SILVIS, Ill. — While John Deere Classic is known for its iconic green and gold, there's another pop of color that's become symbolic with the Quad Cities' largest golf tournament.
Every year, tucked between the 17th hole greens and the 18th hole tee box, visitors to the classic can usually find Barbie and Betty: also known as the white hat ladies.
Best friends for more than 60 years, the two women are now in their 80s. But don't let their age fool you! These two have one of the spunkiest and magical bonds in the PGA.
Betty Plank and Barbie Schwartz grew up in opposing schools, with one attending Rocky and the other graduating from Moline. But shortly after graduation the two got together in a women's card club and became fast friends.
"She just always makes you laugh and smile," Barbie said.
"I was just gonna say the same thing about you," Betty laughed.
Through marriages, babies and grandbabies, the two have remained close. Then, after two years of volunteering at the John Deere Classic, Barbie convinced Betty to sign up and work with her.
That is when the magic of the white hats was born.
"I started wearing mine and put my pins on it," Barbie said. "Two years later, when we got on the (volunteer) bus, we both had the same hat on! And she had never seen mine!"
"They did not buy those hats together! That was a coincidence," laughed Deni McCarter, captain of the 18th Hole during the classic. "When I first met them I was kind of blown away. And I thought, jeez, I want to be like them when I grow up."
The brimmed, slouchy white hats are both adorned with pins. Around and across each of the women's heads sits physical markers of all the tournaments they've volunteered at and hours they've spent at TPC Deere Run.
And after all these years, those pins can add up.
"My daughter told me that we need to adjust my pins on my hat," Barbie said. "Because it keeps tipping to one side!"
"And we don't dare take them off because underneath, oh, it'd be a bad sight," Betty laughed.
Although they've volunteered across the tournament, the last few years have found the two ladies at their usual post between 17 and 18. They hold up quiet signs during putts and man the ropes that separate the players from the fans.
Adorned in their hats, green jewelry, matching sunglasses and Betty's special JDC manicure, the two are hard to miss. And their laughter and love for each other touches the volunteers and players around them.
"They're young at heart. They don't see barriers, they don't see challenges. They see life," McCarter said. "It'd be great if we were all like that. Be a lot less problems in the world. They're special ladies."
But for all of their time on the course, the two women admit they do have one shortcoming: they both have a hard time following the ball through the air.
"I work so hard to see where the balls going," Betty said. "She's trying to tell me where these two balls were! I see grass!"
"I try to pretend like I see the ball all the time going down there and I could never," Barbie laughed. "I think one out of 50 times I can see where the ball is. But that's okay! I'm here for the people!"
Here for the people, the players, the pins, and their favorite life partner: each other.