Rich Harvest Farms prepares to play host to NCAA Championship

Rich Harvest Farms

Rich Harvest Farms prepares to play host to NCAA Championship

Courses

Rich Harvest Farms prepares to play host to NCAA Championship

SUGAR GROVE, ILL – Jerry Rich sent a letter to the NCAA sixteen years ago to inquire about hosting the Division I Men’s and Women’s Golf Championship at his course – Rich Harvest Farms. In late May, it will happen.

The two-week event begins with the women’s championship May 19-24 followed by the men May 26-31.

Rich Harvest Farms has hosted more than 50 amateur events including a pair of NCAA regional tournaments in 2009 and 2014 and the 2015 Palmer Cup. The Solheim Cup, the women’s equivalent to the Ryder Cup, was contested here in 2009.
“When talking to coaches, they want a championship on a really hard golf course,” Rich said.

Rich, the owner and president of the course who became wealthy by desiging an integrated computer system for Wall Street traders and who designed the course, has tweaked the layout for years.

“I have watched these collegiate players over 20 years and how they have improved,” he said. “I have pinched the golf course every year, because they figure out ways how to cheat the way I designed it, but they can’t cheat it anymore. Now when they play the golf course they play it because of their abilities, and their abilities are unbelievable compared to 20 years ago.”

NCAA Golf Championships

Rich Harvest Farms had played host to multiple championship events. (Rich Harvest Farms)

Rich, who is excited to see his work and patience pay off in bringing the championship to Rich Harvest Farms, confessed he designed the course for match play. Lucky for him, match play is the determining factor on how a champion is crowned in both men’s and women’s golf.

Rich and tournament organizers hope to raise the bar at this championship with big crowds. Rich had his team create a database of alumni of the universities from the last two of years at the NCAA Championships.

“I wanted to know from those universities how many alumni live in the greater Chicagoland area,” he said. “The number was over 2 million alumni.”

Rich said they expect huge crowds on the weekend.

“We have corporations in the Chicagoland area who have bought not hundreds but thousands of tickets and are giving them to their employees.”

Rich Harvest Farms is certainly a site that could accommodate a large gallery, as more than 100,000 attended the 2009 Solheim over three days. There are more than 250 acres of maintained turf at Rich Harvest Farms.

Superintendent Jeff VerCautren has traveled to the past two championships to get a feel for how things were done. He said the biggest issue for his property is timing.

“We are trying to get the course ready earlier than normal,” he said. “Usually we ramp up for a June start time, but we have to get everything ready for May 15.”

Players can expect to see a very tough test with undulated putting surfaces and rough that places a premium on driving accuracy. The plan is to keep the primary rough at 3 inches for the duration of the women’s championship.

For the men, workers will mow on the practice-round day to the 3-inch height then let it grow out from there.
Already in April “It’s a thick 3 inches. It’s a wrist-breaker,” VerCautren said.

Temperatures can see a swing from 80-plus down to the 40s in late May, and rain could be a concern. With more than 100 bunkers on the course, heavy rainfall could lead to a washout. However, improvements have been made to the bunkers with a drainage system that would cut the time in half to repair them after a big storm.

(Note: This story appeared in the May 1, 2017 issue of Golfweek.)

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