SILVIS, Illinois

The final shootout to determine the winner of the 2011 John Deere Classic "Drive the Middle" competition is set for noon Sunday, July 3, on the Championship Tee of the No. 10 hole at the Tournament Players Club Deere Run in Silvis.

Approximately 50 players will compete to win a playing spot in the John Deere Classic's Wednesday Pro-Am, a $3,750 value, according to Kristy Ketcham Jackson, director of the Birdies for Charity program. Each participant will receive a weekly VIP package for the tournament.

"Each year the Drive the Middle contest attracts interest from golfers in the Quad Cities and surrounding communities," Ketcham Jackson said. "That's good news for our participating charities since all Drive the Middle contestants make a pledge to a favorite charity to participate."

"Drive the Middle" is a straight-drive contest in which players attempt to hit their tee shots as close as they can to a straight line indicated down the middle of the fairway. The golfer whose ball is closest to the line wins. The winner's ball must travel a minimum of 150 yards, according to the rules.

Those participating in Sunday's finale are the winners of similar Drive the Middle competitions conducted this year at about 80 Quad City area charity events. Each golfer pledges a minimum of one penny per birdie scored during this year's John Deere Classic in order to compete in the contest at a local level. Those pledges are donated to a designated charity of the golfer's choice. Winners at each individual golf outing receive a John Deere Classic VIP package valued at $140.

The "Drive the Middle" competition is sponsored by WaterPark Car Wash, which has locations in Moline, Bettendorf and Davenport.

Under the Birdies for Charity program, individuals or corporations pledge a minimum of one cent per birdie made during the Wednesday pro-am and the four tournament rounds of the John Deere Classic, including playoffs, to the charity or charities of the donors' choice. At the conclusion of the tournament, the total number of birdies is tabulated and the Birdies office sends invoices to donors. Donors remit their checks to the Birdies office, which then distributes 100 percent of the donations directly to the designated charities.

Because John Deere underwrites the program's administrative costs, 100 percent of each donation goes to the donor's designated charity, Ketcham Jackson noted. In addition, Birdies for Charity pays each participating charity a bonus on top of each donation. In 2010, the tournament promised a five percent bonus to all participating charities but ended up paying a full eight percent thanks to strong community support and tournament revenues. This year, the tournament again has promised each charity a five percent bonus on the amount collected through Birdies for Charity, with additional bonus dollars based on direct donations to the bonus fund and tournament revenues.

The John Deere Classic, which includes Birdies for Charity, is a 501(C)3 non-profit organization located in the John Deere Classic tournament offices at 15623 Coaltown Road, East Moline, Illinois. Since its founding in1971, the tournament has helped raise $38 million for charity.

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