was important to keep reminding our volunteers and the community of the connection. The Tournament is very fun and a very big sporting event but the true measure of our success is our Birdies for Charity results.
Your peak JDC experience?
There were so many. There were several times in the weeks leading up to the tournament and again during tournament week where I would be having a conversation with a volunteer that I did not personally know. Learning about why they volunteer and what the tournament means to them taught me a lot about the passion that surrounds this event. Then when some of them would say thank you to me…I was floored. Here were the people doing the heavy lifting of this tournament, the actual work of making it success and they were generous enough to offer me kind words.
Meeting and getting to know so many people has been the highlight. I have so many cherished friendships now because of this tournament. Getting to know these friends and have them in my life will continue to be the gift of this experience.
The tournament staff, fellow executive committee members and board members as well as some that work for John Deere directly have become close personal friends. Add on all of the committee chairs and volunteers that I have gotten to know and it becomes overwhelming!
What is your proudest JDC accomplishment?
There are two items that stand out. First would be our Birdies for Charity results. I have no doubt we will surpass it in 2015…and that is my hope but I sure was proud that we got to $6.33 million! Amazing how generous this community is each and every year.
The second item revolves around the tournament staffing. We had two longtime employees retire. We were able to celebrate their tenure and make the most of our last year with them as full time employees. We were also able to re-think our staffing and hire for what we want to be….not just what we need now. It was an exciting process and one that brought us some new faces and new ideas.
An added bonus is that we are utilizing our recently retired to make this year a very smooth transition. Their passion of the tournament is being shared with our newest employees and it has been fun to watch them accomplish so much.
Does any tournament golfer or other moment stand out as a remarkable or impressed you in some way?
The 5 hole playoff between Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson and David Hearn in 2013. Watching thousands of people run between holes to catch the action was amazing! We got such a great show and another great champion. It was really special to witness it all.
Share with us any insights into how large an undertaking this tournament is to put on and organize as well as the volunteer and community impact it makes.
If the John Deere Classic does not exist then this community does not get the benefit of a $54 million impact. That is critical for an area our size. The best part is that this impact is felt on both sides of the river. Hotels, restaurants and other retail establishments. Smaller towns around the QCA benefit just as much from the bigger areas because of the reach of this event. The TV broadcast also gives the rest of the country and the world a look at our region…something that is priceless.
It takes more than 1500 volunteers to make it all happen. Some of whom work on it all year long. Also consider that each year millions of dollars are raised for charities here in our community. Nothing else comes close to being able to deliver so much good!
What is your favorite golf course ever played?
Davenport Country Club and East Lake in Atlanta
Bucket list course you dream of playing?
How do you like to spend your time when not on the course?
Hanging out with friends at home, making a great dinner and drinking some great wine!
Looking ahead, what goals have you set following your tenure on the JDC executive committee?
When I was asked to serve on the Executive Committee I decided I was going to devote my volunteer time to this one event. That has meant saying no to other great organizations in our community. Now I am trying to say yes more in order to find another cause to be passionate about. I will always be involved in the JDC in one way or the other. I just want to keep supporting this community since I feel like it has given me so much.