Laura Ekizian '92, '97 MBA has a tee time in July with Jordan Spieth, the 2013 PGA Tour rookie of the year.
In July of 2015, the former St. Ambrose golfer and women's golf coach will board a charter flight to St. Andrews, Scotland, where she will attend the British Open at the birthplace of golf.
Considering Ekizian routinely answers to the golf-centric nickname "Divot," you might think such perks are the most rewarding parts of her role as chair of the 2014 John Deere Classic (JDC).
Not so. "Divot" can cite about six million better reasons for her dedication to this cause.
Staged for 43 years in the community Ekizian adopted after being "formed" at St. Ambrose, the JDC has ranked among the pro golf circuit's top five tournaments in charitable giving in each of the past eight years.
Last year's event generated $6.32 million for some 460 non-profit organizations in the QC region, easily besting charity totals raised by events in metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami. Since its inception in 1971, the QC tourney has generated more the $56.12 million in charitable contributions.
That's a brand of "enriching the lives of others" that Ekizian learned to value at St. Ambrose.
"When I graduated, I knew I had been part of something pretty special," said the native of Chicago's north suburbs. "I think that's why I stayed in the Quad Cities. I didn't want it to end."
After a post-graduation trial run as the eastern Iowa and western Illinois sales representative for the family printing business-"I was beyond awful at it," she said-Ekizian became alumni director at her alma mater, where she already was serving as women's golf coach.
She spent seven years working with fellow Ambrosians, establishing lasting traditions like the annual Homecoming Weekend Killer Bee 5K and Children's Bumble Rumble.
In 2000, Ekizian joined Quad City Bank and Trust, where she is senior vice president. Building on her love for the game of golf, and as part of QCBT's strong commitment to employees' community engagement, she volunteered to serve on the JDC Board of Directors in 2006, and became a member of the JDC's Executive Committee in 2009.
Over the past five years, Ekizian has worked tirelessly to assist and promote the tourney. As anyone can attest who has worked beside or run past her at the Killer Bee 5K-an event she still chairs-the words "tireless" and "work " very much apply.
JDC tournament director Clair Peterson said Ekizian's work ethic has earned the respect of even the most demanding of the tourney's 1,000-plus army of volunteers.
"It's hard to get the respect of the ‘Grunts' unless you prove yourself worthy and she did," Peterson said of the tourney's volunteer muscle, the folks who do much of the on-course dirty work that paid crews won't. "In work boots, a T-shirt and baseball cap, she jumped right in."
Ekizian's role as tourney chair comes with a spotlight pairing in the tourney's pro-am, playing with the defending tourney champ-that's rising star Spieth. The following July, she will serve as host on the tourney-sponsored charter jet that flies golfers from the JDC to the British Open.
But "Divot" clearly isn't in this for the glamour. She is in it, instead, for the most Ambrosian of reasons.
"To me, it is pay it forward times 100," Ekizian said of the significant support the tournament lends to causes that enrich the community and uplift the unfortunate. "We can't tell that story enough."