www.chicagolandgolf.net Volume 8, Number 3 Covering Northern Illinois, Southern Wisconsin, Northwest Indiana, and Southwest Michigan SPEARS ON GOLF May 2017 Rich Harvest Farms Makes Final Preparations for the NCAA Golf Championships I T’S BEEN 20 years since the NCAA Golf Championships have been contested in Chicagoland. Th ey were last held in our area in 1997 at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest. Prior to that, one needs to go back to the World War II era—1943, to be exact, when the championship was played at Olympia Fields. Th is time around, Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove will play host to both the men’s and women’s championships from May 19-31. Th e women are on the tees from May 19-24, while the men have a practice round on May 25 and then play for their title from May 26-31. Back in 1997, Rich Harvest Farms owner Jerry Rich placed a phone call to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney. Rich invited Delaney to play golf at his newly completed golf course, and to inquire about hosting the national championship of college golf. “It was 20 years ago when I fi nished the golf course and invited Jim out to play,” said Rich. “I thought after that day I’d have to make another phone call and we would be hosting the national championship in a year or two. Little did I know that it would take 20 years.” But with the benefi t of hindsight, Rich admits the number of years it took to land the championship might have been a good thing. “We really did need the time,” Rich said. “I have found over the years that to challenge the best amateur players in the world, I have had to pinch things in a bit to have a course that will be a great test for the players. From the 54 teams that will play here, a good portion of the seniors from those teams will be on a professional tour within the next year.” Rich says that Rich Harvest Farms has now hosted 51 amateur events and a few professional ones, including the 2009 Solheim Cup. Will his facility be ready for the two championships in two weeks that the NCAA format brings? Such a scenario will put a strain on the course, but the major course preparations that started last fall should help. “For years now, we have done major winter preparation work,” said Rich. “We don’t tarp our greens like many courses do. We cover them with a quarter-inch of a special sand mix. We use that mix on the fairways and tees as well. Before the mix is put down, we use a chemical to prevent snow mold. If you get snow mold in the spring, it can take up to two months to get the bent grass to grow back in. Th is year, because there was not a lot of snow, the course came through the winter just fi ne, and it is ready for championship play right now. Over the last four to fi ve years, we have redone the bunkers, added drainage and removed a few damaged or dead trees. If any rain we get during the championship isn’t torrential, the course should drain quickly and be ready for play within an hour.” What exactly will fans see when they come to Rich Harvest Farms for the championship? “When the fans walk Rich Harvest Farms, they will see a few hospitality tents, and they can visit the NCAA Experience area,” said Rich. “With Northern Illinois being the host of the championships, they will have a hospitality tent. Other than that, the only other thing that will look like a professional tournament will be the ropes around the fairways and greens.” Rich feels that the areas where you can see three or four holes from one location will be popular among visitors. He says there will be food and beverage stands in those areas, as well. Th e championships will provide an atmosphere where students and alumni of the participating schools can get together to enjoy a top-level amateur sporting event. With both Illinois-based Big Ten schools, Northwestern and Illinois, likely to have teams in the fi eld, large crowds are expected. Vicki McGowan, who is serving as the championship director, says the buildout for everything on the property will soon start. “Th e full championship staff will arrive around May 13, and that’s when the course will close for play from the Rich Harvest Farms members,” said McGowan. “Th e NCAA does not have bleachers at its golf championships, so there will not be any. Th e scoreboard we have used for the Palmer Cup and the Western Amateur will still be up behind the 18th green. For those wanting to follow scores up to the minute, there will be a few electronic scoreboards on the course. In addition you will be able to follow scoring on your phones through Golfstat.com.” RORY SPEARS McGowan says that spectator bridges are being added so that fans can move around the course with more ease and, in some cases, get closer to the action. With holes 5 through 16 being very close together on the Rich Harvest Farms property, fans should be able to watch multiple holes at one time. If you have a health condition and need a one-person cart, you can bring your own or rent one there. No regular-sized golf carts will be allowed. “Th e NCAA requested only a couple of changes to the golf course,” said McGowan. “Th ere were two new tees put in for the women on holes 15 and 17. On the fourth hole, a front tee box already in place but made of AstroTurf has been taken out and replaced by natural grass. Th at tee box will be used by the women, and possibly the men if weather conditions warrant.” McGowan says that attendance is expected to be much larger than at the past few championships, especially since Rich Harvest Farms sits in a large market. Th e weekends, in particular, are expected to be very well attended. McGowan reminds those attending that the NCAA does not allow alcohol sales at its championships. Th e only way to get alcohol at the championship is to have a ticket to the NCAA Experience area. You are not allowed to take alcoholic beverages out of that area. Patrons are sure to enjoy the quick access in and out of the golf course, as well as the parking area. McGowan credits both the Village of Sugar Grove and the Illinois Department of Transportation for working together on delaying until after the championships a resurfacing project that will run from Route 88 all the way to Rich Harvest Farms. Tickets are available at NCAA.com/tickets. Get them today, and come out to Rich Harvest Farms for what promises to be a great time. It won’t be long before Rich Harvest Farms is brimming with spectators and college golfers.