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Community Sports

Rich Harvest Farms polishing Crown preparations two years before arrival

Rich Harvest Farms owner Jerry Rich, third from left, has continued to work on growing the International Crown since the LPGA  announced the event in January 2013.
Rich Harvest Farms owner Jerry Rich, third from left, has continued to work on growing the International Crown since the LPGA announced the event in January 2013.

Rich Harvest Farms owner Jerry Rich watched this week’s announcement of the inaugural LPGA International Crown field online.

That’s about the only part of the operation he’s approached passively.

With the biennial Crown coming to Rich’s Sugar Grove golf course in 2016 – and ideally beyond – after July’s debut event at Caves Valley in Owings Mills, Md., there’s hardly been a hiccup in preparation.

“This is really something that’ll be very, very special,” Rich said Thursday, “especially the way that we’re going about energizing all the ethnic groups in Chicago.”

More expansive than the United States-against-Europe format of the complementary Solheim Cup, which Rich Harvest hosted in 2009, the International Crown is composed of 32 players from eight countries.

Working with LPGA officials, Rich helped launch the four-day, match-play competition after routinely consulting the Rolex World Rankings and noticing the global scale.

The same rankings helped determine the Crown field.

The United States, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Spain, Sweden, Chinese Taipei and Australia will participate at Caves Valley. Rich and Co. are seeking a corporate sponsor that would help Rich Harvest become the Crown’s long-term venue.

Rich said 450 volunteers already are on board for 2016.

Almost 1,600 volunteers boosted the effort in 2009, when the Solheim Cup attracted about 120,000 spectators over four days.

“So the communities around Sugar Grove – and that takes in quite an area; I mean, through Kane County and what have you – everybody is extremely excited about it,” Rich said.

Among the Solheim gallery were 4,000 to 5,000 Illinois prep girls athletes invited to the grounds. Rich, persistently committed to growing golf, still finds fuel in those bygone conversations.

“I talked to a lot of them, and they said, ‘ Mr. Rich, you know, we didn’t even know what the Solheim Cup was,’ ” Rich said.

“They had never heard of it until we invited them and they came on the grounds and they learned all about it and they said, ‘Wow, this is really something.’ ”

With a special event for high school and junior girls players from five states coming to Rich Harvest later this year, Rich’s staff remains busy with more urgent matters, as well.

The course, home of the Northern Illinois men’s and women’s golf teams, also will host a 2014 NCAA men’s regional and The Western Golf Association’s 2015 Western Amateur and 2017 Centennial Western Junior.

Rich, an NIU alumnus, speaks passionately about each endeavor, but for now, the Crown arguably puts the biggest glint in his eye.

“It’s so everybody can benefit,” he said. “The county as well as the communities. That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.”

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