SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – After 15 days in greater Chicago, the tolls are mercifully over. It cost $4.10 daily to make to the trip out to Rich Harvest Farms, and those dimes were sometimes hard to come by.
The 2016-17 college golf season came to an end with Arizona State winning the NCAA Division I Women’s Championship, followed by Oklahoma claiming the men’s title.
This is the third year the NCAA has had the women play the week before the men on the same golf course to ease television production costs. But is it best for both?
Mother Nature was mean during the women’s championship. So terrible that she pushed players to the edge. Teams and players turned in some of their highest rounds of the year.
“It’s a hard golf course,” said Florida State coach Amy Bond. “I’m an advocate to see good scores by the women. I think you’ve seen it this year where there’s been a lot of really good scores, a lot of great golfers, a lot of great golf teams, and I don’t think that’s highlighted here this week by any means because you have a lot of golfers who have shot the highest rounds of their career here this week.”
Bond was not alone in her thoughts.
The biggest reason for inflated scores revolved around the weather, but the course setup could have been better. That’s a trending topic at the women’s event.
Is it that the courses aren’t suited for women? Or is it that more thought is needed on the setup? Most point out the women are not afforded the opportunity to hit the same irons into the same greens as the men. Whatever the case, this is an issue that needs to be addressed going forward.
High scoring at the women’s event was the biggest red mark, with the second biggest issue being the difficulty of the prongs on the salad bar.
Any pre-championship talk of the course being unfair or quirky was silent throughout the two weeks. Rich Harvest Farms proved to be a good challenge for match play.
My conclusion on this year’s two-week adventure: It was good, very good. Everything else around the golf was top-shelf. It felt special, and I have to believe the 16,425 fans that passed through the gates were treated with a good college golf experience.
The staff did an excellent job of turning the negatives of the week into positives. The location of the ninth green and 10th tee was an issue, but that was erased by the premium shuttle service. I lost count somewhere after 47 on the number of times I was asked if I needed a ride.
The folks at Rich Harvest Farms and Northern Illinois were able to sustain the hospitality each day – despite one parking lot attendant who missed the memo. But that won’t change the fact that the volunteers and officials here for these two weeks were the best, and there is not even a close second.
They paid attention to the little things. From the trick-shot artist entertaining the fans, to the free food at the concession stands during practice rounds, to the smiles on the faces of the volunteers, it was an A-plus week for everyone who brought this championship to Rich Harvest Farms.
The next two championship sites are set. Next year will be at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla., and 2019 will be played at The Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Ark.
Can we ship those volunteers South?